The Hampton Roads Geocaching Group had a meetup last night. We said we were n00bz and were out to meet other folks in the area. So we went to this pot-luck dinner at some random church.
During dinner, one of the cachers asked us who else we knew. We knew exactly no one there.
She says, "That's brave."
It is? Well maybe we're biased, but meeting people with a shared interest doesn't seem all that brave. Perhaps it is. When we think about, though, what's the alternative?
The geocaching game is basically this: (1) Find the coordinates of some buried treasure, (2) Use your GPS to navigate toward the treasure. (3) Search around until you actually find it. That's about it for the basics. The history is here.
There are almost 1,000,000 geocache sites around the world. It's a great combination of playing on the internet, hiking around the outdoors, and trying to avoid getting into too much trouble while scrambling around in ditches that are well off the hiking trails while looking for hidden goodies.
A popular treasure is a geocoin. Some are minted with serial numbers so they can be tracked in their travels from cache to cache. Others are put in caches as prizes for the first few folks who find the cache. Geocoin collecting raises the game to another level of skill. Some folks had extensive collections of coins.
Living as we do in a city, we spend some time looking for urban caches, which are an even more complex problem. The hidden treasures are smaller, better hidden, and surrounded by muggles who have no idea what you're doing. While no cache ever requires trespassing, you might make a mistake. Or law enforcement might take a dim view of skulking around under the parking garage stair case for fifteen minutes. How long can you wander back and forth outside the grocery store poking in the bushes?
Is searching around brave? I don't think so. That's mostly flouting authority.
Meet and Greet
A meetup is handled by creating what's called an "Event Cache". It's assigned an ID (for example GC1ZJ5P). Cachers can then lookup the coordinates on www.geocaching.com. The description of the cache will tell you what to bring, and what time. But as for where -- exactly -- it is, you're on your own.
Frankly, with 2009 technology, it's not hard; your GPS or Google Earth will work it out in a heartbeat. The www.geocaching.com web site links directly to Google Maps. So there's no deep technical challenge.
Driving out to some location based on coordinates we found on a web site was pretty simple. We've only found 50 or so caches. Some people there have found thousands of caches. Thousands. Say you started May of '07. That leaves you only 1,000 days in which to find caches. The game's only been around for about 3,566 days.
Many (perhaps most) of the folks we met have driven to random locations based on coordinates they've found on the Internet. And done it many, many more times than us.
Is driving to some random location for a meet and greet brave? That's just navigation.
Since the question was "who else do you know here?" I'm guessing that the idea of going to meet a bunch of complete strangers must appear brave.
Some folks do have very tight bonds to family, community, church, work; they have very well-defined social circles. From the question, it sounds like stepping out of those circles must appear brave to some folks.
We think that the people we like best are those with whom we have both a common history and shared interests. Childhood friends. People we went to school with. Long-term co-workers.
While the cachers are strangers, both criteria are present right out of the gate. We have a shared interest. And -- weirdly -- we start out with a shared history even before we meet. Some of those folks had created the caches we enjoyed finding. They've all searched for the same caches we've searched for locally.
CA and I were elbowing each other. We were pleased to hear about sites like "The Commodore" (GC178Y4) and "Vespoli View" (GC1A754) -- caches we'd enjoyed finding or looking for and not finding (yet).
Is it brave to find strangers with a common interest and a shared history? I think that may be close.
For us, though, "bravery" is not the real issue.
The real issue -- for us -- is considering what the alternative might be. What other kind of event would we prefer? Staying home? Waiting until we're introduced to other cachers? How would that happen?
What could be better than finding new people with a shared interest? What could be more fun than finding (and creating) a shared history with new people?
Going to a meetup where we don't know a single person doesn't sound brave to me. It sounds essential.