The purpose of this post is to encourage you to try something new. There’s no real reward, just good old satisfaction. But that rarely comes for free these days. I had been stuck in a rut, sometimes I still get stuck in ruts. It’s only a willingness to change and to accept new experiences, good and bad, that will help a person become who she wants to be. On the face of it, it looks like I will be encouraging you to try an activity I’m into, but at the heart of the matter, I want you to try something new, that you’ve never done, and go into it with an open mind. You might hate it, and that’s okay. At least you’ll know it’s not for you and you’ll have something mildly interesting to talk about the next awkward tea party in which your casual acquaintance roped you into going. But, there is the off chance that you’ll love it.
It was 10 minutes to three o’clock in the afternoon. I had already showered even though we had no plans for the day. I didn’t feel like eating anything we had in the house, but I didn’t feel like going anywhere either because I wanted Chinese food. There is no Chinese food in Israel. Sure, there is a restaurant that advertises that they have Chinese food, but let’s be clear on this: it lies. So, since I cannot satiate my hunger for fried noodles and tangerine chicken, I end up starving myself. Then I become cranky. Since I am cranky, nothing sounds like fun. There are no movies showing that I want to see, and there are no friends I want to visit. I’m not going to clean my house or my yard or do my hair or be productive. I’m in a mood.
Who hasn’t felt this way before? You have a messy house, but you don’t want to clean it. You’ve got a project which needs tweaking, but no inspiration. Everything sounds lame and boring. This is how I felt.
But somewhere deep inside of me, I knew that this was no way to spend a Saturday afternoon. My husband was sitting in the other room with one cat playing a new game on his iPhone and I was alternating between Angry Birds and watching the last few episodes of the first season of How I Met Your Mother. The sun was shining outside and even though it was winter, we lived in the Middle East so it’s not that cold. My husband came up with the standard Saturday afternoon ideas: movies, walk the dogs, go to a café. No, no and no. Frowny face on; pout commenced. And yet…there must be something we can do in this boring old town that doesn’t cost a fortune or take us too far from home.
So I did what any right-thinking 21st Century woman does. I Googled “what to do when you’re bored” and came up with a huge list of websites dedicated to great ideas. Some bordered on moronic: clean your house from top to bottom and when you’re done, you’ll enjoy your new clean space. Um, that’s a job I like to pay someone else to do. That’s not something I do on my free afternoon because I don’t like what the neighborhood theater is showing at the matinee. Some were awesome, but totally not a possibility: create an obstacle course and run races. That’s an all-day event and while I enjoy an obstacle course as much as the next fan of Nickelodeon GUTS, I knew my husband was not going to agree. I continued skimming. By the fourth page, I was feeling inspired. I would find something to do and then I saw it.
I’d wanted to do it. I’d told my husband about it. I’d explained it to him. I’d tried to get him to do it, but his iPhone doesn’t have wireless and at the time, I didn’t have an iPhone yet (these were caveman times, I used the Cro-Magnon 2). So the idea sort of got lost into the abyss of ideas I have that never come to fruition.
But today, all was right in the universe and I quickly downloaded a few apps to get me started, walked into the other room and told my husband I had a plan, get dressed and let’s do this. I wish my story continued with a husband who jumped up and screamed, “I LOVE YOUR SENSE OF ADVENTURE. LET’S CAST OURSELVES INTO THE UNKNOWN!!!” Mine said something along the lines of, “We’re looking for something someone hid? Is there a prize? How do we know it will be there?” I implied that earth-shattering consequences would ensue if he did not put a sweatshirt on and get out the door in five minutes flat. Since my mopey attitude had changed, he decided he preferred this new bossy one better and joined me in our quest. The first mission was 2.2 miles away. We got in the car and drove. 2.2 miles isn’t so far, but I was lucky I was able to convince him to go in the first place. He asked me to explain, again, what geocaching is.
According to geocaching.com, Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online.
And it’s awesome.
It’s like a treasure hunt, albeit without treasure, but you have to dig around, hunt, follow coordinates, march, hike, climb, brace yourself, avoid hookers (there were three caches in an area known for transvestite prostitutes) and brush off the dirt when you finish. It takes you to places you’ve never been and makes you look at ordinary objects in a special light. Just think, in the park you regularly take your children to, there may be a tiny hidden 35 mm canister containing a logbook, mini-pencil and a few pennies (you’re supposed to leave something small in the container to prove you were there) hidden in the crevice of a rock on shoved in the inner wall of a potted plant.
