Actively searching for the best travel tips is not something that I suspect a lot of you of doing.
I instead imagine that you find yourself looking at lists of “the (insert arbitrary number) best travel tips” as a result of seeing a seductive link somewhere and being duped into finding out which of the supposed tips you might not already know (spoiler: you know all of them).
Before I decide to write a similar article to clickbait visitors to the site, I would like to share one tip in particular that I believe deserves special attention. This one simple thing, that I have found to be wildly useful and applicable no matter where you find yourself in the world.
It has saved me countless hours of stress, allowed me to see some of the world’s most recognized sites in (sometimes) near privacy, and probably (somehow) made me a better person.
So what’s the big secret? Simple: wake up early.
I hear you, “Fucking duh you should get up early, Mac. What are you trying to do wasting my time with this garbage post of yours?”
Yes, but I am not talking about waking up at a time that most people consider early. I’m talking about waking up at a time that most people consider ungodly. When I say “wake up early”, I am advocating a wake up time well before sunrise.
Because the trick is to be at your destination at or just after sunrise, not to spend that time negotiating your morning bowel movement.
Those of you I have had the pleasure of spending time with (or perhaps those of you who have been with me on the internets for a while now) may be shocked to be hearing this from me. How can I, someone who loathes nothing more than waking up early (except for maybe hiking), possibly be promoting a predawn alarm?
The answer takes root in empirical experimentation and exploration.
Here’s one example.
Whilst visiting Petra I bought a two-day ticket (because Petra is huge), and after my first day of exploring and a night spent in a Wadi Rum hotel (walking distance from Petra’s entrance), I woke up early to begin day two of exploration at six in the morning – when Petra opens to tourists.
When I arrived at the entrance I thought I had gotten bad information on the opening time because the place was deserted. However, an old (and very confused) man appeared from the shadows to take my ticket and grant my passage into the site.
I didn’t see anyone for forty minutes.
When someone finally did appear, it was the first of many vendors I would see trickling in from the surrounding mountains. I made my way past all of Petra’s most famous sights, including the Siq, the Treasury (Al-Khazneh), and the Monastery (Al-Deir), without seeing a single tourist.
In fact, I didn’t see another foreigner until I started making my way back towards the front of the park almost three hours after I made my entrance. It was just me, the vendors still setting up shop, the stray dogs, and the cave camels (you’ll have to go for yourself to see what I mean).
It was incredible.
This is just one example of a place best enjoyed without the help of hundreds (or thousands) of your fellow visitors.
Yes, many places open later (like eight or nine), but plenty more places do not need to be “open” to be enjoyed. You can visit many buildings, temples, landmarks, and natural attractions at any time of day (unless you’re trying to pay to go to the top of something).
Want to actually go into somewhere without risking confrontation with police? If you’re up before the sun, then chances are you’ll be first in the door. In my experience, waiting for somewhere to open is more enjoyable than slowly progressing through a line or people outside somewhere that you know will likely be unbearably crowded once you make it inside.
Lastly, if you’re into that whole picture-taking business, getting out early can offer unique shooting opportunities, unavailable at any other time in the day. Just imagine, being able to take that same shitty selfie with nobody in the background to detract from whatever trendy face you’re trying to pull off.
Maybe you think you already do this, maybe you actually already do this, maybe you are more into spending nights drinking instead of mornings waking, or maybe nothing will ever motivate you to get up before daybreak.
Whatever the case, I hope you take me up on this advice at least once in your travels, because saying, “I wish I had gotten up earlier today,” is far more common a regret than, “I wish I hadn’t gotten up so early today.”
Good luck out there.