Night owl Saskia Murphy
couldn’t give a hoot for
riches and dawn starts

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I’m filing from California today. I know, get me. My trip across the Golden State has been full of surprises. First of all, it really doesn’t rain here. Not a cloud in the sky.

And for the first few days, jet lag forced me into having a different type of holiday from what I’m used to. It started on our first morning in San Francisco. My boyfriend and I woke up, in sync, at 5am. It was still dark outside, the birds were yet to peek out from their nests, but there we were, wide awake in our hotel room. We decided to make the most of it, getting an early tram to San Francisco Bay and watching the sunrise.

It really was very nice. By 7am San Franciscans were arriving in droves, swimming in the silky water and jogging along the Golden Gate Promenade. It was an experience to watch the city waking up, seeing people going to work, green juice in hand.

By 8am we’d clocked up a good few miles and felt pretty smug about it. We even briefly discussed trying to wake up that early more often. “Imagine how much we could get done if we got up at 5am,” I heard myself saying, picturing myself springing out of bed in the dark ready for an early
yoga class.

Apparently some of the most successful people in the world wake up in the wee hours. Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his mornings at 3:45am, Richard Branson gets up at five, and Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Indra Nooyi have all spoken about how their busy days start with getting up at the crack of dawn.

Maybe early mornings are the secret to success, I thought. Maybe those sacred few hours before the rest of the world wakes up is the time to get stuff done.

It felt like an awakening, but it didn’t last long. That evening, I was looking forward to seeing the city at night, but by 8pm my eyelids started to feel heavy. While the bars were filling up with techies ready for post-work cocktails, I just wanted to go to bed. “Shall we call it a night?” I quietly suggested at half eight.

The next morning, we woke up super early again, but this time I didn’t feel smug. I felt bored, and robbed of a night exploring San Francisco’s nooks and crannies. We’d done the sunrise thing, we’d seen the city waking up – I wanted to see the city letting its hair down.

To me, the best way to get to know a place isn’t in the overpriced tourist attractions, crowded landmarks or tacky gift shops. A city’s soul can be found in its restaurants and bars, on the streets and in the late night eateries.

Bored with early mornings, we powered through, staying out past midnight. And guess what: the night time was much more fun. While the morning was full of bright-eyed joggers and flat whites, the night was full of music and dancing and chatting to strangers at bars. All the best memories happen after dark – it’s when you see a place come to life.

The following morning, waking up at a much more civilised 8am, my mind was made up. Early birds can keep their sunrises and their billions. I’d much rather be a night owl.

Saskia Murphy is a Manchester-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @SaskiaMurphy

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