Every day my first alarm goes off at 7.05am – not the earliest, I know, but early as f*** for me. Of course I don’t get up at 7.05am though. I snooze my alarm for ten minutes. And then another ten. And another. And maybe another. Eventually I get up into the shower and onto my bike. You can tell I’m not a morning person.
Unless it’s when I travel.
When I travel I turn into an early bird. I rise at 6.30am to get some work done before breakfast or to get out in time to see the sunrise. While at home I don’t go to bed until around midnight, I tend to turn in quite a bit earlier when I travel. After a long day of exploring I’m usually so exhausted that I fall asleep super early. It’s like my entire routine changes, and so does my mentality.
And it’s true what they say, the early bird catches the worm. My heavy party days are over – thank God – and I’ve turned my attention towards things that can only be done during the day. There are so many reasons to rise early when you travel and turn into a morning person, but here are my six favourites.
1) Watch the Sunrise
I get it, sunsets are beautiful, but they also come with midges where I’m from, and depending on the time of the year they can be at a very inconvenient hour. Popular sunset spots also tend to get really busy with locals and tourists clinking glasses and shooting selfies. You see, I prefer sunrises.
People who get up in time for sunrise are few and far between. Chances are that you get even the best spots all to yourself – like I did at the rooftop pool terrace of my hotel in Toronto. I had it all to myself at 7am and don’t even want to think about how busy it must have been for sunset hour around 6pm.
The best sunrises though happen in the wild, and when you sleep in a tent without the rain sheet on top, the sun almost tickles you awake!
2) Actually Enjoy Breakfast
How often have you had less than 20 minutes for breakfast AND checking out of your hotel? I used to do this quite frequently, and I hated it. And even if I didn’t have to check out, breakfast was way too often caught between the laziness of staying in bed for too long and the desire to get outside and explore.
These days I take my time to have breakfast before the restaurants get too busy or the meal starts cutting into my adventure time. I’m confident that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and such a yummy one too!
3) Great light for photos
If you’ve ever looked into tips to improve your travel photography, you will probably have come across the term Golden Hour before. There are two golden hours every day – right after sunrise and right before sunset. While sunset might be the more convenient time during the day, and is certainly advisable if you want to shoot photos of people, the light during and just after sunrise is magical as well!
If you’re looking for great photo ops, fantastic light conditions and that golden hue, rising early and grabbing your camera is what you should do.
4) You’ve got tourist attractions to yourself
The good thing about sunrise is that it’s often very early (unless you’re in Iceland in winter), and hardly anybody is committed enough to get up this early. This comes in particularly handy when you plan to visit very popular tourist attractions, such as the temples of Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal or the Niagara Falls. If you arrive early in the morning, as soon as the attraction opens its doors, chances are high that you get it all to yourself. Or at least almost.
No hours spent waiting in lines; no annoying people hogging the best photo spots for ages; no issue getting photos of monuments with no or few people disturbing the view. You get the opportunity to soak up the wonders of this world all by yourself!
5) Animals are active
Rising early is a must if you want to observe and photograph wild animals! Any kind of animal experience – the kind of where you look from afar, not the elephant riding or big cat walks; don’t do these! – will require you to get up early. Animals rise early to lounge in the morning sun, to hunt, to feed and to play. They’re not going to lie around in the open in the midday heat – you wouldn’t either. The later during the day, most animals hide away in the shade, under bushes or in caves and holes.
Whether you’re on safari in South Africa or bird-watching in Austria, the rule of thumb is to get out there before sunrise!
6) You witness a place waking up
What I love most about rising early on vacation is that if you get up around the same time as locals, you witness a place waking up. The early morning hours are the best chance to experience daily local morning rituals. You will see women and children digging for mussels on the beaches of Zanzibar, or men bathing in the holy water of the Ganges in Rishikesh.
There is nothing more exciting than experiencing a bit of local culture to start your day!
Whether you’re already an early bird at home or always late to
the party work – rising early with the sun can give your vacation days that little extra kickstart. You should try it!
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.