On 25th August 2013, I somewhat sceptically found my first ever geocache in my hometown of Bray, Co Wicklow. From the moment I put my hand on that bottle-top micro and dubiously asked “is this it?”, I was hooked. In a lot of ways – and at the risk of sounding a tad dramatic – geocaching has changed my life. The term ‘geocacher’ has become one of the ways I identify myself: daughter, sister, wife, friend, blogger, geocacher…
I had no idea on that fateful afternoon that geocaching would open my eyes up to so much, teach me many new things and bring new people in to my life that I now hold dear. I’ve learned a lot in these short 5 years, from the random, to the life-changing…
1. Visiting somewhere new has changed forever
Sometimes we use the geocaching app to guide us to the tourist hot spots while we’re travelling. On other occasions we visit somewhere few tourists frequent simply because there’s a geocache there with lots of favourite points.
Occasionally we’ll make a location top of our must-visit list simply because there’s a specific cache there I ‘need’ to find for a challenge. Even if it’s not a ‘geocaching trip’ I’m on, I will not visit somewhere new without leaving at least one smiley on the map. Whatever the reasons, there is always time made for geocaching in a new town, city, country or continent and it has undoubtedly enhanced my travel experiences over the past 5 years.
2. Being a cache owner can be a double-edged sword
Hiding your own geocache is a rite of passage for many fledgling geocachers and receiving complimentary logs, favourite points or reading about a great adventure because of your hide are all enough to give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Unfortunately, not everyone follows that old adage, “if you have nothing nice to say, just say nothing”. On the internet, this seems to have been replaced with an attitude of ‘I will say things online that I wouldn’t dream of saying to someone’s face’ and, of course, this is an increasingly common practice reserved not just for logs on geocaching.com.
At the end of the day, even if you’re sick of finding magnetic micros stuck on railings, somebody went to some effort to place that there for you to find. This is why I’ve spoken about simple ‘TFTC’ logs really not being the worst type of log you can receive.
It’s not just nasty logs that COs need to deal with. Finding your caches trashed time and again can be disheartening and I know from experience that it’s not always easy to just let it go. My only advice is to have a little rant about it and then move on: you will never please everyone and always remember that the majority of geocachers do appreciate your efforts.
3. Geocaching is difficult to explain to muggles
I find myself letting out a groan in the office canteen if someone mentions geocaching and the inevitable ‘what’s that?’ is aimed at me. Occasionally, the asker will be genuinely intrigued but more often, they are absolutely bewildered at the concept.
Nobody looks at those who watch grown men kick a ball around a field in their spare time with such puzzlement. Is geocaching really that much weirder? Ah well, who wants to be ‘normal’ anyway?!
4. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
It truly amazes me what I’ll push myself to do for a geocache. I never liked climbing hills before geocaching, but now, I know that there is not only a potential smiley face waiting for me up there, but the views en route are likely to be a pretty nice payout too. Who knew?!
I’ve struggled up slippery banks and come swiftly back down when I slipped, but picked myself up again and carried on to the next cache. Geocaching has definitely toughened me up. As they say, nothing meaningful is ever easy.
5. Appropriate footwear is essential
The last thing you want is soggy socks for the next 8 kilometres of caching, or worse still, a painful blister! As someone who was not exactly the ‘outdoorsy’ type before I discovered the joys of geocaching, wearing the right shoes has been a lesson learned the hard way. When you find the perfect geocaching boots, they’ll become one TOTT you can’t do without.
6. Sometimes you have to put the phone/GPSr away and allow your mind to work it out
While the physical challenge of geocaching is definitely an important element, it can be a workout for the mind too. I’m not just talking about tricky mystery caches or vexing puzzle boxes taunting you to access the logbook inside. Sometimes a 1/1 cache can leave you tearing your hair out and at times like this, experience can pay dividends: where would I hide it?
In a world obsessed with instant gratification, geocaching can teach the hard lesson of ‘good things come to those who work and never give up.’
7. You don’t have to skip the country to be an explorer
It’s one of those clichés that I often hear from new geocachers: I can’t believe this was just around the corner from my house! From parks to forests to mountain trails, geocaching can really open up a whole new world just minutes from home.
I have always had been fascinated with travelling, but this interest never really included exploring more of my own country. That has all changed now. I’ve seen more of the island of Ireland since I started geocaching than I ever have. In fact, I have now visited all of the island’s 32 counties thanks to a specific caching challenge.
8. To appreciate life, you need to take it all in
Did you ever hike for hours only to DNF the cache at the end? Or maybe go all the way to Sweden to finish your Jasmer grid only to come away without your name in the logbook? (Yes, that happened to me, read all about my tale of woe here). While adding another smiley to your tally is undoubtedly satisfying, sometimes it feels like I’m only doing it right if the find is the least important part of the adventure.
As John Lennon once famously sang, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Often times, life is what happens on the way to find that cache, regardless of whether you find it or not.
Although I have recently taken a step back from the occasionally intense geocaching I have been involved with over the last few years, I can’t deny that geocaching has taught me some amazing things since that fateful day in 2013 and I can’t imagine my life without it now. I am already excited for the adventures I will go on with my baby, due any day now!
What has geocaching taught you?
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