Tag Archives: asia

His and Hers – A Love Story

This story was originally part of a series I wrote for another blog. Thought I would repost it due to a few questions I have been getting on smaller RC rigs. These little rigs are great to travel with and one of mine has almost frequent flyer mileage as I do.

I have had several Revos, Slashes, Rallys, and combinations, conversions, and off-shoots of these three. But by far the most fun I have had was building these two rigs with my wife.

A few weeks ago she showed an interest in an old buggy. Now she has always loved building and painting but driving was not so fun for her. I took an old slash and put a 23 turn motor in it and placed in training mode. In the privacy of our backyard track she learned to like it. Then last week for the Sweet 16 Rally we held here, we picked up a mini slash for non rc visitors to bash. She fell in love with the car when placed in training mode.

Her rig is stock and has the 12 turn Titan but soon to have a 23 turn HPI. That should give her longer run time and slower speeds

My rig has the Velenion brushless with Traxxas ESC, Traxxas and Integy aluminum, and run it on a Spektrum controller.

On neither rig am I overly concerned with having top shelf race parts, and use trickle down stuff from my prime rig…the Revo.

The Slash takes a lot of lip because of stability. My argument is that if you drive a car within its limits you don’t flip as much. We can go through several battery packs in an evening without ever being on our lids.

I’m enjoying our time in the yard with these rigs. I’m kind of anal about similar rigs running at the same time so its nice we are driving short course rigs at the same time.

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The “Plight” of the Sochi Reporter

Forgive me while I laugh. I have found the whole trending topic of the problems in Sochi at the Olympics pretty absurd. I think it speaks louder to just how out of touch and pampered most US international travelers really are. I believe this is making us as a country look foolish and spoiled.

Going to the Olympics or any other event at this scale is a privilege. Spending time in some of the best and worst situations in nearly 40 countries now, I have learned to cope with situations that are often out of our own norms. It is interesting how our own press pushes agendas of diversity and coexistence, yet the first time they have to take a dump in a toilet that is unfamiliar to them it becomes international news.

Sure, I get there are issues. Maybe Russian quality is not the same standard as it is in the U.S. I also distinctly remember problems in the Atlanta and Salt Lake Olympics. The Lake Placid Olympics left local businesses with huge debt and the State of New York had to devise a rescue plan.

As an adventure traveler you learn to deal with situations and cope with newness. We have now arrived at a point where there are so many false postings through social media, we can no longer tell what is true and what is …..well an outright fabrication.

My point is this. The games are really for the athletes. The Olympics lost its allure the day the Soviet Union fell, East German athletes stopped taking massive doses of testosterone and united with the west, and the media became the focal point. As far as I am concerned you can keep Bob Costas and his political views (and those red eyes) away from my TV set, televise more sports that have a winners and losers based on a puck in the net and not a judge, and less….much less figure skating. In fact, can we make prancing on ice in flamboyant outfits an exhibition sport?

Suck it up darlings. Your in a different country getting your meals paid for by your parent companies. You are getting opportunities most cannot even dream about. You want bad conditions? Go live in a tent-city, do the doo in a community stall, and shower in a makeshift facility that uses wood pallets as the flooring. I’m not sympathetic with your plight and once again you have proven to be a bunch of whiny @$$ wimps.

BTW– great article here… http://www.policymic.com/articles/81663/sochiproblems-is-more-of-an-embarrassment-for-america-than-it-is-for-russia

Adventure IQ’s Three F’s of Culture Immersion

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Recently I have been getting asked for input working overseas as well as picking up a few seminars on travel safety, working with other cultures, and specifically travel and work in Asia. The work in here comes from a few of my own sources including a dissertation in my post-grad program, a few blogs on travel in Asia and SW Asia (Middle East), and a course I developed for a client on cultural diversity….

So let me start off by saying I am not an expert, I am seasoned. My experience includes negotiating terms with Bedouin tribesmen, training soldiers in Europe, SW Asia, and Korea, working with sales and marketing teams, running projects for orphans in Mexico, and coaching corporate leaders. I count thirty-eight countries to date for work, travel, and expedition. My language skills vary, but honestly I can order a beer or ask for the bathroom without going to jail or having a chicken sacrificed in front of me when I simply ordered the daily special in a restaurant.

