• J.R. Reed

How Geocaching Works For the Autistic Me


Real life scavenger hunts get me out and about

To say Geocaching is cool sounds really strange to me. For years I knocked it as something lame that people with no life did just to have something to do.


Now that I’ve started geocaching I can’t think about it the same way. I have to come up with a new way of thinking about it. Though, to be honest, I don’t have much of a life and need something to do, so that part is technically correct.


I’m not saying all geocachers are like that. Just me.


For those who have no clue what I’m talking about, geocaching is basically a real-life scavenger hunt out in the world. People hide things, called caches, and upload information and coordinates for the cache.


Using a handheld GPS device or simply your smartphone with the Geocaching app, you navigate your way to the cache you’re trying to find. Once close enough to park, you continue to use the GPS on the app or your handheld device to find the cache.


Inside a typical cache, you’ll find a log that you sign and date showing you found it and many have little trinkets inside that you can trade for. Take something that’s already there and leave something of similar value.


Some caches are elaborate, such as the Gnome Home or the Crazy Roommates birdhouse that I put on the vacant lot next to my house. Others are small, as in the size of a pill bottle or film canister. There won’t be trinkets in these, but since they’re so small, they’re fun to find.


So why is this such a great thing for me? Having Asperger’s Syndrome and also social anxiety disorder, I don’t do a lot of things with other people. Yeah, there’s Friday Nerd Game Night at the local comic book store, but other than that I pretty much stay in and work or read.


This gets me out and about and driving around the Ozarks with my service dog, Tye. Sometimes I forget how good it feels just to get out and about, no matter the weather.


I have yet to meet any other geocachers, but that’s not really a big deal since I’m kind of a newbie and I have a feeling it will be uncomfortable when I first meet others, but I’ll probably get over it. Hopefully.


They even have Geocache events in some areas, though not many in mine as I’m in the Ozarks and it’s not a huge population around here. That’s cool. An event with a bunch of people would probably start me freaking out, anyway.


For someone on the spectrum who knows they need to get out more, this is a great way to do it. Honestly, after I’ve locked myself away for a few days, even driving up the road feels good. Then the little adrenalin rush you feel as you close in on your in on the cache, find it, sign the log and head back towards the car makes you stop a moment and realize that you’ve done something to get out of the house. And, in a roundabouts sort of way, you’ve interacted with others.


That’s not a bad day for someone who would otherwise be binge-watching something, reading or curled up in bed.


For those whose autistic traits tend to be more on the shy side, which includes me, I can say from experience that depression will be along for the ride. I work from home, so I need to make sure that I get away from my house every couple of days and if not, I will go crazy.


Before I found geocaching, I would often sit in the car for ten minutes trying to figure out what to do. I still do that on occasion, but now, more often than not, when I need to get out I grab my small sling bag that I’ve dubbed my Geocaching bag as it has a logbook for me to keep track of everywhere I’ve been.


Yes, you can do that when you’re using a geocaching app, but I’m old school and like writing it down and making notes in addition to using the technology.


The bottom line?


If you’re on the spectrum and need to get out of the house and do something inexpensive, I wholeheartedly recommend getting out and trying geocaching. There are several sites I’ve found that will explain geocaching, but the one I’ve found that has the most info, and a free app for your phone with a built-in compass and GPS is Geocching.com


Even if you’re not on the spectrum and need to get out of the house more often, this is great to try. It’s also a fun family adventure, especially if you’re taking a road trip and you have a little time to kill along the way.


Unless you don’t find a cache that you searched for, which hasn’t happened to me yet, you know there will be a victory at the end. And a victory is definitely worth celebrating.


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