From the very beginning of geocaching people were interested in the concept of ‘hitchhiking’. This is where an item was placed in a geocache with certain instructions/requests attached (e.g. ‘Please take me to visit all the states of the USA‘ or ‘I would like to travel around the world‘). Geocachers generally responded positively to such requests and some of the early items have had amazing adventures. There was one big question, however, how do you keep track of an item that is travelling from cache to cache?
The problem of how to accurately track ‘hitchhikers’ was solved with the introduction of ‘Travel Bugs’. A travel bug is essentially a ‘dog tag’ with a serial number stamped on it. The bug is usually attached to another item, but can also be sent from cache to cache on its own. Geocachers who want to make use of travel bugs can buy them on Geocaching.com. They can then register the bug, its companion and a set of instructions on the site. The bug (and its companion item if applicable) is then placed in a geocache. The owner gets to keep the duplicate bug to remind him/her of the one that has been sent off on its adventure!
Once a bug has been logged on Geocaching.com, the owner will receive a notification every time someone finds it and/or moves it. In this way the travels of your bug can be followed from the comfort of your own computer screen!
If you find a travel bug and want to move it to a new cache, it is very important that you follow through on your intention. It is considered to be very bad etiquette to hang on to bugs for too long. Once you have moved a bug you should ‘attach’ it to the new cache in which you have placed it. The procedures for doing so are described in detail on the Travel Bug section of Geocaching.com.
A trip outside of your state, or country, is an ideal way to ‘help out’ a few travel bugs. Geocaches close to the airport are often known as ‘bug hotels’. This is because they provide such a great opportunity for bugs to enter or leave new areas, so allow a bit of time for geocaching before or after your next trip!
There is, of course, nothing to prevent you from creating your own travel bug. The first step towards doing so is to actually purchase one on Geocaching.com. It will then have to be activated. You will be asked to enter the following details during this process:
· Name of travel bug
· Starting point
· Activation date
Once your bug has been activated you will receive an update on its progress every time that someone finds it and/or moves it. In choosing an item to attach to the travel bug you should keep in mind that some caches are very small. Choosing smaller items would therefore increase its chances of successfully hitching lifts!