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I have what I call the “Three F’s”. This is my guideline for getting to know and appreciate various cultures, and more importantly, get done what I need to get done to make my travel or mission successful. While I do carry a pocket guide for language with notes and my own system of annunciation, the basis goes beyond learning rudimentary language skills, it includes a total immersion into the culture. On a quick side note, for language I also carry post-it-notes and everything in my hotel room gets labeled with my annunciation of the item in local language.

First, when on assignment and if possible, I am on the ground at least the weekend prior to beginning to work. I take this opportunity to visit local parks, museums, malls, etc. I do this on my own without a guide. Often it involves a taxi ride to another part of town. Second I carry a “Go-Bag” which I describe in another blog and podcast.

I have always been the guy who took off to explore. I used to frustrate commanders and team leaders when I was in the military because I took off to explore on my own. Post Desert Storm, there were buses that would take troops from Khobar Towers to downtown for shopping at the mall. 40-50 troops on a bus going from the base to the mall, first of all looked like a target to me. Second, most troops, I felt, were kind of loud and obnoxious for me. I would breathe a sigh of relief that the bus had not been attacked on route, then as everybody headed into the mall, I darted across the streets into the sooks- open air markets. There I could test and learn new language skills, explore new back alleys, and try to learn as much as I could about the people. I did the same thing in Egypt and after meeting with a Egyptian/French family for a period, almost wound up with a wife!

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The Three Fs: Fun, Food, Faith

While I have contemplated adding another “F” here and there (at one time I used “Future” when working with refugees in Turkey) I have stuck to these main three. I find if I can master these immediately, I stand a greater chance of both getting my assignment completed as well as enrich my own life.

Fun
Knowing what a culture does for entertainment makes great conversation starters. Last year when working in Taipei I followed the national baseball team rigorously. The people I worked with in Taipei were highly energized by the success the team was having in the world tournament. This gave me a basis to start conversations with them. By mid assignment I could rattle of the stats, identify players by face, and discuss the previous night’s game. I was allowed to be a part of the frenzy. I was the only white guy sitting in the open mall area with thousands of new “friends” caught up in both the excitement and disappointment as Taipei fell to Japan in a 4-3 loss.

I count museums as fun as well as adding to my historical and cultural knowledge. Not only do I learn about the history, art, and politics of a nation, I see how people interact with one another. I see how children interact with parents, I am privy to interactions between business and customers, and I see the diversity in people who gather in these places.

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On most trips I pack my GPS and a stack of printed Geo Cache targets to visit that are close to my hotel (in most cases.) I usually pick areas such as parks, museums, nature centers, etc. It gives me a chance to get out of my hotel and explore. By going to all these different places it not only allows me to take in different samples of the culture and see what they do for fun, but often I gain “an insider’s view” of the city. A few years ago I was working in Shenzhen. My geo-adventure took me to a national nature preserve that was in the heart of this massive city. I spent the day learning about a petrified forrest that most of my counterparts did not even know existed. For more info on Geo Caching, check out my other blogs and podcast.

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Food

A guy has to eat. In my time working as a liaison and trainer to many of our allies I learned that most of the time what’s for dinner is only a shade away from “what’s that for dinner?” I know I have eaten things that would put me in the limelight of a travel and adventure reality show on some cable network. The combination of having a mother who insisted I try a bite of everything once and a natural curiosity for food, I have surprised most host.

Breaking bread together is a bond that unites people. In many traditions to host or feast with someone is similar to passing the peace pipe in our own Native American tribes. I have found that entering a food situation that it is better to ask what something is after the meal. More than an understanding what animal or plant a morsel of food derived from, I often get a story about a grandmother who made special dishes or the history behind a food.

As I said above, I travel solo most of the time. This is more by design. I like to go and experience the area before getting the guided tour from my host. I find I can process the experience the host provides much better if I do this. Going solo provides unique opportunities to try different foods in the area. I try my hardest to stay away from the “American” fast food stops and restaurants. I tend to look for where locals are gathering at feeding time and head in the general direction.

