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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Power of a Travel Bug - Cancer Awareness

You see I start writing this article - again and I can already feel my throat tightening up and a some what unsuccessful fight to hold back the tears ensues. One or two manage to make it through. I push through the millions of images that well up like some broken water main but it is important to get my feelings as they emerge. It's important for you to understand that some things in life have a deep impact and to me, this is one of them.

Travel bugs are usually a fun filled trinket that has a special silver tag and id number attached to let you know they are not swag but special geocaching travellers. They are not to be kept but to constantly be moving and follow specific goals as they go from one geocache to the next. Similar to geocoins but different because they literally can be anything. I have seen stuffed and plastic toys, car parts, posters, some things unidentifiable all with the purpose of being free spirits in the geocaching playing field.

All are to be enjoyed yet some have a distinct and sometimes not so cheery purpose. Some give a message of hope or to allow the finder an awareness of some useful meaning. For example my very first travel bug found was from a series of Diabetes Awareness travellers. It was nothing more than a small blue circle of enamel and metal with the familiar silver tag. When you went to the travel bug page you then learned about the Diabetes information and where you could get more. I thought of it as a great way of getting the word out without being pushy.

Shortly after finding that travel bug I also had a wish to send out information about another awareness and that was for cancer. The reason for that was due to the passing of my first wife Sharon from that dreaded disease. Sharon was a shining beacon of life and was the type of person who insisted on helping others including her 13 years of Sunday School teaching. She was the quintessential farmers daughter and constantly gave tails of her adventures on her parents farm. In 2001 Sharon died at age of 42 from ovarian cancer.

So in her memory I created a travel bug called "Farmers Daughter - Cancer Awareness" (TB21K6F) and sent it out 13 months ago to this day. It has travelled to this point over 3900 miles from the east coast and is currently buzzing around Utah somewhere.

During it's travels there have been times where I noticed that it would be picked up by someone and held, sometimes for several months. At first I did not understand what was going on and I would send a quick email saying hey, how's it going and would you mind moving it along. Then I would get a response back. Each time someone either knew someone who has or died from cancer. That or is going through therapy and wanted to know if they could hang onto a bit longer because it gave them comfort or hope to keep going (more tears welling up). I don't ask anymore.

So when you do see a travel bug or geocoin that has a little more meaning behind it besides wanting it to go to another country or a different part of the world. Please pause and take a moment to reflect. I have always said that geocaching is so much more than just a game. Sometimes pieces of our lives and a connection we do not always understand are woven into our world of a game board.

We miss you Sharon.


If you would like to see an update on this travel bug you can check out this post here:

Please don't forget to visit our GeoSnippits Geocaching Tutorial Videos Website at http://www.geosnippits.com


Marc said...

Andy, I'm sorry for your loss.

A very well written blog post.

Take care.

Hi, My name is: Tim said...

I've been faithfully reading your blog for a while now from out here in Okinawa Japan. While we're out here on the internet we form a sort of identity with those we enjoy reading and in that, I'm very sorry for your loss, but am pleased to read that you are keeping the memory of Sharon alive and are celebrating her in your life. It only goes to reinforce the obvious strength of character shown in your writings, your giving nature, your love for Geoness, and your many many friendships out here in the geo-community.

You're a good guy, Andy. Thanks for all you do.

D. Gudger said...

Wow, that brought tears to my eyes. I lost my bestest friend in the whole world to cancer when I was 10. My Pop-Pop. I never imagined some of the travel bugs could be used to educate and commemorate.

HeadHardHat said...

Thanks for the kind words all. Sharon was an amazingly vibrant and loving individual. I loved her deeply and consider myself blessed to have known her for the time we had together including twelve years of marriage. The world is a sadder place without her.

Jim said...


My mom died 2/18/09 from Ovarian cancer at the age of 64 yrs 11 mnths. I dont know a lot about geocoins but I was wondering if you know of or have seen any that are specifically designed with the teal ribbon on it.

I know you can have them designed and that is probably what I will do so that I can honor her.

Here is a cache that she was involved in which helps honor her.



HeadHardHat said...

Greetings Jim,

First please let me give my condolences of your mother's loss. This truly is a terrible disease and effects so many.

I went to Geocaching.com's website and put the word cancer in their traveller's search field. Below is the actual link which shows 100 geocoins or travel bugs out in the wild going from geocache to geocache. I am sure there are loads more but that is what came up with the search itself. http://www.geocaching.com/track/search.aspx?k=cancer

I have seen several that do have the pink ribbon that you speak of.

That geocache you have is also a wonderful tribute.

All my best,

Andy "HeadHardHat" Smith