It’s the curse of the international traveler: your transatlantic flight will, inevitably, land in your destination at the crack of dawn. It’s too early to get into your hotel room, and you have a long day ahead of you trying to stay awake. And yet … some of my most pleasant travel memories are from the hours I’ve spent wandering the streets of a new city in the early morning, just off a long flight.
Although I’m naturally a morning person, I don’t usually make it out the door before 8am. So arriving in a new country early in the morning is a rare opportunity for me to enjoy my favorite time of day.
I know plenty of “night owls” who love being out in a city late at night, as the energy of the day is winding down and people are making their way home. But me, I love the early morning hours, when the sky is light but the streets are still quiet. The air is crisp and clean, making the details of a place more vivid. At night, large parts of a city are hidden in shadows; in the early morning light, every inch of the city is available for you to discover. In a tourist town in particular, the early morning is when you can see the real city, when the locals own the streets: store owners hosing down their sidewalks; delivery trucks unloading pallets of raw ingredients that will soon be breakfasts and lunches; the first commuters hurrying to catch their trains.
I like watching the world wake up. It feels more hopeful than watching the world go back to sleep at night: It’s a beginning instead of an end.
Next time you find yourself awake in a foreign city at an hour you might otherwise call “ungodly,” don’t retreat to your hotel; head out into the streets and let the magic of those early hours win you over.