Ryan Boudinot’s Geocaching Project

I’m excited to announce a new project: a series of stories distributed solely via geocaches.

What Is Geocaching?

From geocaching.com: “Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS device can then try to locate the geocache.”

Here’s a short film about geocaching that explains it all:

A geocache is typically a container in which a log book and other items are hidden. Those who find geocaches, whether they’re in forests, parks, or urban areas, usually sign the log book to indicate they’ve found it, then record their visit on geocaching.com.

geocache

A typical geocache with log book and GPS device

They can also leave or take trinkets from geocaches. Some of these trinkets are marked with what’s called a travel bug, a tag marked with a unique identifying code. Travel bugs are meant to travel from cache to cache. The unique identifying code allows geocachers to log their possession of the travel bug at geocaching.com, and to monitor its progress as it travels from geocache to geocache. Many travel bugs end up crossing the country and globe.

Found and Lost

“Found and Lost” is a series of interlinked short stories. Each story focuses on a main character who, in the course of the story, finds something and loses something else. The stories are set in various settings and time periods. The stories are connected to one another like links in a chain. For instance, Betty finds a cell phone and loses a framed butterfly. In another story, Juan finds the framed butterfly and loses his wallet. In another story, a man finds Juan’s wallet and loses his glass eye. The stories are linked in a circle, so that the “last” story involves someone who loses something that the “first” person finds.

Publishing the Stories

Each story in this series will be produced as a chapbook. I’ll print multiple copies of each story, but some print runs will be smaller than others, making particular stories more rare. Each copy will feature a sturdy, laminated cover with a hole punched in it. A travel bug will be attached to this hole, identifying each individual copy of each story with a unique code. The stories will be short enough to read while sitting on a stump out in the woods. The stories will be family-friendly. Each will feature an “about the series” section and mention this blog.

Tracking the Stories

As the author of the stories and as the one person in possession of all the travel bug codes, I’ll be able to monitor who has read each copy of each story and where each copy of each story has traveled. Any time one of the stories moves to another geocache, I’ll receive an email alert, per the functionality of geocaching.com. My hope is that these copies of my stories will travel around the world, finding readers who pass them along to others.

What Remains Unknown

Aspects of this project will only be known to me. I will not reveal the number of stories in circulation, or the number of copies of each story. The diligent geocacher will theoretically aim to put the stories in order in hopes of creating a complete circle. I suppose that there’s a possibility of an online community springing up to share information on these stories, and that collectively a group of geocachers could figure out how many of the stories are out there.

What Happens Now?

Well, I suppose I need to write the stories. I’ve written three so far. And then I need to publish them. I’ve been working with my friends at Richard Hugo House, where I’m a Writer In Residence, to figure out how best to produce them. If you have any ideas on how to cheaply, quickly, and easily produce a large number of chapbooks, definitely let me know by leaving a comment. I’m new to this side of the publishing equation and am figuring this out as I go along.

As I start distributing my Found and Lost stories via geocache, I’ll update this site and post updates via Facebook and Twitter (where I have an account I never use). I’m toying with the idea of performing readings at various geocaches, announcing the readings by posting the coordinates and times. This project is motivated by my desire to introduce stories into the world in unexpected places, and to surprise people with a little moment of entertainment when they least expect it. The element of being able to track the routes of my stories as they make their way around the world is deliciously compelling to me. I’ve been laying awake at night for weeks thinking about this project, and am excited to get it off the ground. More updates soon!

Ryan

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Ryan Boudinot’s Geocaching Project

  1. Jez

    Ryan, this is exciting! Just a suggestion on the production side of things – you might want to look at a service like Lulu for printing. You probably already know of them, but just in case you don’t here’s a link to their books section – lots of options!

    http://www.lulu.com/uk/publish/books/?cid=gb_home_nav_bk

    I’ve used them once for a single edition book needed in a hurry and it turned out great. Another similar service is Blurb (www.blurb.com) but I’m less familiar with them.

  2. Beautiful concept, Ryan and I bet you’re right about a community springing up (or one of the existing communities that center around transmedia or alternate reality gaming seizing on to it.)

    As an experience designer, a number of questions immediately spring to mind.

    How will help prevent “hijacking” of your system: do you fear that the number of copies in circulation will decrease over time? Is that an intended consequence, like the rarity/scarcity issue?

  3. Hey Ryan,

    What a great idea. Can’t wait to read the stories…

    Nicky

  4. Great idea. And I only put postcards of my novels into caches. Where about do you plan to do this as far as caches go?

    Di

  5. What an excellent, lovely idea.
    It reminds me of the real-world version of Tumbarumba: http://www.turbulence.org/Works/tumbarumba/

    If you need any tech-assisted bits let me know, though it seems as though the geocaching site ought to provide the majority of that.

  6. Uh, Ack! So this is what is going to take up more of your time than you intended. Excellent.

  7. Anne

    What a great idea! Now I won’t be looking for just travelbugs, but I’ll be looking for your short-story travelbugs in particular. Get going!

  8. Pingback: Juan « Found and Lost

  9. I guess I’m one of those individuals that looks at the mapping when I put up the cache page. I’ve never had the coordinates off very much, and then it is ordinarily on account of tree cover.

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