On my last morning in Dubrovnik, I set my alarm for 5 AM. My Airbnb host told me the sunrise was even more spectacular than sunsets. As I watched the sun peak above the rugged mountains and illuminate the Adriatic Sea from my perch overlooking Old Town, it reminded me of early morning crew practice on the James River in college.

For the record, I am NOT a morning person — every early AM practice I was a grumbly human who wondered what possessed me to get into this crazy sport. But once I was out on the water, all my senses were heightened and my mood transformed. There was a stillness. The water smooth as glass under a lingering fog. Eight rhythmic oars clicking in unison. An opportunity to be fully present and free my mind. How I felt on the water is such a vivid memory.

As I watched a sleeping city below me today, I felt the urge to grab my camera and wander the quiet streets (don't worry, I stopped to put on a bra first because my mother taught me to always be presentable). No tour groups to navigate around. No peddlers aggressively offering you their precious goods.

Again, my senses were heightened. The rhythmic sweep of the street cleaner’s broom. The baker delivering crate after crate of fresh loaves. Two couples perched at a bistro table, laughing and carrying on with beer in front of them and zero acknowledgement of the time of day (maybe they’ve been stationed there all night?). Chiming church bells ringing loud and clear. A “good morning” from another lone photographer who had the same idea. And, of course, a sh*t ton of pigeons (those flying rats truly terrify me).

A large part of this trip is for self-discovery and reflection. About my career. About where I’m headed. And about personal growth. Along the way, I hope I can adopt new hobbies and practices that will help me combat the stress of entrepreneurship and perfectionism. I need coping mechanisms to lead a calmer, more balanced life. Yoga and meditation have been met with limited success, but I’m determined to find what works for me. 

Exploring the city in such a tranquil state makes me want to keep this activity going, so I’m starting a Sunrise Serenity Series — a collection of photographs from these early-morning excursions (despite majoring in finance and accounting, my favorite college course was actually photography). Just me, my camera, and my thoughts. Stay tuned on Instagram, as I chase the morning light in six more countries along this journey.

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