Geocaching in the Time of Cholera
People who have been reading my writings know that I often use references to (popular) culture in the headlines or punch lines. The title of the famous novel by Gabriel García Márquez was just too inviting not to use it. And it certainly sounds more optimistic than any reference to One Hundred Years of Solitude I could come up with. 😉
The times of cholera are history in the world I live in. However, the history of public health (and other) threats has an unpleasant tendency of repeating itself. In the current sequel, we are facing the pandemics of COVID-19, a disease caused by a novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It’s unlike anything our generations have experienced before. This virus kills and, as we can see, it has the potential to shut down even the most powerful countries. Experts are warning us it is not going to go away soon. The impact on our everyday life will be profound. Geocaching will be no exception.
It has become clear that in the absence of vaccination and disease-modifying drugs, social distancing is one of the most effective interventions to suppress the spread of the virus.
»Great! Let’s go geocaching to some lonely place!«
I’m afraid it’s not that simple. Social distancing in its most effective way requires us to stay at or near our homes. We can only go out to work and on the most basic errands. It means taking a walk in the nearest park or recreational area in the safe distance from others and go back home. All other social interactions should be avoided and reduced to bare minimum. Driving half an hour to some trailhead in the woods might seem safe to an individual, but might not be safe for the community if everyone behaves this way. Many people could have a similar idea, so the lonely place might not be as lonely after all.
Should we go out geocaching anyway? Like Fermina in the Márquez’s novel, we are faced with a pragmatic choice of rationality, safety, order and science instead of outdoor adventuring in romantic pursuit of the hidden world around us. In some countries, it is already illegal to be outdoors without a valid reason. People could be fined if stopped by law enforcement officers. In other countries, it’s (still) just against public health recommendations and common sense. So my answer is a convincing no. Our priority now is to slow the spread of the virus. Geocaching comes second.
Geocaching world has already changed. Increasingly, the events are cancelled or rescheduled. Even the event into which my friends and I invested a lot of time and energy is hanging by a thread. The publication of new caches is temporarily suspended in many regions. Luckily, geocaching is more than just chasing hidden containers. You can stay in the game without leaving the confines of your living room. Now it might be a good time to:
- review the listings and logs of your published caches
- after all these years finally read the guidelines, so you can
- plan the new hides
- contact the local volunteer reviewer with the question you never had time to ask
- use all your craftsmanship and create a truly devious cache container
- check your recent finds to see if there are caches that would deserve a favourite
- update the pages of your trackables
- organise your trackable collection or even
- start planning to mint your own trackable
- make a purchase from the Geocaching Shop or your local retailer
- get in touch with geo-friends around the world to see how they are coping with the situation
- send your overdue application to join a local geocaching organisation
- write an article for your favourite geocaching blog page
- charge the batteries of your GPS device, so you will be ready when the FTF opportunities are back
- set new geocaching goals
- plan an event or CITO event and draft the listing
- catch up with Geocaching Blog
- get up-to-date with discussions on Geocaching forums or in local geocaching FB groups
- solve all those head-banging mystery caches you never had time for
- remember you should never couch log any EC or virtual
- assemble an online photo album of your geocaching adventures
- check the camera roll on your phone for any trackable codes you forgot to log
- watch the GIFF films again, and again, and again
- apply to host a Community Celebration Event, just in case
- read Love in the Time of Cholera
- do everything else I forgot to list.
The coronavirus situation could last longer than we expect. Some may exhaust all the possibilities and, just like Florentino in the novel, turn to other pastimes in the meantime. Or get overcome by worries in these uncertain times. Hopefully, when geocaching is safe again, we will all return to our favourite game, and, just like Fermina and Florentino aboard the river steamboat at the end of the novel, immerse into a renewed love affair. For many of us, geocaching is passionate love. And that’s what Márquez’s novel is about, too.