A city’s nightlife doesn’t tempt an early bird

August 27, 2010 in Life,Philosophy,Travel

Early to bed, early to rise. It’s not exactly the rallying cry of twenty-somethings all over the world, but I’ve always believed in the rejuvenating power of eight hours of sleep and the positive energy that comes with waking up early.

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That’s why a city’s nightlife has never been that important to me. I quickly realized that Spain’s nightlife doesn’t even start after my bedtime. I had a hard enough time adjusting to restaurants that don’t open until 9 p.m., much less entertaining the possibility of going out to a club at the same hour I’m usually coming home. At the risk of sounding completely lame, here’s why a city’s “totally awesome club scene” does absolutely nothing to entice me:

The possibility of a hangover: When I travel to a new city, I want to see as much of it as I can in a limited timeframe. While the tourist attractions are important, I also like to schedule in “unscheduled” time to wander the streets and people-watch on a park bench. More than anything, I want to be out and about, soaking up the culture of a city. I don’t want to waste any time sleeping in a hotel room or not feeling my best.

The cost of drinks: There’s no worse feeling than waking up the morning after a night out to an empty wallet. To me, spending money on alcohol is a huge waste: I’m literally paying to feel awful the next day. A drink with dinner is one thing (France has sold me on the necessity of at least one glass of wine, particularly when it’s cheaper than water), but spending a museum admission on a pricey cocktail in a club? Not my idea of responsible spending.

The dreaded pub crawl I cringe when I see travel bars or pub crawls. The only point is to get drunk—and can’t you do that at home? Sure, it’s fun to meet other people who are passionate about travel. I’ve had great conversations with Australians (I think I saw more Aussie backpackers than Spainards in Valencia) about the differences in our cultures—but I’d rather go down to Australia and see the differences first-hand than get wasted with one in a cool European city.

Irish Dancing in Killarney, Ireland

The cultural experience: My favorite overseas nightlife experiences have been when I’m with the inhabitants of a city, not other tourists. Irish dancing with locals in a tiny pub in Killarney, Ireland or sharing a bottle of wine on the banks of Seine—those are experiences that I can’t have anywhere else in the world. The combination of club music, creepy men and overpriced drinks? Pretty sure I can find that in any country, my own included.

Traveling solo: An added caveat is that I often travel solo. I don’t feel comfortable losing my inhibitions around people I just met or having to find my way home in a strange city by myself late at night. I love going out to dinner with new travel friends or exploring the city together, but drinking excessively just feels a bit unsafe.

Girls in Las Vegas

This isn’t to say I never party. I love going out with my girlfriends in San Francisco, or heading back up to my college town for cheap drinks and dancing. But for the most part, I got the crazy nights and day-long hangovers out of my system in college. When I’m traveling, I want to see the most of I can of a city—and a hangover just doesn’t fit into my plans.

Is a city’s nightlife important to you? Do you make sure to go out in every city you visit, or do you prefer to wake up refreshed to see the city in the sun?

  • Anonymous

    Interesting take! I’m much older than you, and so I’m beyond the nightclubbing years, but yes, I’d say a city’s nightlife is important to me, because that’s when I feel most bored and lonely traveling alone. I do not want to be stuck in my hotel room after dinner every night. Thing is, I define nightlife differently than you do (and probably different hours, too–to me “nightlife” occurs between 8pm-midnight). To me, it’s about options of things to do during those hours, other than just go out to dinner–whether it’s go hear a live band in a local bar, or go to a show/theater, or other type of nighttime attraction (night tours, etc). I agree it’s not wise to overdrink when traveling solo. I think you can have fun without doing that.

  • Night life is overrated. I actually like to rest. Nothing can replace sleep. So, spending money on expensive drinks to be bombarded with cigarette smoke (I’m not a smoker) and possibly squished in a dark, crowded place is not very appealing. I only had a brief moment of enjoying this lifestyle when I was 20 and then it got old. Obviously, in order for me to enjoy a place, it has to offer a lot more than a great nightlife.

