Here’s a short bio for Kurt Buckley with a clear emphasis on walking and “pura vida.” It seems that he’s been walking all his life, but not with this much passion. Like normal Austrian babies, he first crawled in his native Vienna. Even after coming to America at the age of ten, walking seemed second nature. He’d walk to all of his schools—never caught a bus, even when it was farther than a mile. College was different. He rode his Vespa out to UC Berkeley in the 60s. Every trip was an outing, a small adventure that kickstarted each day.
Then came a 20-year military career where walking turned into jogging, probably at the moment of entering jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia. And so it was how crawling led to walking that led to jogging. During his Army career, he served in Germany, Viet Nam, Belgium, and many places in the US. After the Army, he worked another 17 years at various aerospace companies, ending up with Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, CA. He kept up his jogging nearly to the end of his working career.
His three grown daughters saw him re-marry in 1991. An instant growth in the family resulted in four daughters and a son. Ten years later, he retired to Ventura, CA, a veritable paradise for walkers—the weather, the scenery, and its sheer friendliness. He completed his first Camino de Santiago in 2004, but didn’t really understand “pura vida” until spending 7 weeks with his lovely wife, Rose, in Costa Rica in 2005. Both saw the ticos (as Costa Ricans are called) enjoy life to the fullest. “Pura vida” is their catch-all phrase for “plenty of life,” “this is living,” “going great!” and “awesome!” —all what walking mean to him today. Three more “Caminos” followed, but in between in 2012 a reality for what was a twinkle of a dream twenty-five years ago: his walk of all 21 California missions.
After four Caminos and the California Mission Walk, another dream became reality: to experience how pilgrims might have managed longer distances, for example from Eastern Europe on the Via Regia or pilgrimages to Rome. In 2015 it was a short hike along the Via Regia from the Polish border via Leipzig to Eisenach (226 mi.), and in 2016 a much longer version of it that started on the Poland-Ukraine border. The longer version was over 2,000 miles–what an experience for him. Most recently in 2018, he walked from Innsbruck, Austria to Padua, Italy, connected to Florence by train, and walked on to Rome–551 miles of walking. In 2020, he’s planning to start the first segment of a long Camino (about 1,700 miles or 2,700 km) from Budapest, Hungary to Santiago.
It’s become his passion. He walks to recharge the spirit and to be one with the earth. It doesn’t get any better than that—pura vida.