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On a trip to Korea a few years ago I found myself in what is the equivalent of a “greasy spoon” in the US. Good, cheap food, average service, and lots of people. My tactic is usually the same. I order the same dish as the person closest to me. This not only provides some of the most unusual dishes I have tried, but also respect of my co-workers when showing them pictures the following week. In Korea I experienced Kimche, Bulgogi, and Kimbap all on my own. Bulgogi is probably my favorite. The table-top grilling experience is something I return to time and time again. None of these fantastic foods would have been experienced at a TGI Fridays or McDonalds.

One of the richest experiences of food and fun was my best friend Amund and his wife treating me to a Burns Night when I was working in Scotland. If you are a frequent reader of the blog or listen to the podcast, you already know I am a kilt fanatic, owning eight of them and wearing them most of my free time. (No pun intended.) Burns Night is the celebration of the life of the great poet and includes Haggis, bag pipes, and Scottish traditions. It was truly a memorable night participating in a truly unique experience.

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Faith

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I have very strong spiritual beliefs. I know where I stand in my own faith. Still, in order to better understand people, you have to know what they believe. As I was deploying to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm, I read the entire Koran. I did the same thing on my first trip to China, trying to grasp an understanding both Confucianism and Taoism.

I have been very fortunate to be invited into various houses of worship. From “High Church” in Scotland to small corner temples in Taipei, I relish the experience. Last year while working in Seoul I had found myself at a large Buddhist temple in the Gangam complex. Right across from one of the largest malls in the world was a site dedicated to faith. I spent the entire day and several nights on the site. I watched “drumming prayers” and monks meditating. I spent time praying my own faith while basking in the warmth of communal fires. I shielded myself from a spring rain in a temple, while reciting complines I had learned in my own journey. Tied closely to food, I was invited to sit and eat a very humble meal of rice and soup with resident monks and other invitees. We discussed life, faith, religion, and history. One of the best travel days I have ever experienced.

I had a similar experience in Scotland where my good friend and spiritual mentor and I spent an afternoon in an older orthodox church. It was interesting in how both places, the conversations were much the same.

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Understanding Fun, Food, and Faith of a people has helped me connect in so many ways. It is a great place to start to understand a culture and even the variances within a culture. I always find it interesting when told by a client in an interview, you need to understand (fill in the blank) culture. I believe that there are people who can learn one or two cultures through experience, then there are those who can adapt and assimilate into a culture to a point where they are more than accepted, they are respected and almost made an honorary member of the culture. On a trip to China, I got to know the area and people in the area so well that I was dubbed “The Mayor of Shanghai” by the ladies in the office. As they took my boss and I out for the night, we kept running into people who knew me…by name. That is assimilation.

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iPad Apps for the Business Side of Adventure

I wanted to put together a quick article on apps I use when on the go– mostly for international travel and not so much in my rig.  Having apps on the iPad really helps when negotiating a  price on a gift, finding a hotel, or just finding where you are. While there are productivity apps I use such as BossJock for the podcast and GeoCaching for well…geocaching, these are more to keep my business life going well so I can enjoy my adventure time. So here is a brief breakdown of whats on my pad whether I’m doing a workshop in Asia or meeting a client in Europe.

Concur

Concur

I suck at numbers and every admin I have ever had hates the way I keep track of expenses. This tool keeps me organized and even helps me set up AMEX payments. Now I can manage expenses as they occur on trips and in the field. I can even photograph and upload my receipts using the iPad camera and itemize charges to expedite the expense reporting process.

Maps

Maps

First, I miss Google Maps. Stuck with this on the iPad though, it works as a navigational tool, using GPS location to help map routes on highways and mass transit systems. nearby, saving time in the field.

Urban Spoon

Urbanspoonr

This has been more successful in the US and I honestly have not tried it abroad (yet). The app  searches the area for restaurants, cafes and other eateries. It leverages a ranking system and list  results by distance and price. I found I can even look for specific types of food as well as to rate and socialy share suggestions.

Currency

Currency

A must for international travel. It provides up-to-date currency exchange rate information for most common currencies.

Gate Guru

GateGuru

Remember O.J. running through the airport trying to catch a plane? That was before he was fleeing in a white Bronco or breaking into hotel rooms. GateGuru provides real-time flight status information including up-to-date information on security lines, just what I need…another reason to stress. 

