Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Message In A Bottle

We are all interconnected. We always have been, but in the past it has been a loose and distant connection. Today, the connection is more immediate. With the Internet, telephones and high speed travel, we get closer every day, whether we like it or not.

Back in the old days, before email and text messaging we had to make an effort to reach out, to find others, to exchange ideas. Few did it. They didn't know how and they didn't know what to say.

How many of you stood on the shore, slipped a note that says "Find Me" into a bottle, corked it, and flung it into the sea? I know I dreamed about doing it when I was younger. Before Microsoft, before Google. The dream still exists, but the methods have changed. Gone is the bottle and the infinite ocean.

About 5 years ago my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I had read about Global Positioning System (GPS) devices and since my parents asked, I thought why not, get me one of those.

They did and it opened up a world I had not expected.

A GPS will show you where you are anywhere on the planet. It will also show you where anything else is on the planet if you know its coordinates. If you plug in a specific location on your GPS, it will tell you how to get to it. Which is fine and dandy for boating or hiking or trying to navigate around a complex road system. However, it will also do one more thing. Never under-estimate the human minds ability to 'play' with new technology.

Someone came up with the idea of Geo-caching. You hide a little treasure box (called a Geo-Cache) somewhere on the planet. Then you post its coordinates online. Folks download and input the coordinates into their GPS and try to find the Geo-Cache. The treasure isn't that valuable. The value is trying to figure out where it is and documenting that you found it. I learned how to do this and got pretty hooked on it. There are thousands of Geo-caches all over the world. To date I have found about 40 of them.

An off-shoot of the Geo-Caching concept is called the Travel-Bug. A Travel-Bug is a trinket that is placed in a Geo-Cache. When you find the Geo-Cache, you take the Travel-Bug and eventually place it in another Geo-Cache, documenting each time it is moved on a website. That way, you can track where your Travel-Bug goes. In essence, this is the new Message In A Bottle. This message doesn't float on the ocean. If floats across the sea of humanity.

Before the Journey, Arizona

This is Kenny. He is a small Southpark whined-up walking toy that I made into a Travel-Bug. He was part of a set of Southpark characters that were given to me by friends long ago, all of which were made into Travel-Bugs. Some of these Travel-Bugs have been lost but some are still going.

All the "Bugs" Together at the start, Arizona

As of this past month (January 2008), Kenny is still going. At my last check, he had traveled over 11,758 miles and was somewhere in Germany. He has traveled halfway around the world in the last 4 years and been in about 20 Geo-Caches.

Kenny, 2007 (somewhere in Germany)

I won't ever see him again. But I know he is still out there bringing a smile to some intrepid hikers face. And whoever finds him will also know who I am, and know that I put a message in a bottle and told them to 'find me'.