  • Anonymous

    We’re a lot alike! I’ve never been one for partying and often find myself crashing by 11pm anyway so when we went to Spain on our mini honeymoon and dinner wasn’t even until 9 at the EARLIEST I knew I wouldn’t be able to live there. It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay!

  • Honestly, I pretty much agree with you, even though it makes me feel super lame. I like the occasional all nighter- if I’m with people I know and don’t have too much to get done the next day, but man, sightseeing with a hangover is awful.

  • I’m a mix of both. I certainly like to have my fair share on fun in cities — but I’ve kinda outgrown the going out every night scene. I’ve always been much more of a happy hour/dive bar type of guy, and don’t like blowing all my money drinking all night only to feel like death the next day. But the benders still happen every so often while traveling…haven’t gone out in Valencia other than for La Tomatina, but I’m guessing I’ll have one night out in Barcelona when I head there tomorrow for a few days 🙂

  • Allie A

    It’s rare to meet other people at my age (24) that are more morning people than night people. I am definitely a morning person and feel the same way about a city’s nightlife. I’m going to make a great old person. I lived in Spain for 5 months and I just ate late, big lunches, and skipped dinner because it was so late. I agree that when traveling solo, I almost never go out with strangers until dawn drinking- what a bad idea!

  • I swear Christine, I could have written this myself. I feel the same exact way and I’ve thought about each of those points before as reasons I don’t enjoy a busy night life myself.

    I travel solo a lot too and it takes me a while to build the trust between my new found friends to be able to get wasted with them. It’s sooo expensive and a waste of money in my opinion unless the bar is truly unique and worth checking out for the novelty of it but that doesn’t mean I’d get wasted. Just a drink or two is all I need. Early mornings are the best for seeing sites. The best shots I took while living in Paris were from early Sunday morning walks – spending all night out on Saturday would have left this pleasant discovery undiscovered. I often enjoyed these mornings to myself because my friends were sleeping off their hangovers. I didn’t envy them. Mostly, after a night of being out, I never start the next day feeling good about myself. And feeling good about oneself is one part of finding happiness.

    Happy travels!

  • Natasha

    As an Aussie, it feels almost ‘unAustralian’ to say that I don’t like going out and getting wasted on holiday! Aussies have an awful reputation and are always on those touristy pub crawls. My travel buddy and I had completely different viewpoints on going out at night on our recent Europe trip – I was happy to accompany her out but I wasn’t keen on drinking every night or going on pub crawls to meet drunk Aussies (we can do that back home).

    It is expensive and I much prefer spending my money on visiting sights and eating local foods than on booze. I’d much rather have a quiet night in after a big day sightseeing than party hard till dawn and then feel too hungover to see something amazing the next day. It’s a waste.

  • Anonymous

    I think what I would LIKE my nightlife to be is more in line with yours: I like going out to dinner, seeing a show, doing something–just not going to bars, pub crawls, etc. Either way, I like to be in bed early enough to enjoy the next morning!

  • Anonymous

    I agree–even when I was in college, I believed that eight hours of sleep was completely and totally necessary! I was always one of the first ones to come home 🙂 When I’m evaluating a new place to travel to, night life is last on my list of must-sees.

  • Anonymous

    I love going out with my friends at home, but that’s when I’m also OK with spending the next day watching Friends reruns on the couch–not when I’m in a new city with so much to see and do!

  • Anonymous

    Exactly! I thought eating in France was late–if I have a hard time with that, I definitely can’t handle Spain! I had a great time, but I don’t think I could ever live there.

  • Anonymous

    It always depends on the situations and who I’m with, but I would always rather do Happy Hour than late nights!

  • Anonymous

    Great idea on the late, big lunches! We were surprised when we had an “early” night and got back at 12–when the restaurant doesn’t open until 9 p.m., it totally throws off your schedule.

