The ringtone I have for my alarm clock is “Chimes” on the iPhone, or as I like to call it, the worst sound imaginable to have to hear at 5 am (go ahead and listen to it for yourself, I’ll wait for you to confirm its irritating nature). This also happens to be the ringtone one of my coworkers uses to alert themselves that they need to be halfway through their daily water bottle for maximum hydration levels. So not only does this sound rouse me awake every morning, but it also reminds me that I am probably not drinking enough water to get me through my day. I hate “Chimes” about 95% of the time I hear it. The only 5% of the time I don’t is when I’m on vacation.
In all of my travels, I have stuck to one easy rule for myself: wake up early EVERY. DAMN. DAY. Most tour groups promise their groups full tours of cities, castles, and mountain ranges, all while beginning their days at a leisurely 9:00 to 10:00 am. They snake their way down to the tourist traps and photo opportunities, where everybody clusters together to listen to a man wearing a fluorescent vest yelling a few lines about the importance of the place where they are standing. Those tourists will then have approximately 15 minutes to get all of the pictures they want, which will be blocked and photobombed by other tourists, only to be ushered off to the next location to follow the same drill.
By this time, I have usually been up for about 4 hours, have gotten breakfast, snapped all of my important pictures, and am well on my way to a museum or the beach. I tend to plan out my day to do everything that those tour groups do, but without all of the people around. A perfect example of this is the below picture. I was out of bed at 6:30 am, and out the door of my hotel room by 7:45 am. I weaved my way through the streets of Amsterdam, and made my way to Museumplein to grab one of the most iconic pictures you can get in Amsterdam. As you can see in the photo below, nobody was there! I beat the crowds, got approximately A MILLION pictures all from different angles, and was early enough to be one of the first people in line at my favorite breakfast spot, Bakers and Roasters. Would this ever happen in a tour group or past 9 am? Hell nah!
Exhibit B below is another prime example of a time waking up early and getting out into the world worked incredibly well in my favor. This picture was taken just inside the gates of Teotihuacan, a popular attraction outside Mexico City. As I continued in past the entry gates, I walked past a tour group who were all clustered around their tour guide, and being swarmed by men selling noise makers and necklaces. I was able to duck in front of all of them, getting one of a kind photos like this, with nothing but myself and history present in each picture.
So while “Chimes” sends chills up my spine whenever I hear it (and is beginning to elicit a Pavlovian response, making me thirsty upon hearing the first note…thanks cubicle neighbor), it has gotten me out the door in time to create memories I will never forget, and snag pictures unlike anybody else’s. And it could be worse, my ringtone could be “Marimba”.