Bongeunsa Temple in Seoul

IMG_6292         Forget about Gangnam style…when in Seoul there is so much to see beyond the glitz and the glam. Beyond the hustle and bustle (Korean women are ALWAYS running and nobody patiently waits for elevator doors to close…they repeatedly hit the close button), there is a quite retreat known as Bongeunsa.  Bongeunsa is a Buddhist temple where like many other unique and interesting places, I found through geo-caching. Needing to drop off a travel bug, I discovered an interesting monastery only blocks away from my hotel.IMG_6293IMG_6312

Founded in 794 during the reign of King Wonseong by the monk Yeon-hoe, at the time the highest ranking monk of Silla, It sits on the slope of Sudo Mountain in Samseong-dong, across the street from the ultra-modern COEX Mall. Buddhism in Korea was violently repressed during the Joseon Dynasty.IMG_6348

Bongeunsa was reconstructed in 1498 with the support of Queen Munjeong, who revived Buddhism in Korea for a short time in the mid-16th century. In 1551 it became the main temple of the Zen (Korean Seon).

Today it is a revived temple complex with several buildings and rooms for followers and guest to meditate in. There is an air of friendliness to visitors and I even had the opportunity to sit for a very humble meal of rice and soup.

After dropping off my travel bugs and picking up a few in return, I stuck around to just relax on one of the trails on the side of the mountain. Later in the evening, I returned to watch the drumming ceremony. As an avid percussionist, I was completely captivated by the experience.IMG_6355

IMG_6347I believe that to understand a culture, you have to first understand that culture’s faith, food, and recreation. This is something my time in the military taught me, and lessons I still carry today. I am very solid in my faith, and though not a Buddhist, I found I could go into one of the buildings where others were praying, and I could simply relax and enjoy the atmosphere as I prayed on my own (Celtic Daily Prayer).

I was glad for the visit and I was more aware of the 4am gong and 6pm drumming. I made it an evening pilgrimage most nights to watch the four percussion instruments be played as part of a faith-based ceremony.

I won’t pretend to understand the faith, but found its followers very open to me being in their presence and very thankful for their acceptance of me. Great photo opportunities and it made me with I had my Dad’s technical expertise for taking great photos. At some point I need to get a great point and shoot digital and save my iPad and GoPro for other things…IMG_6314

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Taipei

IMG_6613As you know I love exploring history. Visiting Taipei I had a chance to visit the memorial for democratic pioneer, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Many don’t realize this, but Taiwan is was the first democracy in Asia. Founded on the premise that Taiwan was starving from lack of educational nutrition, Dr Sun helped to point the way towards literacy.

A Chinese revolutionary, he participated in as many as eleven, he was the first president and founding father of the IMG_6620Republic of China (Taiwan) and is referred to as the “Father of the Nation”. Sun Yat-sen played a critical role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1888. In 1912, he was appointed to serve as president of the Provisional Republic of China In addition, Sun who is still revered today, was a uniting figure in post-Imperial China.

IMG_6637I enjoyed visiting the memorial hall in Taipei and encourage anyone visiting Taiwan to stop by. I found it because of following a geocache. My how this activity takes me to unique places! The grounds are simply beautiful and there are diverse activities taking place on the grounds.

You might see prayerful monks next to hip-hop dances. The unique thing I have learned about Asia in general, parks can have many different groups congregating in close proximity, and no one is affected by the other group. For a photographer, this is a target rich environment.

IMG_6649IMG_6627The main entrance to the hall contains a huge statue of Sun Yat-sen. Every hour, there is a formal changing of the guards, which I highly recommend seeing. It is popular, so get a spot early. Also a gift shop to collect that much needed postcard or travel stamp.

The building itself is sited on a beautiful campus, Chung-shan Park. It includes lush gardens, decorative historical walls, and an exhibition and performance area surrounding Lake Cui. There are also great views of Taipei 101, the world’s second largest building.IMG_6652

For more information and to hear some great audio podcast, check out our audio blog

Spicy of Life

Hanging in my favorite little coffee place tonight. Great class today, awesome dinner with new friends, a two-mile walk, and now….third cup of the joe. Its late but isn’t that what Ambien is for?

Dinner was really spicy. Korean pizza…. Kemche pizza to be exact. There was other great foods served, spicy of course.

Enjoying the company of my host. I find I am much more outgoing here than I am in the states. I am the social butterfly. Where is that introvert…not really sure.
Perhaps still in baggage claim in Hong Kong.

