Educational Travel

Searching for Something

The Low Points

After weeks of social distancing, quarantine, and/or limited access to the outside world, many of us are finding ourselves a bit low. We’re missing our connections with others. Our bank accounts are dwindling, and our mental and physical health may be, too. Worst of all, for those of us new to working, parenting, and teaching under one roof, we’re getting low on ideas.

Even with Pinterest’s help, we’re finding ourselves at a loss for both entertaining and educational things to do (or even just the supplies needed to facilitate them).  We’ve pulled out all of our best tricks, and the kids are no longer mesmerized.

On top of everything, we’re stuck indoors the majority of the time.  For weeks we’ve had no contact with others, save for the occasional Zoom session or Google Classroom meeting. Working and learning remotely, the whole family spends most of any given day stuck in front of computer or tablet screens.

Mentally and physically, too, we’re in a slump.  Numerous reports and articles have experts touting the importance of exercise, healthy eating habits, reaching out to others for support, and even sunlight (vitamin D) in maintaining our overall health. 

Fortunately, there’s an activity that might just be able to help us with much of that and more. (And, if you read my last post, you know how I love anything that can multi-task.)

Hunting for Fun

Over a decade ago, I discovered an intriguing activity that may well be something that helps us through these times.  The aspects that make it so useful to us now are that it…

  • …is free;
  • …is something that can be done locally and globally;
  • …allows you to connect with and join others (online);
  • …actually encourages you to not be around or seen by others;
  • …ensures that you are outdoors;
  • …may require you to answer questions or solve problems or puzzles to reach your goal;
  • …can be fun for the whole family.

So, what is it?  Essentially, it’s a massive treasure hunt. There are literally millions of these caches spanning the globe.  Just about wherever you are in the world, there are at least a few to be found nearby. 

These hidden items are not very large or worth a great deal of money. In fact, in most cases the only thing you’ll be able to take away are bragging rights.  Regardless, it really doesn’t matter what you find because it’s the hunt and the discovery that are the most fun.

Maybe You’ve Heard of It?

This activity has been around for at least two decades and has amassed thousands of participants.  It’s called, “geocaching.”  You may have heard of it, and you may even be a current member.  

If you aren’t already familiar with it, though, geocaching.com offers up all the information you could possibly need via the guide page.  I encourage everyone to check it out, read up, and see if it’s something that you might be willing to try at least once. 

Just know that there’s a certain amount of etiquette involved and only a couple of “rules.”  Those bits that are unspoken, like trying not to be seen when you find and log a cache, you will learn as you go.

Ding!

Though I’ve been a member at geocaching.com since 2012, I’ve only logged 14 caches.  (What can I say? I’ve been busy raising kids, getting my master’s degree…) Recently however, in light of our mostly homebound status, I opened the app on my phone and let my children find the most recent caches.  My 8-year-old is now hooked, even determined to look again for one we’re still trying to locate.

That’s when it hit me. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and there we were, working as a cooperative family. We were outside, soaking up some vitamin D, kicking around in the grass, climbing small embankments, and searching high and low for this little treasure.  We had only GPS coordinates and the geocaching app to guide us. Eventually, my son located the small green cache that someone had hidden in a tree. 

In this time of social distancing we seek to be connected without actually being together, and geocaching provides us with a hint of that.  Someone took the time to hide this treasure, and they maintain it as well.  In the moment that you find a person’s cache, you are, in a sense, connected to him/her.  Then, when you log the cache via the app, you have the opportunity to leave a little message for the person who hid it. (I usually just say, “Thanks!”)

What I Love

Outside of our current social climate, I still think geocaching is fun and exciting.  There are, however, a few stand-out things that I truly love about it.

1) It’s Family-Friendly

Geocaching is for everyone.  The kids get just as excited to locate the caches as we do.

2) You Can Do It While Traveling

Just get the app and take a look. You will notice these little treasures exist in just about every major city around the world. (It’s pretty amazing.) When we start to travel again, we may just make it a point to log at least one cache in every city we visit.  

3) It’s Educational

As a teacher (and avid learner), this is my favorite thing about geocaching.  As you explore the geocaching guide page and website, you’ll notice that there are different kinds of caches.  Some of these require that you put on your thinking cap and solve puzzles. Other caches require that you answer questions.  An EarthCache is a type that’s located at particular points of geological interest. Found all over the world, these caches offer seekers unique exploration and learning experiences.

4) You Can Get Into It…Or Not

You can become an avid geocacher for life, search for one now and again, or find your first and be done. There’s really no judgment here.  Like I said, I’ve been a member for nearly eight years, and I’ve only found fourteen (three of them were located last week).  Yet, there are some folks who are super involved and have logged hundreds.  It’s entirely up to you.

Final Note: Trackables & DIY

Even if you don’t get totally hooked by geocaching, consider a Trackable.  They can travel the globe even when you can’t.  You can find a fair variety of Trackables on Amazon.com. Whichever you choose, just register it, give it a goal and put it in a geocache so it can start its journey. Then, watch where it goes via geocaching.com.

Discovering a tiny cache in a tree.

You may even consider hiding your own cache for others to find. From large ammo cans to microcaches, you can find a wide variety of geocaching containers on Amazon.com.

If you’re creative and like a challenge, you can design your own cache. I’ve found one disguised to look like a lichen-covered rock. Yet, there are heaps of other innovatively crafted caches out there, too. Just check Pinterest for some examples and ideas.

There are lots of things to be aware of before you go hiding a cache, though. Like, they can’t just be hidden anywhere. Whether you’re wanting to place a basic cache or a design of your own, be sure to check out the “Geocache Hiding Guidelines” page.

If you need more reason to explore the world of geocaching, check out the Geocaching Official Blog post of “15 reasons to love geocaching.”

** This post is totally unsolicited, and I have received no compensation for my comments.  I just genuinely believe this activity is a great way to get out and about, learn something new, and work together as a family.**

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