23 Jun Geocaching: How to Discover Even More in Your Travels
It was only recently that we discovered one of the most interesting ways to boost our travel experiences. It is currently a hobby for over 800,000 people worldwide and has been going on since May of 2000. You may or may not have heard of it, but chances are, you pass by “caches” and “geocachers” on a daily basis without even knowing. How we went so long without giving it a try for ourselves, we’re not sure.
Our Start With Geocaching
“We’ve been going Geocaching,” my Mom announced one day. (Note: it’s pronounced: GEE-o-cash.) It was less than two months ago, shortly after we arrived back in Oregon after two years living abroad in Peace Corps. “And it’s really fun.” My parents wanted us to try it with them, so we obliged.
At first, I was skeptical about geocaching. But I had yet to realize the implications it had for adding a new dimension to our travels and helping us uncover amazing, “insider” places in every destination we go.
What is Geocaching?
In a nutshell, geocaching is real-life, mini treasure hunts using a GPS device (i.e. a smart phone app). The story of how it started is pretty cool- see it here.
Thousands of people have hidden containers (“caches”) around their communities or their favorite destinations. They post the GPS coordinates along with any relevant information (sometimes hints or riddles) so that others can hunt for the items.
A typical cache can be the size of a narrow film canister, an altoids box, or a peanut butter jar. Most include a piece of paper or small notebook, which acts as a log for people to sign when they find the cache. You can also register your finds online and leave a comment via a geocaching app.
In order to protect caches from being tampered with by folks who don’t know what they are, it’s important to do your searching with stealth. In the geocaching world, people who don’t play the game (yet) are referred to as “muggles!”
How Geocaching Makes For Better Travel
- Supercharge your down time: When we have an extra hour to kill, we just pull up the Geocache app to see what caches are nearby. Often, there has been something within walking distance, which makes for a fun, healthy alternative to other time killers (like watching TV).
- Bring everyone together: Geocaching is a great activity for individuals, couples, and also family travel because even the kids can get involved. You can check the caches’ difficulty levels, including the terrain, so you can choose your finds by what your group is capable of.
- Hit the highlights: By using the website, you can find a GeoTour for major destinations (usually put together by local tourism enterprises). The tour provides a list of caches with background on each location so you can educate yourself along the way.
- Find hidden gems only locals know about: Many caches are placed specifically to lead you to cool locations. Not every cache will bring you someplace outstanding, but a quick look at the cache’s description will let you know what kind of destination it is.
Hidden Hawaii: Places we never would have found without Geocaching
While visiting Jedd’s family in Hawaii, we had the chance to venture out on our own with the geocache app. Among the caches that we found, three of them brought us to true hidden gems. These are all places that Jedd and his family had driven by countless times and never knew existed:
How to Get Started Geocaching
I recommend starting at the official Geocaching Website to learn more. There is a bit of jargon to familiarize yourself with; some basic rules of the game; advice on how to pick your first caches; and if you’re interested in going beyond the basics, the various off-shots from the traditional geocache are also explained there.
If you have a smart phone, upload a geocache app. You could also use a non-phone GPS device.
App recommendations: If you’re not sure, start with the official Geocaching Intro app by Groundspeak Inc. It’s free but only shows you a few caches in your immediate surroundings, so you have to go to the website to look up geocaches before you visit a new place.
The official paid app by Groundspeak is $9.99, which is what we’ve used the most. “C:geo” for Android is free and has also served us well so far.
Finally, before you head out, register yourself with Geocaching.com by choosing a username so you can start looking for – and signing off on – caches.
One Amazing, Elaborate Geocache
There are a bunch of videos on youtube of awesome geocaches. This one is one of our favorites. The host is highly entertaining and the scavenger hunt the cachers embark on is not only creative but touching as well. Find out why:
Have you tried Geocaching yet? What tips or recommendations do you have for using Geocaching to improve your travel experience?
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