I’m a morning person. Wait, maybe I’m not being specific enough—I’m an OBNOXIOUS morning person. It’s a personality trait that, after many failed attempts to convince myself in past relationships that dating a night owl wouldn’t cause arguments in our future, has proven to be the one identifier I’ll never be able to quit. It’s also the one identifier I refuse to quit.
See, the thing is, I love getting up early. There’s a magical energy that exists between those few hours between sunrise and when the rest of the world starts to stir—it’s when I feel most creative, most adventurous, and it’s the time when I can really let myself be. It’s when I am most productive, spitting out page after page of writing, compared to the abysmal content I’ve created during that 3 p.m. workday lull when it takes all of my energy just to answer an email.
When I travel, it seems almost insane for me to sleep in, even if the day’s agenda includes lying on a beach all afternoon. I blame this trait on my father—as kids, he would always be up with the sun, caffeinated and ready to go by the time my sisters and I were just opening our eyes. As an adult, I have taken on that role, stepping out to wander the new city I’m visiting while my travel partners sleep.
On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I purposely factored in my sleeping habits to take advantage of the short time I had there. The trip was work related, so the bulk of my time was spent in and out of meetings, but the restless voice inside my head was calling. How could I, someone who adores government and American history, travel to D.C. and not visit at least one monument?
For any traveler, it’s important to take advantage of every free moment you have. I should mention that in this case, there is a distinct difference between vacations, which are meant for relaxation, versus traveling, which is meant for absorbing the sights and sounds of your destination. Both are equally rejuvenating. So for me, like many past trips, I took a close look at my schedule and planned a block of time between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. to wander central D.C. before catching my plane (A Note: Travel light if you plan to follow my suggestions. Because of my timeline, I was stuck carrying a backpack and purse with laptop for the duration of my adventure).
Washington D.C., at 7 a.m., before rush hour really kicks in and the school field trips start to overload the National Mall, is a peaceful time to walk. You have the chance to enjoy the history of this city without kids trying to catch Pokemon off of Thomas Jefferson’s head (is Pokemon Go still relevant?). You can her your own thoughts. You can see the sculptures that line the capital as they were intended—unobstructed by the massive crowds of tourists that will take over later in the day. It’s the quiet that makes these mornings so rewarding.
Prior to this particular trip, the capital had unveiled its newest monument, dedicated to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I had made a point to visit the monument first because it was something new that I wanted to see, but even more so because I needed a reminder of the good in this world. In just a few short days, we will see the conclusion of one of America’s most vicious elections, which has created such a terrible divide across the country, and has encouraged such low brow comments that any hope of a unified outcome seems impossible. I needed a reminder of the fights our past leaders endured, and that through their lessons, we too can work to create a better tomorrow.
I think every American needs to take a trip to this monument. It’s a reminder of the equality of humankind, no matter your race, religion, gender, status, etc., and how important it is to choose love and acceptance over hate and divide. Our country is great because of the opportunities we offer—we’ve forgotten that melting pot analogy that welcomes people from all over the world to come and make a new life. It’s why so many people want to come here, to try his or her hand at creating a better future. America is not a story of haves and have nots, but a story of opportunity for all.