Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lived experiences, categorizing, and personal musings on geocaching

This past weekend, when temperatures dropped to near -30 C (-22 F), I felt the first difficulty in sticking with my cache-a-day challenge. Having no desire to be out of doors for any significant length of time, I sought out caches close to home, caches that were rated with difficulty and terrain ratings of 1 (i.e. easy to find and easy to walk to).  Thankfully, I was lucky, and have managed to keep my challenge going for half the month already.

The other day, someone in one of my geocaching Facebook groups posted a link to a fellow blogger's post titled "The 10 types of geocacher".  These 10 types were presumably created by the blogger herself, based on years of experience of geocaching and encountering other cachers, either in person or vicariously through written logs on cache pages.  I found it interesting to see a geocacher self-defining other types based on lived experience, rather than the types proposed by Farvardin & Forehand (2013) (see one of my previous posts for further discussion).

In my Applied Disability Studies masters program, I learned about the value of lived experience.  Having been educated from a mostly traditional quantitative research perspective in my previous degrees (B.A. Psychology/M.A. Music), this exposure to the value of individuals' lived experiences, and how to include it appropriately in academic articles, was a fascinating eye-opener for me.

For this reason I find the "10 type of geocacher" post intriguing; notably, the comments section.  Because these 10 types were created by one single person based on her lived experiences, they necessarily don't always equate to others' lived experiences.  The comments section has people suggesting further categories, because they don't see one that they fit into.  There are also others who comment about the uncanniness of the accuracy of some of the categories.

The need to categorize (and sub-categorize) ourselves within any defined social group seems to be something that we naturally do (e.g. Hogg & Reid, 2009).  The "what type of geocacher are you" question asks us to think about individual motivations and preferences in order to answer it.

Back to lived experiences.  I've been blogging lately about a particular kind of lived experience I have with geocaching - an exploration of the general motivations behind geocaching, drawing on ideas from other disciplines or geocaching research itself in order to explore and play with these ideas in my own mind, and perhaps uncover truths about myself, that necessarily remain hidden to readers.

But why do it in a public forum?  I could easily journal these private thoughts and musings to myself.  I'm not exactly sure of the answer.  I have used this blog for different purposes since it was initially created.  I use it to explore different writing projects, to share small poems or interesting thoughts on different things I see in the world around me.  I also use it largely to share intimate, unique lived experiences while traveling.  These entries seem to always attract a large following while I am in the midst of writing them, mostly by people who know me in some way.

Currently, I'm writing about geocaching - sort of.  Am I writing about geocaching the way other geocachers want to hear?  Is there enough lived experience in my entries that others can relate too?  Do my philosophical musings entice the mind of anyone other than myself?

I've had writer's block lately, which is why it has taken me so long to write this post at all.  My caching experiences from the past several days have been quick grabs due to cold weather or other commitments that prevented longer, more satisfying experiences.  Nevertheless, these quick grabs have a motivation of their own - to stick with my personal challenge of finding at least one geocache per day for the month of February.  I know many geocachers who keep up a "streak" for much longer - years, even.  I've certainly never been that "kind" of geocacher and don't see myself becoming one.  But making myself do it for one month is an interesting window into the lived experience of someone who does fall under that category.  I can better sympathize with and understand the challenges these kinds of geocachers experience by personally experiencing them myself - frozen hands, an unwilling caching partner, the frustration of not finding your initial cache and having to reorganize your day to look for an alternate, etc.  I'm not interested in the lived experience of these geocachers per se, but rather in the larger experience of putting myself in "someone else's shoes", so to speak.

But perhaps I should be writing more about being in my own shoes?  Would anyone other than a fellow geocacher really find any value in that experience, though?  Travel writing is easier to relate to - we can all relate to the desire to vicariously live a new experience through the words of someone else.  Writing about a particular sport or hobby that others do not necessarily share an interest in seems to be a bigger challenge.

You, dear reader (yes, you...) - what would you rather I write about?   I feel as if I need a direction for my next post. What do you want to hear?  What draws you to this blog?  Whether you're a geocacher or not, I'm curious.


  1. I have always enjoyed your philosophical musings. I don't really know what geocaching is but I love to learn! Maybe a post with an introduction to geocaching to clueless people such as myself?

    1. Hi Leah! If you go back a few entried there's an entry titled "mini adventure a day challenge" that explains what geocaching is. The few posts after that give more details about different aspects of it. :)