His adventures include being buried in two 50-gallon drum barrels and frozen in 10,000 pounds of ice, but La Salle native Jim “The Idea Man” Kaszynski is not out of ideas yet. Those escapades were performed to encourage blood donations for the Illinois Valley chapter of the American Red Cross in the early 1970s.
His latest idea was inspired by the 2011 film “The Way.”
In the film, a handful of people meet along the Camino de Santiago — also known as The Way of St. James — a 484-mile trail from France to Spain that ends at the grave of St. James. Each has a different reason for taking the journey.
“When they finished, they all ended up with a different goal,” Kaszynski said.
The morning after watching the film, the idea was firmly planted in his mind: he would walk the Camino de Santiago. Since beginning his plans to make the journey next summer, the 67-year-old has been told by friends that he cannot do it. But Kaszynski said that only motivates him more.
He wrote in his blog: “Please keep telling me it is impossible!”
His doctor has not advised him against going, however. Kaszynski went for a routine physical recently and was told he was in excellent health. And it’s no wonder, since he keeps an active lifestyle that includes regular workout sessions at a resort near his home in Thailand, where he has been volunteering at an orphanage for the past year.
He swims daily and recently met his goal of holding his breath underwater for three minutes. He also is part of a group that meets once a month to take a 4- to 6-mile hike through the woods, using that time as an opportunity to practice carrying his 20-pound backpack.
On the Camino trail, Kaszynski plans to hike 15-20 miles each day, making the trip in about 30 days.
“I’m not going to push myself if I get tired,” he said. “If it takes me more than 30 days, that’s OK.”
One of the biggest concerns he has is to take care of his feet on the long walk. He has read that blisters are to be expected, and people even sew their own feet when the sores get bad.
“It’s going to be awful,” he said. “I don’t even know how to sew.”
Kaszynski made room in his budget for a new pair of MBTs for the trip. The shoes have the maximum support in the center of the foot rather than at the heel, and Kaszynski said his back problems disappeared when he started wearing them.
Other items that made the pick for his trip include a handheld recorder to talk into as he walks, two lightweight cameras, a solar panel to recharge batteries and a water belt, which will hold two-liters of water and allow him to drink from a straw without removing his backpack.
The Camino walk is known as a pilgrimage, but Kaszynski said that makes it sound too religious.
“Everyone says it changes their life,” he said, and that’s what he’s counting on.
“My life is almost perfect right now, but I’m always looking for more things to add to it.”
Kaszynski made room for one book in his backpack, which he took his time choosing. He finally settled on “The Pilgrimage,” by Paulo Coelho. The book describes various philosophies of life rather than focusing on Coelho’s experience on the Camino, Kaszynski said. That was important to him, since he wants to keep an open mind and let his experience be his own.
Shortly after determining to make the hike, Kaszynski had another idea: He would leave his wallet behind.
Since making that decision, he has been convinced to bring a debit card for emergencies, but plans to rely on the kindness of strangers for food along the way. Kaszynski said that will be the most challenging part.
“It’s probably one of my weaknesses — the inability to ask someone for help,” he said. “That’s harder than any physical challenge I’ve had.”
The people who walk the Camino tend to be more willing to share than most, Kaszynski said, which should work out in his favor.
“If not I’m going to have to walk really fast,” he laughed.
Always looking for ways to benefit others with his adventures, Kaszynski found a way to turn his Camino walk into a charity event. He has more than 1,000 friends and acquaintances he keeps informed of his adventures via an e-mail list. He is asking people to consider donating 1 cent for every mile he walks (a total of $4.84), to be collected at the end of his journey. One hundred percent of the donations he receives will go to help an orphanage in Kenya that was recently opened by a friend of his who he compared to Mother Teresa. The orphanage so far has seven children and five volunteers.
“My goal is to change one child’s life,” Kaszynski said.
He already has $2,000 in pledges, which he will not collect until he completes the walk.
Kaszynski will be 68 when he takes his first step on the Camino trail next June, and if he makes his destination by July 8, he plans to join the Running of the Bulls.
“It’s kind of dangerous, but that’s what intrigues me about it,” he said. “That’s on my bucket list. If I don’t do it this year, I will do it (eventually).
Amy Flanery can be reached at (815) 220-6975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.