Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sharry memory: backpacking Europe

I am so very fortunate to have Sharry’s journals and thousands of awesome pictures to remember my M.I.A. twin soul. Even with the wealth of memory aides she left me one of the absolute greatest fears I have is the inevitable fading of my own memory. This fear is one that I avoid confronting when at all possible. Of course many of the “big picture” memorable things will never completely disappear but the small things and details might. To lose what her voice sounds like when she first woke up, some of the silly little fights, how it felt to hold her in my arms watching trashy tv, the smell of her skin after a good hike, the multitude of stupid little inside jokes and all the stupid, adorable and cheesy moments that came together to create the beautiful Sharred Buhanan-Decker relationship.


After I publish our children’s book, Sharry’s scholarship is discovered, and I save Hyrule in the new Zelda game I plan on starting a LoveSharred memoir in a sorry attempt to have my say in our magical relationship. I want JJ to be able to read the beautiful words of his angel mom and also read his very human dad’s perspective as well on some of our adventures and day to day life. For now our blog will have to suffice until the memoir work begins.


Backpacking Europe
We went on many adventures together but probably one of the grandest was when we backpacked through Europe as very poor newlyweds for six weeks. Sharry had made a deal with her parents that if we did an extremely inexpensive wedding that the remainder of the budgeted money could help us trek across western Europe. So our beautiful wedding day, December 28th, 2006, was done on the cheap...pinata and all (a loveSharred memory for another time pershaps).


That summer we left to Europe planning to travel as cheaply as possible because frankly we had no other choice. For six weeks Shar and I slept in train stations, airports, parks, campgrounds, under bike racks, empty lots, and occasionally hostels. Sharry was always so brave. Half the places we stayed I would nervously hum and haw before following her lead into slumber. We never spent more than $20 on a meal. I think we ate at a sit down restaurant one time the entire trip. The majority of our food consisted of bread, cheese and some kind of fruit. I seriously doubt anyone that I know did Europe so cheap. Remember this is before everyone had smart devices so we had two backpacks with about 3 days worth of clothes (that we would wash in public bathrooms when the stench would grow too great), way too many guide books, sleeping bags and a tent and no way to get in touch with anybody back in the states aside from a calling card we used 2-3 times.


Our trip was amazing. It was a foundational experience to my life and definitely to our relationship A six week period that deepened our already strong relationship with romance, fear, excitement, beauty, passion, art, sleep deprivation and adventure. For six weeks we relied solely and completely on one another and our love and friendship blossomed as a result. I want to share some of my most memorable highlights without referencing Sharry’s journals. Of course we did the typical touristy stuff  that we loved but I wanted to share what may be somewhat unique to our experience. You can see Shar’s brief post about our trip here.


We began in England.
  • On the very first subway stop of our lives Sharry took way too long getting her stuff together and as I exited I turned around to see the doors close with her on the inside with a look of absolute panic on her face. We had no hotel, no phones, no plan and we were separated on our very first day. Fortunately she waited at the next stop for me to catch up...mostly because she was mid panic attack.
  • The Tate Modern was probably my favorite museum of the entire trip.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe. However in the cheap “seats” you are actually in the very packed bottom pit where you are not allowed to sit. We had our huge bags on our back and everytime one of us would slump over from exhaustion a very stern usher would reprimand us that such behavior was not permitted.
  • Sleeping in the Heathrow airport 2-3 nights (I can’t remember for sure). Every morning we would be woken up by airport security asking what flight we were waiting for and our plan was to say “Chicago” every time...it worked. We learned to prize chairs that did not have arms because you can lay on a row of them. Actually for months afterward whenever Shar and I saw some good benches we would comment on what a good sleeping surface it would make.
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Abbey Road. I walked across barefoot to be like Paul
  • Freezing, June 2006 in London was very cold and rainy
  • Learning to check our bags at a museum first thing in the morning so we wouldn’t have to carry them all day
  • Being almost blown over by mega winds at Stonehenge but loving our van ride out to the location because it was our first soft surface to take a nap on since the plane
  • King Arthur and the holy grail. We drank the red tinted water which was supposed to lead to a long life.






Next we went to Ireland
  • We took a ferry where everyone else got sleeper rooms but we with our low funds did not. We ended up finding a quiet open spot of ground to lay down. We were woken up by the captain of the boat after all the other passengers had mysteriously vanished.
  • The Irish did not know what to do with our Eurorail student passes so instead of using some of our days there they just punched the corner...which didn’t make any sense but definitely saved us some Euros.
  • Taking a train to the end of the line when we forced off and had no idea where we were. We got off and found the nearest lodging. It was like a $100...no way that was happening so we setup our tent right by the tracks on the other side of some railroad ties.
  • Ireland is incredibly green, cold (for June), and full of very kind people.
  • I had an entire conversation on the train with a kindly older gentleman where I do not think either of us had much comprehension of what the other was saying. Even though we were both speaking English our respective accents were just too damn thick. I remember at the time having an incredible hope and fantasy that he would invite us to stay at his place with a soft bed, a shower and a hot meal haha.