Two more days in country and I am afraid of that shy-guy returning. That guy who wasn’t so popular in school. That guy who doesn’t speak up in meetings at work. That guy who doesn’t jump up and dance with the TeleTubby in front of the License Bureau. Yes, I danced. Please pick your jaw up from the floor.

I am living with purpose right now. I have a mission. I have a great support team here. I have people who believe in me. I have no fear. I am bullet proof. I hate spicy octopus and asked for more!

My life here is much more spicy. I hit the streets after dinner. Threw the ear buds in, walked briskly, saw parts of Korea that were out of the way. Walking like I knew where I was going. Having no plan, turning on a dime, going down alleyways lit by faux-neon.

Twenty years ago I couldn’t wait to be on a plane and back home. I know tomorrow afternoon I will feel the same way. When the gig is over I am ready to be home to my bride and kiddo. This time is different than when I was an observer/advisor at Kunsan. Though I miss my family, I hope I am returning with a bit of spice in my step.

Yes life here is spicy. I love it!

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Korea….Day 3

Korea day 3…..

Communication Skills Workshop was great. I felt very odd in the beginning though. It was explained that I give a brief history and bio about myself. I hate doing this for two reasons. First, i feel like this is boasting or bragging. I do a terrible job at selling myself. Om the surface if you don’t know me it sounds like I’m pounding my chest. Second, my life either sounds like a life time of A.D.D. or the biggest hoax. Again, those that know me understand I love a variety of things, I get bored quite easily, and have to feed the adventure furnace. I really hate these kind of introductions…

My contact from Singapore is fabulous. He has given me insight to the team here and I’m looking forward to working with him. He is hard charging, and my hope is I can keep up with him.

Tonight after work we were hosted to a wonderful meal. The best part, it was not an upscale restaurant. It was a nice place to congregate, eat, and chat. The people I have met in Korea are amazing. I enjoy their shyness, their willingness to laugh, and their acceptance of me.

Still struggling with even the most basic of words in Korean. Not sure why I am struggling. My hope was the week in China would have opened my mind to learning, but instead I feel the doors are still barred shut in my head. The two languages are quite different.

Tonight’s meal consisted of grilling meat at your table, once cooked, wrapping it in lettuce or sesame leafs, then putting the entire thing in your mouth. There were additional condiments such as onion shoots, kemche, and spicy bean sauce. Delightful. I love all kinds of foods and willing to try anything, and no disrespect to China…..but this is by far my favorite Asian dish.

At first I was worried that the area I’m staying in is “too westernized”. I think this is a ludicrous and pompous thought. As I watch and learn from the people here, they have adopted and influenced many things we call American. Korea is a highly modern country, and in so many ways has an edge on us in the states.

Yesterday morning I was having trouble with my iPad. I was in a coffee shop trying to download email to tart the day. In Boise the coffee artist either would not have bothered to help, or would fumble around and never solve the issue. Instead, the girl who spoke very little english took my iPad in hand, whipped through a few screens, reset their own WiFi, reset my iPad and had me downloading email in about two minutes.

Everywhere I look, there are earbuds plugged into smartphones and people of all ages are texting, watching movies, checking out some kind of app. There is a constant technology buzz going on. BTW….bonus on coffee shops….they are open until midnight every-night except Friday and Saturday….when they are open until 2am.

So ends the day in another coffee shop. After dinner I took a walk to explore a bit. Need to head back to the apartment, get ready for a new day, and catch a bit of rest. Tomorrow we teach the team how to Geocache.20120612-225840.jpg

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Geo-Adventuring or GeoCaching

GeoCaching in London— Keeping me out of the troubles–and exploring a magnificent city!

Is it a hobby, a sport, or activity? Is it hide and seek, a treasure hunt, or a high-tech form of letter dropping? Armed with a GPS and a backpack full of trinkets I pick up at garage sales, thrift shops, and when feeling very generous, classic toys from all the regular cast of fast-food joints.

Geocaching has its official start around 2000, but many of us in the military teaching land navigation and GPS (PLGR) technology were into it well before that time. Our first cache sites were usually food, ammo, and water drops for troops in training exercises, but to increase interest, make it fun, and add a challenge to it- we would fill ammo cans with anything from movie tickets to the base threater, unit patches for trading or collecting, or some small trinket that would only have meaning for those on the search. (I once left a bag full of toy compasses for one of my squads signifying their completing of the night navigation scenario—some of those soldiers still carry it to this day).

