Some of us have bucket lists. There might be some near-impossible items on those lists.

Some people have a bucket list – things they want to do, to accomplish before they die. Years ago, it was more closely associated with impending death – months away! Today, it is less morbid and encompasses the less challenging – traveling, swimming with dolphins, seeing the northern lights, zip-lining, and more.

The Bucket List The first thing needed is the list. What excites you? What is meaningful to you? Is it your list alone? Is it achievable? There are many starting questions. Excitement and meaning are two key ingredients to writing a bucket list.

Meaningful can be anything from building homes in various parts of the world – helping others! Excitement can happen on land, water, and in the air. How risky is it? Is it wishful thinking or something that adds value to your life?

Start with a plan. My wife and I saw the movie, The Way, with Martin Sheen, in 2014. We were mesmerized by the experiences of walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. My wife is not one to share her bedroom with 400 of her closest friends – or even forty of them. Nevertheless, we talked about it on our eighth honeymoon (we have been married 53 years and occasionally take a honeymoon – again).

The eighth honeymoon involved starting from where we were married in Violet, Texas, going to the first night of our marriage in Rockport, Texas, and then spending a week in San Antonio, Texas as we did in 1968, celebrating HemisFair ’68 – the official 1968 World’s Fair. It occurred 250 years after the founding of the city of San Antonio.

We started with a plan to visit this place, that one, and a couple of others. Along the way, we discussed the movie about the Camino de Santiago. Marilyn, my wife, was opposed to spending nights in hostels, but she warmed up to the idea of a private room with a private bath every night. That meant a few extra dollars for accommodations, but it was something we agreed to.

I love it when a plan comes together – just like Col. Hannibal Smith used to say on the A-Team! We all need a plan to start. It is not locked in concrete. It can change – added to or portions deleted.

We had never heard of the Camino de Santiago until we saw the movie. Over 250,000 people walk it annually. People have been walking it for more than 1,000 decades. Did it excite us? Yes. Was it meaningful? Yes, because my wife had just gone through months of chemotherapy and weeks of radiation therapy in 2014.

She wanted to give thanks to God for her full recovery by walking the Camino de Santiago. Was it risky? No. It required equipment and training, though. So, when a plan is developed, what is needed to make it happen. Sometimes it involves equipment and training, but not always. However, all plans do require an expiration date. When is this activity expected to be completed – otherwise, it is just a wish?

Accountability is key to achieving many things. Tell people your plan. Let them know why you are doing it. Share with them your expectations. It makes it real in your mind, and you can see it more clearly.

We bought shoes and socks and began walking almost daily for nearly a year before leaving for Spain. The Camino de Santiago is 500 miles (Camino Frances – from San Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain). We planned to walk it in 30 days – roughly 17 miles per day.

Some plans require research – visas, passports, shot requirements for travel, reservations, knowledge of local customs and language(s), and more. We set our plan to walk the Camino de Santiago in the late summer of 2015. That gave us one year to get our bodies in shape, buy the backpacks and begin seriously walking with twenty-pound weights in the backpacks.

Plans change all the time. Imagine how many people had plans to travel during 2020. The pandemic changed that instantly. Graduations, weddings, funerals, and more were interrupted. Be flexible. Illness, finances, and more can cause plans to change.

Things can happen anywhere along the line when you are amid completing your bucket list item. Our worst day walking the Camino de Santiago was the first day. That story will be featured in a future article. We met many people with lost toenails, knee and foot problems, and other injuries along the way. Some had to go home early. Others spent a few extra nights to recover from their minor issues.

A plan well executed does not guarantee success. As an independent publisher, I work with new authors to get their books into print. My latest client spent six months on their honeymoon in 1964 visiting 16 countries in Europe and North Africa. Being arrested, having his car impounded, some medical issues, riots, an offer of employment halfway through the journey, and many more things were never considered when they left America.

Improvise, adapt, and overcome are part of the Marine Corps’ slogan. Our mindset gets us through those unplanned changes that occur. We can better endure stress – physical, mental, and more when we have adjusted our mindset and our skillsets to what needs to be done.

As things change, modify your plan. Review the reasons you chose that bucket list item. Are those reasons still important? Doing a bucket list item from twenty years ago might be exciting, but is it something that adds value to your life?

We adapted to the daily walk (15-20 miles every day) after the first couple of weeks. Unfortunately, there are no hills in Houston, Texas, and we did not plan well for trekking over the Pyrenees Mountains (between France and Spain) on the first day. The lesser hills in Spain were gruesome on a good day and near impossible a couple of times.

We started out having an excellent breakfast and leaving on the day’s walk by eight or nine o’clock in the morning. Arriving around five p.m. with temperatures over 100 degrees daily and no reservations got old very quickly. We had to change things – improvise, adapt, and overcome.

I started making phone calls to lodgings that we thought we could walk to in one day. But, as usual, the smaller towns in Spain are not fluent in English. So, in my best Spanish, I would ask about a single private room, with a private bath and the cost.

Once we had a location for that night, we left our backpacks to be transported to that hotel. For a few dollars, transportation services are provided to get backpacks from point A to point B daily. It was worth it.

My wife’s backpack shoulder strap broke and injured her clavicle. I carried her backpack on my chest and mine on my back the day before. I did not want to continue the journey carrying two backpacks. The transportation service was one of the best deals we found along the Camino de Santiago.

The third thing we changed to ensure success was getting up before the crack of dawn and start walking. An hour and a half to two hours before the sun crept over the hills, we were on the road. Little cafes were open for our early morning café con leche, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and croissant.

We walked five kilometers an hour for the first hour and four kilometers an hour after that consistently – depending on terrain. Our stops along the way to catch a bathroom, get hydrated, eat something were hourly. Sometimes, it was just a ten or fifteen-minute rest stop to relax and chat with others walking that day.

One of the best things about a bucket list is the bragging rights when you get done. Celebrate your joys, heartaches, triumphs, pains, happiness, sufferings, and excitement with others. The experience of completing the bucket list item is yours, but it feels better when you share it with others.

We have Red-Marilyn’s Camino de Santiago FB page ( that we shared our journey through photos and comments. So please enjoy our bucket list item from five years ago.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


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