  • Anonymous

    I love exploring a city early in the morning! It’s so much nicer to take in the tourist sights before they become too crowded, and the lines are always shorter. Definitely agree with all your points as well 🙂

  • Anonymous

    You’re definitely the first Australian I’ve heard of that doesn’t like pub crawls! It’s nice to hear 🙂 I don’t think I could travel with someone who wanted to go out every night–that’s definitely something that I’d have to discuss with any potential travel buddies BEFORE the trip!

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Christine. I’m not teatotaler, but I agree that you’ve got to watch the drinking if you’re traveling long term. It’s one of my 7 Tips for Successful Long Term Travel.

    I’d much prefer to find a local bar or restaurant a mix in with the locals than head out on a hostel bar crawl. That’s where you develop the memories.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly–I’d much rather have a lowkey night with locals than get wasted with a bunch of other backpackers. And it’s certainly hard to sustain long-term travel if you’re out drinking every night!

  • Seattle is a big happy hour city, and my friends and I were all about it (before I left end of January).

  • Allie, I agree – it’s harder finding other 24 year olds who enjoy the crisp cool early mornings to late nights out. Too bad we don’t all travel together! lol we’d have a lot of fun heading out just as the sun rises.

  • Anonymous

    Last comment is one I can totally agree with. Although I am a night owl by nature and enjoy a pub crawl with the best of them, I think you make some pretty good points here, particularly the safety issue!

  • Hey!

    Awesome post 🙂 I love how you looked at the party issue from another angle – and they’re definitely good reasons not to get wasted. However, I still think the nightlife of a city is key to really understanding its lifeblood. Nighttime is a different beast, and it’s something I enjoy so much at home that I want to experience how others spend their nights. My big secret to success: coffee and diet coke. Maybe one or two alcoholic drinks – at most (except the last night…then it might be a few more) but a sober night can be just as much fun!

    Jess
    http://www.jessicaspeziale.tumblr.com

  • Anonymous

    I think it depends on who I’m with–I’m much more prone to explore a city’s nightlife if I’m with friends. By myself, however, I’m much more likely to stick close to home. At home, I definitely don’t mind sticking to sugar-free Red Bulls–but here they’re just as expensive as a cocktail!

  • Paris in Pink

    A very interesting post. You bring a lot of insight to making the most of traveling and seeing new places. I’m an early bird too, and while the occasional late night can be very entertaining, I completely agree that truly experiencing a new city is best done outside of the club scene. Lovely post 🙂 Paris in Pink http://parisinpink.com/blog

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! This isn’t to say that I completely ignore the club scene–I do love going out when I’m traveling with friends. However, I almost always regret it when I don’t feel 100% in the morning!

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  • It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who doesn’t want to travel with a hangover. I don’t mind having a couple drinks, but travelling alone I don’t want to put myself in an unsafe situation. And funny enough I’m not a morning person, but when I travel it is the best time to wander around.

  • Anonymous

    That’s exactly how I am. Water is my best friend on the road, for many reasons 🙂

  • I usually try to sample the nightlife because I see it as an important part of the city’s culture – it’s a side of the city I want to see. But I totally agree that it’s much less appealing when you’re alone.

  • Anonymous

    Yes–believe me, I’m much more keen to go out if I’m with a group of friends! It’s also all about what type of experience I’m looking for in a city: to learn more, to relax, to have a good time!

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  • jdizzl

    I don’t drink anymore and now also in my 30’s so yeah nightlife is the least of my concerns. However, I now enjoy getting up and running, cycling excursions, kayaking, and things of that nature when I travel instead of staying up until sunrise. It saves so much money. I never really enjoyed drinking that much, just did it not o be awkward or feel pestered. I also lived in SF and thought wine country was a benefit to living there, now instead if I Were to visit, I’d just go on a bike ride.

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