Nikki : Europe one weekend at a time

Mary Dougherty

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I'm a fine art film photographer living in the mountains and traveling to tell beautiful stories

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while Mary is on maternity leave, this guest post is brought to you by Nikki!

If you know me this won’t come as a surprise, but I have a confession: I’m addicted to traveling. In six years I’ve spent 86 days in Europe alone, and let’s not even think about intercontinental travel. To balance the fairly long and demanding hours at work my husband Mike and I started traveling as an escape. So far we have only used 36 vacation days to do so.

For me it started back in high school, when I traveled with the local 4-H exchange club and continued through college as I studied abroad in Switzerland. While that is where for most the story typically ends, mine just began.

After graduation, I moved to New York City and got a stable job where I found an even more stable boyfriend. In fact, we ended up getting married 4 years later. These first few years happened to be the same time as the financial crisis which made travel costs plummet, and since we were lucky to have kept our jobs, we took advantage of the situation.

My husband liked to joke that we were backpacking through Europe one weekend at a time. For us it wasn’t about lying on the beach or drinking fruity cocktails under a palm tree – what we were interested in was culture and history. When we were there we didn’t stay in name brand hotels on the Champs Elysees or overlooking the Colosseum, we stayed in a converted monastery on Rue Cler, an old sailors hotel in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and an actual convent in Rome.

Good traveling is half art and half science, and here are some of the rules we live by when traveling:

  • Travel off season in Europe : Every major city in Europe is vastly different in spring vs. summer. The French are nicer, the Romans are actually there, and you won’t overheat before breakfast.
  • Slow down. The best way to enjoy any place is to slow down and be a part of it. If you’re in Madrid don’t jam every museum into one day. Sleep in, wake up at 10 am and breeze through the Prado, nap in the afternoon and start eating dinner at 10 pm like the locals.
  • Dress the part.
  • Use Tripadvisor but don’t completely rely on it. Take in to consideration who’s writing the review, but always cross check there.
  • Take recommendations. Our favorite guide books are Rick Steves for anything in Eurpoe, Anthony Bourdain for food anywhere, Timeout Magazine for bars, and Lonely Planet or Frommers for non European travel.
  • Fight jet lag. The most important thing you can do is adjust your body to the timezone as soon as possible. This can mean either going to sleep or drinking espresso to stay up depending on where you go.
  • Pack light, don’t check bags unless you absolutely have to.

Nikki was bit by the travel bug and hasn’t found a cure. On weekdays Nikki and Mike (her husband) work at a hedge fund in NYC, and on the weekends they travel around the world exploring new places, cultures and cuisines. Take a look at their Virginia wedding on the family farm.

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