Inspiring exploits: Make your bucket list, and make it happen

Carney in St. Peter's Square, Rome, October 2010.
Carney in St. Peter's Square, Rome, October 2010. Sharan Carney

Don Rupar, 75, of New London still works full time in information technology for Yardney Technical Products in Pawcatuck, and when he is not working, he is dreaming - and doing - big.

Rupar has schushed down the slopes of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, cruised to Tortola in the Caribbean and sat in the plush seats of The Philadelphia Orchestra's home at the Academy of
Music.

This summer Rupar's friends were talking about the 2007 film "The Bucket List," in which two men nearing the end of their lives set out to do the things they've always dreamed of doing.

That got Rupar thinking. And then it got him writing. He made out his own bucket list, both fanciful and realistic.

Among the eclectic items on his list are visiting the International Space Station (fanciful), taking a culinary class at Le Cordon Bleu (realistic) and driving a Ferrari (realistic, with the right friends).

Sharan Carney, 61, of Mystic has checked off several items on her bucket list, which she started working on before the term was part of the popular lexicon.

Much of her list is built around the theme of pilgrimage. The year she turned 50 she made an initial attempt to walk all 500 miles of the Camino de Santigo de Compostela in Spain, the way of St. James. It took her a few tries to complete the walk the way she wanted - solo - but once she did, she began planning more treks.

She completed the 500-mile Via Francigena in Italy, hiked up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and walked along the 180-mile Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Now, she is hoping to hike the Camino Estrada Real, an ancient road built by Portuguese colonists though the mountains of Brazil.

It's not surprising that Kathleen O'Beirne, 74, of Mystic would have a written bucket list. She has kept personal journals for decades and has used her writing as a way to enrich her life.

"Certainly, by the time you have reached 60, it seems like a major line in the sand. You become conscious of diminishing energy and time," she said.

Since 2007 O'Beirne has been able to check "published author" off her list: She's published three books built around nature themes, including one ("Birds of a Feather") that uses bird behaviors as a metaphor for workplace relationships and conduct.

She also has enjoyed travel to such exotic destinations as Tahiti in French Polynesia and The Great Barrier Reef off Australia. Still, she remains committed to expanding her experiences and believes bucket lists can be helpful in staying focused and realizing when you get diverted from the path to your goal. That means not only positioning yourself to take an opportunity when it arises, but also recognizing an opportunity when it is in front of you, she said.

"The trick is to find new areas to explore," O'Beirne said.

TRAVELING IN BODY AND MIND

Most people put farflung travel locales on their bucket lists, but in Carney's case how she completes each journey - alone and on foot - is just as important as the destination. She prefers ancient paths because "I love walking in the footsteps of 1,000 years of people's footsteps."

By walking alone - with a travel company transporting her bags - Carney said she can pay attention and absorb the beauty of her surroundings, completing both an outward and an inward journey.

O'Beirne said she, too, focuses inward. Reading, journaling and revisiting old photos are important. "It's about relishing what our lives really have been," she said.

Carney's ventures helped prepare her for an unplanned journey: surviving a brain aneurysm during a bucket list-driven scuba-diving trip in 2011. Since then, she has had five brain surgeries and is now well and undaunted.

"There's no change in my bucket list. I've always been healthy. I just looked at this as a life-threatening experience to get through," she said. 'I just used every tool at my fingertips: journaling, reading, music, walking."

This kind of incident gives weight to O'Beirne's belief that bucket lists are as much for the young as for the mature. Early intention and ample time can make it easier to accomplish items on a list, she said. And if a bucket list goal has a big price tag, the earlier the saving begins, the better.

Rupar believes the bigger items on his list - including an excursion in a sleeper car on the Instanbul Express with a pricetag of $6,000 or $7,000 - are attainable if he keeps working toward them.

"It's not insanely absurd," he said.

Other items are challenging in different ways, Rupar admits. Running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, might best be attempted last.

"That might be the end of the list," Rupar quipped.

So why compile such a list?

"I think it's nice to be able to dream about stuff that you might like to do that would bring you enjoyment,"
Rupar mused. "If you just get up and go to work every day without planning anything to look forward to, you die old."

Carney put it this way: " I just think we're supposed to live until we don't."

A typical Italian hillside village, lodging for the night
A typical Italian hillside village, lodging for the night Sharan Carney
Ancient Roman roads stretch for miles made for a pleasant walk during Sharan Carney’s trek through Italy
Ancient Roman roads stretch for miles made for a pleasant walk during Sharan Carney’s trek through Italy Sharan Carney
Don Rupar of New London raises a toast during his Caribbean cruise.
Don Rupar of New London raises a toast during his Caribbean cruise. Submitted photo
Kathleen O'Beirne of Mystic  works on ideas for her books and also creates wreaths from the stones, shells and other bits and pieces she found on the beaches she explores.
Kathleen O'Beirne of Mystic works on ideas for her books and also creates wreaths from the stones, shells and other bits and pieces she found on the beaches she explores. Day archive photos
Kathleen O'Beirne of Mystic  works on ideas for her books and also creates wreaths from the stones, shells and other bits and pieces she found on the beaches she explores.
Kathleen O'Beirne of Mystic works on ideas for her books and also creates wreaths from the stones, shells and other bits and pieces she found on the beaches she explores. Day archive photos

BUCKET LIST SUGGESTIONS

Ride in a hot-air balloon

Play baccarat in Monaco

Learn to play a musical instrument

Cruise the Panama Canal

Do a grand European tour

Make a new friend

Visit the far Pacific islands

Hike to Machu Picchu in Peru

Do one new thing each month

IDEAS COURTESY OF SHARAN CARNEY, KATHLEEN O'BEIRNE AND DON RUPAR

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