Geocaching uses GPS coordinates found on sites such as geocaching.com to find a specific location containing a cache. By registering on the website you can gain access to the location of cache sites- many of which are within a short distance from your home or office. You also have the ability to see the level of difficulty, specific facts and hints, and of course what kind of cache it is.

Cache types can vary. The most common is the Traditional Cache– which is a waterproof container with a pen, a log book, and items to trade. The rule is that you sign and date the log book and trade for one of the items in the cache. Good Geocachers will trade items in their pack of equal or greater value. The slackers of the Geocaching world leave the crappy stuff, bits of change, or nothing. They are the usually the same people in life that live off of the rest of us… At the end of your adventures you go home (or from your mobile device) and log whether you found the cache or not.

Hula Chicken- found in a cache in Colorado

Micro and Nano Caches are tiny caches that create a great challenge. Micros are about the size of a film canister and Nanos are about the size of a pen cap. Normally, these only contain logs to sign. These are common in highly congested areas.

Virtual Caches are normally sites of historical significance. This is one of my favorites because it gets us into areas where we can learn about a place we might have never traveled to. Early in our geo-adventuring days we often traveled a few hours to such places. With virtual caches you not only have to find the location- but also answer some obscure questions about the site. This last weekend we learned about mayors and county clerks in our town during significant periods of growth and change, while standing in a pavilion that was once city hall. You email the answers to the cache owner who determines if you completed the find. There has been a moratorium on new caches like this because of the perceived increase in traffic. Not sure here—but if people are learning about these obscure pieces of history- I would think more traffic is better.

We have been learning to love Earth Caches- party due to the Virtual Cache going away. These are sites such as river confluences, petrified trees, rock formations, cracks in the earth, caves, etc. These combine science, geology, and GPS navigation. I have learned allot since I started doing these and they are a great way to teach science to the kiddo.

There are a few other types of caches we won’t go into detail on- mainly because I don’t do them. These include the multi-cache, the mobile cache, and event caches. I loved webcam caches but no sense going into that since most have been removed.

Something we are just getting into – that requires some steeper etiquette is the Travel Bug. The Travel Bug is not a cache, rather an item that goes into a cache. The purpose of the Travel Bug (TB) is to be transported from one location to the other and be logged. The actual (TB) looks like a GI dog tag and normally has “hitchhiker” attached to it. The hitchhiker is usually some type of toy, coin, etc.

Adventure IQ Overland Travel Bug #1– on a mission from Asia to the US. These are tracked through the geocaching.com website and you can see the calculated distance it has traveled, where it is, and who has it. It is tracked by those who find or “grab” the item, relocate, and log it.

Each Travel Bug has a goal set by its owner. Goals are typically travel-related, such as to visit a specific region or country in Europe or travel from state to state. I am about to launch TBs into Asia with the goal of making it back to the US. Travel Bug trackables move from cache to cache with the help of Geocachers find it in a cache, move it to a new cache, and log it. TBs should not be kept for more than a week. If you are not willing to log it and move it- leave it where it is. TBs have a monetary and emotional investment from the owner and depend on good Geocachers (not the ones living off the rest of us) to move these along. Often it is requested to have pictures taken of places or scenery with the hitchhiker. If you do this DO NOT PHOTOGRAPH THE TRACKING NUMBER. Those same slackers that are not good Geocaches will see the number and log it. I have seen TBs in California on Wednesday morning and in Aberdeen, Scotland the same afternoon. There is a special section on geocaching.com that explains what to do with these as well as other trackable items. I have a video posted showing a Travel Bug.

The last has been “Challenges”. This is a new one for us. Challenges are close to virtual caches in that it gets you close to some cool areas, but usually you are posting a picture, though in some cases it might have a question to answer.

We love Geocaching and its an opportunity to get out. I especially like it when I travel for work. It gets me out exploring my surroundings. It also gives us an excuse to really explore an area. We often pick an area of the map, load our GPS with Geocaches, and head out for a day of adventure.

I have placed several geocaching videos on my Youtube site, go check them out- learn from them- and then go explore!