France
  • When we got to Paris we scouted out some benches in their large train station however when we attempted to bed down for the night we were shooed like vermin. So past 10pm we were wandering the streets of Paris trying to find a place under $60 to stay...a very difficult task. One fun memory. After like our 4th strike we found ourself in a fairly questionable neighborhood and Sharry was crying as we dragged ourselves down the street. Being the good compassionate husband I am I got after her saying, “Shar STOP! crying only makes us a target for all the shady people around here...let’s just go home.” Around midnight we finally found a place. I think it was the only non-hostel room we stayed in the entire trip...it was paradise. We had our very own sink to do our laundry in!
  • The Louvre, watching Sharry tear up as she saw the Mona Lisa. The beautiful soul of a sensitive artist.
  • Going to the Eiffel tower late in the afternoon so that we can see Paris both in the daylight and at night
  • Notre Dame
  • Delicious street vendor cheese crepes







Switzerland
  • The breathtaking Alps
  • The kind people who speak like 100 languages
  • Setting up our tent in an open field on a stormy night realizing we put the rain cover tarp inside out so I had a steady stream of drips on my forehead throughout the night
  • Beautiful hikes with the best hiker I know
  • A hostel where they had a hot tub way up in the Alps fueled my wood fire
  • Arriving in a sleepy Swiss town after 11pm and finding absolutely everything closed. It was rainy so we decided to layout our sleeping bags under a covered bike rack. We woke up at 6am to a high pitched moped horn that had found it’s daytime resting place occupied
  • Staying in a hostel that had 1 wall that was the mountain. You sit in the bathroom and can touch the rock wall!
  • “Flirting” with two young female swiss college students and spending the rest of the six hour train ride in silence. FYI no flirting occurred haha
  • Walking along beautiful Swiss lakes







Italy
  • Arriving in the magical Cinque Terre past 10pm, where somebody was blaring the White Stripes (which oddly made us feel at home...USA, USA) and finding a little tucked away corner to lay down our mats on the cobblestones. Every time a train would come by it would wake me up and I was Shar’s pillow so I had a huge kink in my neck the next day.
  • Gelato. I think we spent more on Gelato than any other one food.
  • Italy was where we really discovered the paid city campground. You can find them in cities all over and they are significantly cheaper than hostels and safer than park benches and train stations.
  • Rome. Lots of museums and ancient sites. The Coliseum. Christian Catacombs.
  • Sharry got her haircut like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. I loved it, she could rock any look.
  • The Vatican. Rubbing St Peter’s toes.
  • Exploring ancient Christian catacombs and thinking to ourselves this would be an ideal location for slumber.
  • Street vendor Pizza
  • Calling home with calling cards
  • Sleeping in a train station and being given change because people thought we were homeless. Also in these situations people would often ask Sharry if she was ok...little did they know this was her idea.
  • Michelangelo’s David in Florence.
  • Wandering through Venice in the rain.
  • Having a very buff Venetian follow us for like 20 minutes that just kept telling Sharry in his limited English, “You are very beautiful, coffee with me? Please you are very beuatiful” She would respond thanks but I’m with him gesturing to the significantly less buff nerdy american. He literally tried 4-5 times. He was probably hoping for a test of strength in which he would have beat me with one bicep.
  • Sleeping right outside the Venice train station. Sharry was on a bench and I was on the cockroach ridden ground beside her. We were very jealous of other street sleepers who had good cardboard to sleep on. Also weird midnight deals were going on all around us throughout the night. One of the more sketchy nights of the whole trip.
  • The ruins of Pompei
  • Taking a “vacation from our vacation” in Sorrento where we camped and swam for three days

















Germany
  • WEIRD city campgrounds with HUGE bugs
  • Walking the path of Berlin Wall
  • Fighting over who got to take a picture in front of “Checkpoint Charlie” because we both wanted to be in the picture and both hated asking strangers to take our picture. Of course the picture ended up with neither of us in it!
  • Our first night in Berlin we were looking for some obscure hostel that we never found. Instead we ended up at a building that used to be a hospital but served as a summer camp that was not open yet. They let us stay there because they didn’t have the heart to turn us away in the middle of the night. It was an eery place to stay in the middle of an empty hospital just the two of us!
  • Loved the German rail system
  • Dachau concentration camp. Somberly holding each other as we had seeds for social justice planted in our hearts.
  • Munich zoo
  • Crazy Neuschwanstein castle





This is the type of thing that would have never happened if it were not for Sharry’s passion for adventure and a life dedicated to love and experiences rather than accumulating stuff and the status quo. I thank God daily that our 12 years together were so full thanks primarily to her and I plead with Him/Her that an eternal adventure together awaits.

Little thing about Shar not to forget: She would often randomly exclaim, “I love babies and bubbies (me) and cuties, and kitties”

And of course some JJ pics to this already very long post. His 9 month checkup was great!




4 comments:

  1. You two gave new meaning to the word phrasing "roughing it," but got to see everything there is to see there. Pretty brilliant! What gifts these sweet memories and adventures are. I'm so glad you got to do all of these things together. I can't help but wonder if Sharry was inspired to pack as much as she could in as possible to her short life. It seems like lived every day like her last. I admire that so much! What a life...

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  2. Decent experience it. IT makes knapsack going with encounters that are exceptional and life-changing and all the more frequently, avoided manuals. This gains your experiences your most cherished gifts.

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