I tried sharing a meal with strangers while traveling — and now I'm hooked
We here at TPG are no strangers to travel (obviously) but I like to think that I venture out even more than the average TPG staffer. I've spent the last few years wandering around the world, from Kazakhstan to the Maldives and everywhere in between. I've seen more museums than I can count, climbed in so many medieval castles that I'm basically a 14th century princess and I am so tired of riding the double decker tour bus.
So when opportunities come about for me to do something a little bit different, I jump on them. Like sharing a meal with strangers.
My first experience dining with unfamiliar faces occurred in Tbilisi, Georgia, nearly a year ago and I've been hooked ever since. Why? Because eating at someone's house is real — it's homemade food made by average Joes like me who usually have a soft spot for playing board games after dinner. It's meeting families and learning traditions and making friends to keep in touch with well beyond your meal. It's a world away from the skip-the-line ticket at the Vatican and I'm in love with it.
Since my first experience in Tbilisi (in which I linked arms with my host and drank from a goat horn full of homemade wine), I've dined with locals in two other countries: Kazakhstan and Lithuania. Each experience was more unique than the last, but they've all had one thing in common: authenticity. And I'm not alone in loving this. Dining with locals tours are popping up all over the internet, with an entire platform dedicated to finding you folks with whom to share a meal.
I've booked my dinners through different sites each time, first with Like a Local, which is a large tour site that features freelance guides offering tons of different activities. I used a local site for Kazakhstan, called Friendly Tours, owned and operated by two very friendly Kazakh girls from Almaty. Finally, for Lithuania, I booked through Eatwith, which is arguably the largest platform for dining with locals, and features meals with people from over 130 countries.
The booking process for all three was very similar. This is still a pretty new service in general, so often in a location there is just a single host offering these meals. It's very simple to manage: you search your location, select your dinner, then book and pay through the website. It's as simple as that.
Is it uncomfortable? Sometimes. But as uncomfortable as you'd be hanging out with any strangers anywhere. Food brings people together in a way that little else does, and there's nothing better than that.