being early

map-room
Map Room at the Vatican Museum – a long, long line.

 

We were in Santorini and needed to be up in Northern Italy in a week to meet our dear friend Kathy. While being truly stunning, Santorini is like an amazing desert and you can’t really eat dessert for very long so we had some time to make our way.

Doing all the usual research, we decided to take a ferry to Athens and from there fly to Rome. We’d stay in Rome for 5 days then continue our journey north to Stresa to meet Kathy. The first part of this trek was the ferry to Athens. It left Santorini at a shocking 3am. Ugh.

We arranged for a cab to take us down the mountainside to the port at about 2am, an hour early. Lots of people asked us why, or tried to talk us out of it. “Too early,” they’d say. “Why? You’ll just be sitting around?”

On this trip, something we’ve learned – it seems given very deeply into our culture that an “optimal” experience is to spend as little time as possible in line, as close to your desired time to do the thing you’re in line for. A distant second seems to be waiting line for a long period, but getting to choose the time of day you do your thing; it’s great if you can do the thing at 2pm,even if you have to stand in line for 4 hours before. It will suck, but you’ll get to do this thing at exactly the time you want to.

We’ve also learned something even better – if you’re willing to change your preconceptions about time and you’ve got a little leeway here, you can be much happier, get screwed by bad happenstance a lot less, and avoid a lot of crowding. Just be early.

For the Santorini ferry, nothing went wrong and we wound up chilling on the dock for an hour. A rough hour, 2-3am, but a lot could have gone wrong if we’d waited. The way to the dock is a crazy switchback road. We weren’t knowledgeable about taxis in Greece an had to rely on others for help. If we missed this connection, it would have been about an $800 mistake, as it would cascade into many other things that had to be timed right. So, we went early,and things were fine.

In Florence, the line for the amazingly popular and picturesque climb to the top of the Duomo is usually about 3-4 hours long. The Duomo opens at 8am, an as it turns out if you’re there at 7am ( early ) none of the tourists are there yet. You get in line, and wait no-time-at all. Time in line is 1 hour, not 4. In the cool morning, another serious bonus. Without all the hawkers in your business; another bonus.

At the Vatican, the line to see the museum is about a quarter mile long, hours in the hot sun. Unless you go early – there by 730, in by 915.

It doesn’t work all the time, but being early in the day or earlier than others for some connection has never, ever hurt us an has saved us a number of times. The hardest part ( after you reframe your timeline ) is keeping yourself occupied during the wait. Talking, reading, verbal games, Facebook, and a little patience seem to work just fine for this.

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