People often seem to think that if you want to have fun in London, it needs to be organised well in advance. It needs to be planned, budgeted, and scheduled. But the problem is that fun – when it’s too heavily organised – gets a bit stale. I think that’s actually one of the down sides of living in London; from the outside, spontaneity seems to be dead. Or at least all Londoners appear to believe it is.
Want a drink with a friend? Busyness dictates that you need to schedule that in at least a week in advance, please. Want to test out a new restaurant? Well then you can put your name down for a table in three months’ time, thank you. No wonder Londoners are always looking ahead and way into the future, neglecting the present. They’re Half-Nelsoned into doing so.
But I’ve just discovered a new and exciting way to pass the time in London. It may sound odd but, as with all suggestions, it’s not worth knocking till you’ve tried it. The activity in question is in fact ‘geocaching’.
Geocaching is essentially a free worldwide treasure hunt. You search the area you’re in for hidden containers (‘geocaches’), cracking clues given to you by your smartphone, and once you’ve found one, you add your name to a scroll or swap a small object for another small object, before moving on to find the next. They say there are over 2,009,709 geocaches across the world, and over 5 million geocachers worldwide. So you’re in good hands.
If I haven’t lost you at this point, I’m pretty much sure I’m about to…because although I call this a ‘treasure’ hunt, there isn’t really any treasure involved. No pirates’ booty or chocolate eggs. The ‘treasure’ is basically the pride felt when you actually find the geocache. This might sound a bit lame, but I can’t emphasise enough the buzz you get once you’ve puzzled over a clue, got a bit lost along the way, and finally ended up discovering a little container stuck to the back of an electricity box, or a tiny box tucked inside the shoe of an ancient statue (that one was awkward though; I think passersby thought I was harassing the protected statue, when I just wasn’t). The whole experience – from start to end- is completely brilliant.
And it really is a worldwide phenomenon. They’re in every country you could possibly imagine, and they’re all across the UK too, so wherever you are, you’ll be near a selection and able to geocache. There’s even a scattering of geocaches in the little countryside village where I grew up (the average age of a villager is 65+ and we don’t even have a village shop, so that’s saying something).
But the best bit is the lack of planning needed. Our first time trying this out, we were just bored on a Sunday afternoon and wanted to explore, so we whipped out a smartphone, entered our location, and hunted for geocaches in the area. All you’ve got to do is follow the clues or coordinates (which are rated according to difficulty), and see how many you can find in an afternoon. Simple as that. Or just do one or two geocaches when you find yourself with a free patch of time on your hands. You can even hide some yourself, and register them online for others to discover, if you want to ‘give back’ to the geocaching community (and mix things up a bit).
Everyone loves a good treasure hunt, so if you randomly find yourself with some time on your hands, or feel like indulging in a misspent lunch-break, check out www.geocaching.com for more info. You really won’t regret it.
Just in case you wanted to know what it looks like when someone finds their first geocache…
(and adds their name to the mini scroll of paper!)