[This blog entry is based loosely on an article I read in FTF Geocacher magazine submitted by Podcacher. It is entirely my wording, however, and I have put my own twist on it.]
So here are some of the most common things people want to do to self-improve:
Take up a new hobby
Be more organised
Live life to the full
Spend less money
Now these are the things that I have heard and read people saying that they would like to do more of in the new year. If you are interested in just one of these, geocaching can help. If you want to develop all six, geocaching is definitely right for you! Read on...
Take up a new hobby:
Geocaching is a hobby that quite a lot of people still have never even heard of, let alone tried. It really is a hobby that anyone can have a go at - children, retirees, families, couples, friends, anyone! Male or female, fit or fat. With just a smart phone app or a GPS device you could be out there hunting geocaches in minutes. The geocaching community is extremely varied and very friendly. And everyone's idea of a good cache is different. The urban commuter can find nanos on railings, the outdoor adventurer can trek off into the forest and the scuba diver can plumb the oceans. There are puzzles for those who like problem solving, lessons to be learned for those who appreciate history or geography, and challenges to complete for the competitive. Give caching a go and see what kind of geocaches tick your boxes. Caution: can become highly addictive!
A very common New Year's Resolution, especially if the current TV and Internet adverts for fitness regimes, clubs and equipment are anything to go by! Whilst a lot of the geocaching fun is done in the comfort of your own home (planning trips, logging finds, admiring geocoins etc.) the main bulk of the appeal is outdoors. By its nature you have to get off your arse and outside. So long as you don't limit all your caches to drive-bys (cache 'n' dashes / park 'n' grabs), then you will almost certainly find yourself walking or cycling more. Walking is great in and of itself, but walking with a purpose like geocaching is a distraction too! I find myself walking in completely new places and so lost in the enjoyment of the activity that I find I've been out walking for hours! Even simple exercise like this helps you lose weight, lower blood pressure and improve general fitness. As Tesco might say, "Every little helps". Get out and see where geocaching takes you!
Be more organised:
Perhaps not an obvious one, but successful geocaching requires precision planning! You can take on challenges which ensure you work strategically (e.g. cache each day of the year, find one of every difficulty/terrain rating), and there is an entire world out there for the lover of statistics (GSAK / Project GC). Hiding caches of your own encourages you to think ahead and plan all the details from the location, to the container, to the listing, and it's satisfying when you get "Found it" logs too.
Live life to the full:
Geocaching in and of itself cannot satisfy the hunger of the soul, and I make no claim to it doing so, but it can and does enrich lives. Whilst it can be enjoyed as a solo pursuit, there is a wonderful community of other nutters, I mean, geocachers out there with whom you can cache, meet up at events, or just have banter on the online forums. It can bring families closer together who go out as a team. It has physical benefits in that it gets you up and about, but also mental benefits with its challenges, puzzles and planning. It's also educational. You don't need to be doing a history-of-the-area multi or geological feature Earthcache to be learning something; you can find new places you've never been within your own home town! Just the fresh air alone can work wonders.
Spend less money:
Geocaching does not have to be an expensive hobby. Suuuure, you can spend mountains of money on ANYTHING if you are that way inclined. Buy a geocoin a day and you'll be taking out another mortgage soon, but actually for the bare bones of geocaching, you don't need to spend much money at all. Download the app (free or inexpensive) and get out there and find the caches. Simples. Basic accounts on geocaching.com are also free. Yes, you may in time find that you want to upgrade your membership, buy a GPS unit or get some better hiking boots but geocaching neither has to do this, nor will it be a perpetual drain on your income like some hobbies. Certainly some sports I've looked into have very expensive starting costs for all the equipment or memberships you need.
Ignoring the previous resolution, unless of course money is no obstacle to you, geocaching has the ability to take you to some pretty amazing places. If you can't or don't want to travel, you'll still find that geocaches are often in lots of places quite close to home that you've never ventured to before. But if going further afield is your thing, take heart - geocaches are hidden all over the world! I've found caches in places like Cuba, The Gambia and Azerbaijan. What's particularly good about caching abroad is it often takes you to amazing places that the locals know about but somehow the guide books miss out. Muggles on a trip to Paris may enjoy the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame, for example, but Parisian cachers have put out some nifty caches in beautiful places you might otherwise miss. Find the real country when you cache, and get to see the area from a local's perspective.
Not convinced geocaching is right for you? Why not try it... at least just for January!