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The Gap Year Guide to Dining Solo

As part of the desire and appeal to go traveling, there are is a hunger to discover pastures new. Whether it is the adrenalin rush of bungee jumping in New Zealand, driving route 66 in the states with the roof down or even snapping the World's most beautifully preserved natural viewpoints. Traveling is an once-in-a-lifetime experience and as the phrase goes, one of the only things you can buy that makes you richer, richer through experience that is.

So what part of your travels do you cherish for life? What makes certain destination more appealing? We are here to talk about dining, and specifically how you don't have to share these experiences with anyone, but yourself. Immerse yourself in the destination and traditions as you please. Much like we operate in our own countries, we try new restaurants and establishments based on recommendations and word-of-mouth, and on the flip side we will avoid places with a particularly poor write up. The same logic applies to your culinary experiences whilst travelling. You may have read an article or been told a story about a particularly great experience, and often enough, these can dictate not only where you visit but where you decide to eat on your travels.

With many native specialities and obscurities, where you may not endure the same home comforts you are used to, dining has to be one of the most common denominators in separating locations culturally but also bringing people together.

The friendliest cultural dining experiences...

The world food map is a delicate yet elegant arena where cuisine can be used to show social class, tradition and of course locally sourced produce. You'll find exciting dishes in all corners of the globe. There will be a difference in seasoning, herbs, spices and recipes to die for, no matter where you are. Drilling down further from specialist cuisine, you'll even come across trademark traditions such as pastel de nata in Portugal, or as we know it, custard tart. In San Francisco you can expect fresh sea food at Fisherman's Wharf and in New Orleans you will be greeted with Cajun flavours, jambalayas and beignets. The world really is your oyster, excuse the pun!

In Japan you will find an abundance of raw fish and other hand crafted dishes, otherwise known as Sushi. This is probably the most well-known example of cuisine in Asia. Popular across the board, sushi bars are often used as a place to meet in many instances be it business, friendly or even romantic. This can be an excellent way to meet new people and of course, experience authentic cuisine served among natives.

Certainly if you are planning a trip to Malaysia, you can't leave without experiencing a meal on a banana leaf - a signature element to their authentic food.

Europe is famous for an eclectic selection of World Foods but if you are dining solo we recommend immersing yourself in local culture and having a go at dining like the locals do...Barcelona will provide an excellent dining experience with their signature tapas dishes. A local tradition across Spain, tapas is often enjoyed straight from work, but also by tourists and socialites alike. It is more of a snack which is enjoyed with a beverage but an excellent way to mingle with like minded individuals.

During the day (and at night) you can also feast on an array of street foods, perfect for the hustle and bustle of European cities. Swing by a street stall and grab a Currywurst in Germany's capital or try world famous gelato in Rome...

The rise in solo travel

People travelling alone are often on a personal quest and given the frenetic pace of our modern lives, it is no wonder there has been a rise in solo travel. Time to reflect and time away from the non-stop lifestyle endured at home leads people to look for eye opening and enriching experiences.

The days of having to pay single supplements are fast diminishing and people are often encouraged to explore the World at their own pace. What better way to unwind and reinvigorating than living at your own pace and being in control of your own events. This applies to dining too. You can eat where you want and when you want, making your own decisions.

Certain backpackers and travellers will take calculated risks, others will stick to what they know, but most importantly, dedicated travellers and experience seekers will be some of the most open minded of people, willing to contribute to the destination they find themselves residing in. If you are volunteering to work abroad you may be inclined to or have no other choice to source food that is available locally.

A big part of the experience!

Are you visiting South America? Go and catch an authentic tango show, often accompanied by dinner for the complete South American experience. Argentina is famous for its red meat, namely steaks. Events around the World are often inspired or accompanied by food.

Try to avoid falling in the trap of living on quick unhealthy snacks which are available back home, in order to avoid dining solo. Most places are very well-equipped for those frequenting alone. Ask for recommendations and engage in conversations and you'll be surprised at the friendliness of many cultures. A common style is to dine at the bar but there is no shame in taking a table for yourself.

The best comparison to a social dining experience in the UK is that of a BBQ. When weather prevails, it is often used a social exercise where people participate with the preparation and enjoyment. Traditionally, this has been an excellent method of meeting new people and friends of friends.

Food and drink often surrounds how globally, we connect with each other and help to bring people together. It can be used as a driver of social class, a keeper of traditions and more importantly a method to discover how others live, so take in some of the weird and wonderful traditions on offer.

The most important message has to be to keep an open mind, try new things and never pass up an opportunity to experience something you can't back home...

What happens if I suffer from allergies or get food poisoning whilst traveling?

If you suffer from allergies and medical considerations, it is important to be extra vigilant when backpacking. Food preparation can differ enormously across the board and standards are policed in different ways, often not at all.

Ensure you can understand some dialect and communicate with who is preparing food. It is recommended that you find English speaking servers who fully understand your requirements and the seriousness of conditions.

Food poisoning is something to be very cautious of but no different abroad to here in the UK. Always quality control the food you are eating and ensure you know the source. Common sense often prevails so usual checks like ensuring meat is cooked through and food is piping hot, applying the same logic you normally would.

If traveling to Europe, don't forget your EHIC which entitles you to state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return.

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