What’s a Travel Bug?
A travel bug is a hitchhiker that you leave in a geocache. When someone finds the cache, they take the travel bug and put the thing in another cache at a later time. In this way, the travel bug moves from cache to cach, place to place in a seemingly random dance.
There are a few different ways to create a travel bug. I could create a travel bug, attach some instructions, and just leave him in a cache to wander the world over. If I did so, the travel bug might see some interesting sights, but I’d never hear about it. Another thing I could do would be to attach my email address and ask people to email me when they find the bug, before passing it along. I may try that sometime just to see how well it works. A third approach might be to have my own web page people could visit to log my travel bug’s movements. That way not only I could watch the bug, but others could, too.
Geocaching.com has taken advantage of the benefits of that last option and created “The Travel Bug” dog tags. The dog tags give each travel bug an ID that can be used to log a bug’s movements from cache to cache. The tags cost about $6 each individually (cheaper in quantity, so buy with your friends!). You can see a copy of one of Cappy’s tags in the image above. I’ve blurred out the ID because the whole purpose f the ID is to be semi-secret until someone finds the bug. Otherwise, anyone could log it.
While you can’t log his movements without the ID, you can watch his listing on geocaching.com.
Some travel bug owners like to give the bug a specific goal or mission that helps the finder decide how to move the bug along, or what to do with the bug while he’s got it. Capt. Kale has his own mission. He wants to visit places that have good seafood. He wants people to mention their favorite seafood in the log, or perhaps take a picture of him in a place where the finder likes to enjoy seafood.
He’s made from a refrigerator magnet I got at the Boston Children’s Museum this year. I pried the magnet off and drilled a hole in him to admit a length of 1/8” cable which I formed into a loop using a crimped ferrule and some Gorilla Glue for good measure. The dog tags come with those metal beaded chains, but they don’t look secure enough. I used the cable to prevent accidental separation of the Captain from his ID tag. I got the idea from this thread on Travel Bug Longevity in the Groundspeak Forums (this post).
Also from that thread, I found a nifty template to print out the travel bug’s mission. This assists the finder in finding his way back to the geocaching website and gives him the TBs mission before the TB is even taken from the cache site. For complicated travel bugs, this gives the finder the chance to decide if he wants to take it or not. Example: if you saw a TB that was on its way to Scotland but you were neither going to Scotland nor toward the nearest international airport, you might leave a TB in the cache and let someone else with a better chance of moving it along take it.
For trans-continental travel bugs, people have constructed “travel bug hotels” situated near international airports. If you’re not going to Scotland, you could put a bug in this hotel. Geocachers traveling overseas could check the hotel’s web page to see if there are any bugs in there which have goals at their destination. If so, they would stop in and pick up the bugs, to be deposited n a geocache far away. Nifty, eh?
Soon I’ll be releasing the Captain into the wild. I hope he has a long voyage and gets to enjoy a ton of good seafood, in ports far and wide.