By: Zoe Sedlak

debtYou’re a rough-and-tumble traveller.  You don’t need anything but the shirt on your back and the sun on your face.  Oh, and yeah, money.  You also kind of need that.  There comes a point where a traveller can no longer spend their time renting apartments in Milan or bungee jumping in New Zealand without some funds of some sort.  So you go back home, take some time off, recoup, twiddle your thumbs and dream about those Milan apartments and those New Zealand bridges.

The problem is the itch, and you probably all know it.  For me, right now I’m working to earn money for a long-term trip abroad, and every month that paycheque goes into my savings, that itch gets stronger.  That feeling that something’s happening out there without you, and here you are, just sitting at home eating sandwiches and watching paternity tests on Maury and going to the same retail job every day of the week.  That itch can get pretty bad.

So sometimes, the best thing to do for an itch is scratch it, just a little bit.

And that’s what I do.  When I’m low on funds and saving for the next big trip, I do small trips in my own area that cost not much more than the gas to get there, and recently I’ve turned to geocaching to enhance those trips.  For those of you unfamiliar, geocaching is basically a treasure hunt for a small capsule of some kind based on coordinates you get from a website.  The capsule may hold just a piece of paper you can make your mark on next to other geocachers who’ve found it, or it may be an ammo tin with “treasures” inside that you can trade for something of your own.  I got a sweet party horn out of one of them last time.

The great part is that these geocaches are hidden everywhere, literally everywhere, which lets you see places you may never have seen otherwise.  Recently for me, I went with a few of my willing friends to Niagara Falls (because that’s where one of my friends had a voucher for two free nights at a hotel).  Now, I’ve been to Niagara Falls probably a dozen or more times.  I’ve seen the butterfly conservatory, the falls, and I’ve walked up and down Clifton Hill: Canada’s Vegas.  But until last week, I’d never gone geocaching there.

With geocaching I got to see the parts of Niagara Falls I wouldn’t normally go.  Fairview Cemetery, Heartland Forest, even just the residential streets of Niagara – doing these geocaches took us to places I didn’t even know existed in the Falls.  We went to this outdoor marketplace hidden behind some old buildings that you wouldn’t even know is there from the outside, but because a geocache called “Mmmmm Market” was there somewhere, we got to see it.  Of course, we picked the one day that the market was actually open and crawling with people so we gave up searching after a few dirty looks from shoppers, but we got to check out some sweet knitted hats and various produce while we were there.

Part of the thrill of travelling is seeing things through fresh eyes, and with geocaching, hunting for a camouflaged Tupperware container off the side of the highway does it in a way the usual trip to a familiar city doesn’t.  Going abroad is an experience you can’t replace with a mini road trip just outside your own neighbourhood, but my geocaching trips definitely help keep my spirits up during this somewhat bleary in-between time while I earn money for bigger things.