Hello, friend. As I said I would in my last post in Berlin, I will explain why it is a good idea to get out and experience what happens in a city when everyone is still sleeping.
I want to preface this post by saying this is not always a good idea, but that I do enjoy and value breaking routines, stepping out of the mundane and into the different.
I have a friend who I'll refer to as K, who told me that she wants to experience everything in life, even those things that most consider bad because all experiences, bad and good, have equal value. In this sense, an enjoyable experience is not necessarily "better" or "more valuable" than a terrifying one. I think K was onto something here. Each of these experiences, when reflected upon in the right light, return an equal amount of awareness or open-mindedness.
Then there is the idea of diminishing returns. Every subsequent experience of the same kind returns a little bit less awareness than the previous experience.
So this brings me to the idea of walking around where ever it is that you are during a time that you probably never walk around, say 3 or 4 AM. Since you may have not done it too many times (at least sober) there is still a lot you can learn from one walk around your town.
Three days ago I flew into Berlin extremely jet lagged, and at 3 AM I woke up and decided to photograph the city til sunrise. I try to do this whenever I visit a new city. This practice started out as a result of my desire to explore and being jet-lagged when travelling, then realized how cool and fulfilling it is. The following are the reasons why I find this practice valuable but want to preface it by saying I hope that you don't just take my word for it, but actually try it and see for yourself.
1) It gives a raw perspective of the culture. It illuminates the faces behind the scenes: The clean-up crews that are miraculously able to clean up the nightly shit shows that happen in the Grand Place in Brussels, or the riot controls preparing for the forthcoming protests in Taksim Square in Istanbul, or the group of party people stumbling home in Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Whatever the case, I think it is an eye-opening and humbling experience that really shows a unique piece of culture.
2) It beats sitting in your room. Scrolling through Reddit or Buzzfeed or any of the myriad of mind-numbing shit you could be doing really isn't worth your time and it certainly doesn't beat getting out. I originally started to do this "just because" then realized how cool and fun it actually is. Wandering the city, discovering things you never even thought to discover in the first place. If you have a mild case of wanderlust, this just might give you a fix.
3) It's the trail less traveled. I often In photography it's hard to stand out with the influx of digital photography. In fact 10% of the photos ever taken were taken in 2012, which comes to a grand total of 380 billion photos. It seems that for every photo that you've taken and will take there is a similar photo that already exists... which is pretty daunting to think about. On the flip side, no photo can be completely congruent to another, and there is a multitude of ways to personalize an interpretation. But to increase the chances of having a unique photo, shoot when 99.99% of people will never think of shooting: 3 AM. In locations that normally bustle this can create an eerie feeling by having only one or no people in the photograph.
4) Just you and the bridge, monument, cathedral, etc. and nobody else is a sublime experience. I even consider it meditative. I like to get out into the backcountry because I feel that is a valuable opportunity to find solitude. You ever get that feeling that some of your deepest most important thoughts just come to you when you are immersed in the tranquil of nature all by yourself? It's just so natural for it to happen because instead of taking so much BS external stimuli from the "glowing rectangles" we affix our eyes to, our brains start to illuminate more important things that were hiding in our subconscious. In my experience, this also happens when you are all by yourself in the concrete jungle.