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Why I Start Work At 4am

I needed to strategically reposition my days.

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I start work at 4am … and it’s not because I’m need to march to someone else’s time zone. 

I start work at 4 am because that’s what I have to do to be able to get everything in. 

I hate sleeping. When I wake up in the middle of the night I get pissed of that I need to lay around accomplishing nothing until four. Sleep is a much needed waste of time. 

I have to admit that I’ve struggled with arranging the time to finish my Silk Road book. The travels are done, the research is for the most part done, the interviews are basically done. I just need to finish putting it together and putting the final stamp on it. 

The problem is time. I work a full day just to get the money that I need to continue traveling on to the next day. I have a wife and two kids. My wife stopped working around the same time that I signed the contract for this book. 

And, of course, books don’t make money for the people who write them. 

At least not directly. 

This is normal. It’s just the way it is. What Ghost Cities made for me in two years hardly covered the cost of my plane ticket to London to attend the launch event. I believe I was paid a total of $750 for a book that took two years of research and thousands of miles — and dollars — of travel. 

The justification is that you can leverage the authority that your books brings you into decently paying opportunities. This, as it turns out, is very, very true. 

But the problem is that I need money now. I live month to month, and pretty much no pay is ever guaranteed. I generally make money in direct proportion to how much I am able to work on projects that pay.

I realized that I needed to turn the work day into two. 

I needed to either double my workable hours or get a second me. As the later probably wasn’t going to happen I began strategizing. 

I thought about my father. He wakes up at 3:30am every morning. He does this so he can do some things that he wants to do for himself — things like doing a thousand push-ups and two thousand sit ups … or reading this blog. He lives a complete other life before anyone else even starts their day. 

I needed to get me some of that. 

So a couple of months ago when I traveled from the USA to South Korea I didn’t 100% calibrate myself to the time zone shift. I began waking up at 4:00 am and going to sleep at 9:00 pm. 

It worked. 

What else was I doing at 9:00 pm anyway? Not much. If I want to go out to bars at night I will just wake up a couple of hours early. 


Filed under: Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3682 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii

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  • VagabondJourney August 31, 2017, 11:14 am

    I’d love to hire some assistants. But there is a major problem with this: time. I’ve tried hiring cheap help in the past — it’s not worth it for me to pay properly (the max value of the work will invariably be less than what I pay for it) — it’s never really worked out. More often than not, I dump a lot of time into training someone and then they work for a few days and then lose interest or are a hassle for me to keep on task. I found a good assistant once and then she quit right after I put a month into training her. Overall, not worth it. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

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  • whitemonkeytravels February 8, 2018, 1:43 am

    get up at 5.15 these days. working as a postie is made tougher by a 3km walk to work 6 days a week then walking 15km or more for the job its self….. working early is the way forward….

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