Maybe what I’m describing sounds lame, but it’s something you should try. And now I shall lay out my argument:
1. It’s free.
I mentioned this already, but it’s so great that not only did it take the number one spot, but it bears repeating. It’s free. There are so few activities that are this varied, which will take you to different parts of your city, county, state, country, continent, world, and not charge you an entrance fee.
2. It’s pretty good exercise.
Some of these geocaches are easy or are in easy to reach places. But, what you can, and what I recommend you should do, is to find a place where there are several in a mile or two radius and find all the caches in the area, walking to each. Some caches are not in easy to reach places and are not easy to find. Israel has every terrain you could think of except for tropical jungle and I’m excited to try geocaching in the north. There are many hills, valleys and green, green places to hide small objects.
3. Recreational problem-solving is good for the brain.
Depending on what you do on your job, whether it involves staying at home with the kids, running your own business, being someone else’s lackey, a service job or any other type in any other industry, you are challenged with solving problems. For some people in some occupations, the solutions take a bit of negotiating and finesse. In others, solutions are masterpieces sculpted over years or hastily contrived ideas which turn into usable work. Whatever your style is, when you finish your work and you come home to relax, looking for a little blue-lid Tupperware under a rock might not be the first thing that comes to mind (a glass of wine is probably the first; it is for me). However, geocaching, while not exactly mindless, isn’t stressful. It’s problem-solving, which is good for the brain and the psyche because it keeps us alert and develops feelings of accomplishment, but there’s no consequence for failing. If you can’t find the cache, you won’t get fired, you won’t lose a game, you aren’t fined, and you don’t have to clean up any mess. You simply log in that you couldn’t find it, chock the reason up to muggles (thieves who steal caches for wonton pleasure) and move on to the next cache.
4. It takes no planning.
Weekend at the beach? Picnic lunch? Kite-flying? Shakespeare in the park? Bob Dylan in concert? All of these events, and most others, take planning. If you’re going out of town, you have to pack, fill the car with gas, find a hotel, and of course, make plans for what to do when you’re there. Picnic lunch? There’s the menu to plan, the execution of the menu and the most important question: do you even have a picnic basket? Kite-flying requires a kite and wind. Shakespeare in the Park and Bob Dylan usually require tickets and you go when the show is on. If you want the show to begin at 1:30 pm and end around 3:30, tough noodles. You’re not in charge. With geocaching, you’re at the helm. You navigate your way to the cache and you dictate when, where and for how long your journey will go. And you don’t need anything but your iPhone and a good pair of shoes.
5. There are no time limits or constraints.
As I just mentioned in point #4, you geocache when you want to. Caches are everywhere, out in the open. So even if you feel like geocaching at 3 in the morning (although nothing good ever happens after 2am; you should just go home), then you can! If you want to geocache for an hour or for six hours, you can! You dictate the entire event!
6. It’s a way to connect with people from around the world.
Geocaching is an international activity. On the geocaching website, there is an events page where other geocachers from around the world post geocaching events and parties. If you’re traveling in, say, Austria, you can attend a geocaching event and meet people who are probably a lot like you in many ways, and naturally totally different because they sound like Arnold Schwartzenegger when they talk. If you go to local geocaching events, you could meet people from around the world visiting in your area. Expanding your horizons is high on my list of things everyone should do.
7. It relieves boredom.
This paragraph doesn’t really need an explanation. Geocaching really is fun.
8. You don’t need special powers to participate.
No matter what language you speak, what your GPA was in high school, whether or not you can change your oil, have successfully potty-trained your three-year-old triplets or can bake an apple pie, you can geocache. It’s following a map and when you walk in the wrong direction, it shows you. When you’re right on top of the cache, the red line disappears and it’s time to start searching. This is great for kids too. Geocaching: the great equalizer. I’ll send them my idea for an ad campaign when I finish writing. My husband is a natural at geocaching; even though I was holding the iPhone, he seemed to have a built-in radar for sensing where the caches were hidden. But, I’ve geocached without him and found a few on my own!
9. You can show your friends new things.
It’s probably something none of your friends are doing or have done so you can show them something new and then when geocaching is all the rage, you can be a hipster and say, “Yeah, I was into that in like, 2012, but at, like, the beginning and not the end.”
10. Fun for the whole family.
I’m experimented with my nephew. We got on our bikes, rode to the nearest geocaching site and started picking around amongst the bushes and the rocks. Finding the cache was almost as exciting as putting his lego piece into the cache.
Cultivating new interests is invigorating. Not only do we continue to learn about ourselves by meeting challenges, going to new places and experiencing the world in a different way, but we also expand and enrich our lives to include things we might not have thought possible. If it’s not geocaching, then find something else. But continue to challenge yourself, learn something new, try something different.