When was the last time you were a total beginner at something?
This past week, I tried something completely new to me: Geocaching! I’ve heard about this for years, but I was never curious enough to actually try it. It wasn’t until ISTE this past June that my friend Wanda Terral, a super geocacher, gave me a little spark. I downloaded the app, and made a mental note to try it over the summer.
I tried Geocaching!
According to the Geocaching website, “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”
Finally, last week, I got up the courage to go out and try it. I did a little bit of basic research first (here’s a good place to start), like, what am I supposed to do when I find it? (Answer: open it, sign the logbook, then put it back. Easy enough, right?) Then, I played around with the app for a few minutes before I left home. There was one located about a 10 minute walk from my house, at a local park!
Ollie wanted to come too, so we walked (insert doggie head-tilt at the word walk) to the park together. I oriented myself to the park layout, and figured out where-ish the geocache would be located. Then I searched. And I searched. And I searched. And, I sat down and stared at my phone. What do these things look like? How hidden will it be?
And it was a lot harder than I expected
I almost gave up and walked home. I felt ridiculous, slowly walking at the edge of the park and staring into the bushes. There were other people at the park, surely they all thought I looked strange, walking near the back edge of the park with my dog. In fact, I walked halfway back to the street, before turning around. I felt defeated.
That’s when I realized, THIS is how it feels to be a total beginner at something! It feels awkward, embarrassing, and distressing. I took a deep breath, did a bit more how-to research, pulled up the app again, and used the GPS tracker to get within about 5 feet of where the geocache was supposed to be hidden.
But, I persevered, and I was successful!
Then, I peeked into the bushes, and dug around a little…and found it! It was hooked to the fence, hidden by some leaves, but obvious once I saw it.
I couldn’t stop smiling! I did it! That feeling of exhilaration–I haven’t felt that in SO long. It’s like the first time you are successful in an escape room or Breakout EDU; you know you worked hard, and now you have a great pictures to capture that moment. Plus, the journey felt way more important than what was inside the box/can/container.
I was so caught up on that feeling, I only took a few pictures–all of them Ollie + the geocache!
Then, I reflected on my experience
On the walk home, between meeting new doggie friends, I asked myself a few questions:
- Would this have been less scary if I had someone like Wanda with me to guide/coach me through my first geocaching experience?
- Would this have been more fun (and less awkward) if I brought along a friend, even if they’d never tried it before?
- Was the seemingly endless discomfort erased once I was successful?
- What needs to happen for me to try this again?
- How often do I ask my students and colleagues to “just try it,” but then leave them without support?
Even though it’s uncomfortable, it’s good to be a beginner every once in a while. This experience helped to remind me that we all have to start somewhere.
I didn’t go out geocaching to intentionally experience being a beginner, or have all these feelings, or write a blog post about it. I thought it would be something cool to try, and I also expected it to be easy, like walking up to a PokeStop in Pokemon Go–as in, it would just be there, and I’d say “yay!” and move along.
I’m sold, and I’m definitely going to try it again. Who wants to go with me? There are lots in San Diego. Or, if we’re traveling at a conference/summit/workshop together, let’s go on a little adventure.
Ok, and seriously, if I’m not already happily nerding on this experience, I also learned that the term for a non-geocacher is a…muggle! Yes, as in, Harry Potter.