If you are a geocacher, I hope you know what travel bugs are.
Or anything that one moves and is trackable.
For those of you on the outside looking in, allow me to give you the definition as described by Groundspeak:
- What is a Groundspeak Travel Bug?
- Simply put, a Groundspeak Travel Bug is a trackable tag that you attach to an item. This allows you to track your item on Geocaching.com. The item becomes a hitchhiker that is carried from cache to cache (or person to person) in the real world and you can follow its progress online.
- What does a Travel Bug do?
- It’s up to the owner of the Bug to give it whatever task they desire. Or no task at all. Part of the fun in owning a Travel Bug is inventing new goals for the Bug to achieve. A Bug’s goal may be to reach a specific country, travel to 10 countries, or simply to see the world.
- How do Travel Bugs work?
- Each Travel Bug has its own unique tracking number stamped on it. This tracking number is used to prove that one found the item and allows finders to locate the personal web page for the travel bug.
- Travel Bugs are tracked with the help of users who go online and “grab” them from caches, or receive them from users. The idea is by picking up and dropping off Travel Bugs on the web site you are mirroring the Bug’s real world adventures. Each Travel Bug has its own “diary” that follows its movements.
This was one of the coolest things, to me, when starting as a geocacher. It was cool to grab these items — whether a true Groundspeak Travel Bug, or a geocoin, it was a lot of fun to move them along to another cache in hopes of helping the traveler in its goal.
Sometimes, helping it isn’t possible, so one can either move it to another cache (which I often to to make sure the owner knows it’s still out there) or by discovering it, which also lets the owner know it’s there. That being said, I’d rather my TB moves a little bit in the wrong direction than just be discovered and left in a cache. These things are supposed to move.
Now, let me say this — I was once a newbie geocacher. On my first day, I picked up a geocoin. I held it for a couple of months as I learned about these items. They aren’t keepers — and I knew that — but I didn’t know if I should drop it away from its goal etc. But I learned and soon realized how cool it was. Of course, I wanted my own!
I bought a bunch of travel bugs (which come with two dog tags — the original and the copy. The copy is in case you need to eventually release the item a second time. More on that later). I sent them out into the wild. And then I waited for those e-mails to come pouring in telling me someone had picked it up and moved it along.
Sometimes I had to wait a while. Other times not long at all. After a few moves, sometimes the bug would stay with someone for a long time. And keep staying with them. Over and over and over. Phew.
The thing about travel bugs and geocoins is, well, many disappear.
There’s no rhyme or reason why. Sometimes, it’s because someone stole it. Or somebody grabbed it and forgot they had it. Or one of so many reasons. It’s just how things go. But when you get the official Groundspeak Travel Bugs, you get two dog tags — one to send out and then a copy. The copy is there in case you need to re-release it.
I’m one of those people who hold out hope that, eventually, my travel bugs will come back into circulation. I’ve seen stories where a travel bug is missing for years and then, out of the blue, come back into play. But, I have several that have disappeared in the past couple of years and I’ve decided to give up on them and re-release the copies. With GeoWoodstock this weekend, I figured it would be a good time to break these out and send them back into the world, in hopes of them getting some miles and moving along.
We’ll see how it goes though!
In total, I’ll have seven travel bugs being re-released this weekend and I also have a handful of other travelers that I am bringing with me to GeoWoodstock. I’ve changed some of the goals of a few of my travelers, so it will be fun to watch them as they travel again.
How about you guys? Any good stories — good or bad — about travelers?
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com.