For many solo travelers, one of the biggest hurdles to becoming comfortable with solo travel is dining alone. Somehow, we can navigate foreign lands on our own, get ourselves from Point A to Point B, struggle through conversations in other languages, and get by just fine. . .until mealtime. What is it about eating alone that fills some of us with such dread? Well, now, for women at least (sorry guys!), there is a new website that may help you overcome the solo dining blues.
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Cressida Howard, founder of Invite for a Bite, a website that allows women around the world to connect with other women to share a meal or an activity. Cressida is a former EFL teacher who taught in Tokyo, Barcelona, Granada, and London. She now teaches piano part-time, which has allowed her the time to set up and run Invite for a Bite.
SF: Please explain for my readers what Invite for a Bite is all about.
CH: Invite For A Bite aims to solve a problem for solo women travelers: What to do when you don’t want to eat alone. The evenings can be lonely for women who travel solo: on one travel forum a woman described it as ‘the biggest problem there is’. It’s tougher for women to go into a bar alone (in some countries it’s downright dangerous).
Invite For A Bite offers a way around that problem – create an invite to meet and eat and see who’s up for joining you. (A ‘couchsurfing for meals’ if you like!) But you don’t have to be traveling to use Invite For A Bite; you can use it to hook up with people who live near you, as well as those traveling through. That’s why we say ‘at home and away’.
SF: Where did you get the idea for this?
CH: A group of solo women travelers were talking on the radio. They all said they loved the wonderful freedom of traveling alone but HATED having to eat alone. I had the proverbial light bulb moment and thought: let’s create a site where women who don’t want to eat alone can have fun eating together. There’s an Arab proverb that says ‘He who dines alone chokes alone’. Now she who dines alone has Invite For A Bite!
SF: Do you have any screening measures in place for the safety of your users or is it all on the honor system? Do you regularly screen user profiles to make sure people are following guidelines? (For instance, that no men are creating profiles?)
CH: Invite For A Bite is all about going online to meet offline. If a man created an invite on the site and then showed up in person, the get together probably wouldn’t last long! In our safety tips we urge our users to always meet in a busy public place. And any user who causes a problem at an event or on the site can be reported and removed.
(Just for the record, men aren’t excluded because we think the majority of them are dangerous stalkers. I’ve been living with the same one for ten years now and he’s lovely! But when you explain to guys that it’s ‘different for girls’ when it comes to nightlife in major towns and cities, that the risks are greater and freedom is more curtailed, most of them get it and are really supportive.)
SF: How far in advance does an event need to be set up?
CH: At the moment an event can be posted as late as one day in advance. We’ll be updating soon so that an event can be posted on the same day. In the future we aim to create a location based app that will make arranging get togethers even more spontaneous.
SF: What is it about your background that makes Invite for a Bite a great project for you?
CH: I’ve traveled on my own and I went to live and teach in Spain and Japan without knowing anyone there. So I know what it’s like to feel lonely! But I love traveling and meeting people all over the world. Invite For A Bite is the perfect project for me because it’s a site I really want to use myself.
I have this vision of myself at 80, traveling the world, or in my own town, and using the site to meet new people at the drop of a hat (or the click of a mouse – or whatever I’m using when I’m 80!). Just for a bit of fun – a bite to eat. But who knows what lovely people I’d meet. That’s what keeps me going!
SF: Do you have any success stories from the site to share so far?
CH: We launched two weeks ago so no-one has had a chance to invite for a bite yet! The community will take time to build and for meet ups to start taking place. But we already have invites in Toronto, LA, Barcelona, Addis Ababa, Galway, and Italy (to name a few – check them out!).
For me personally the biggest success so far is all the lovely messages and tweets I’ve received from women all over the world saying what a great idea it is and how they’d love to use it. Here’s one message I received from a lady in Germany who signed up. She wrote: ‘I just remember myself on my latest travels for work sitting in a restaurant alone…. and would be happy if those times were over!’
That’s what Invite For A Bite is all about.
SF: Tell me your vision for Invite for a Bite in 5 years—what does it look like?
CH: My vision for Invite For A Bite in five years time is that we’ll have eradicated loneliness for women. Can’t hurt to think big eh?
SF: Anything else you’d like my readers to know about Invite for a Bite?
CH: It can’t happen without you. Sign up and make Invite For A Bite’s vision a reality!
Thanks to Cressida for creating a site that I think will be very useful for women as we travel and try to connect with each other for meals and other activities. You can check Invite for a Bite yourself at their website, and follow the website on Facebook and Twitter (@inviteforabite).