Monday, January 17, 2011

Meet the Travel Bug Bandit

Gather 'round, boys and girls, muggles and (number) fiends. Meet the Travel Bug Bandit.

Thousands upon thousands of travel bugs circle the globe each day. All but a few that stray into Travel Bugmuda Triangle. Travel bugs enter with the grandest of aspirations. Some want to visit every state, while others will benefit a charity, but most exist for the pure joy of discovery. All of them wait patiently, yearning for the opportunity to do something. An unlucky few cross paths with the Travel Bug Bandit.

They go willingly, begging to be moved. Any cache, any distance is a step closer towards meeting the goal. Travel bugs don't have mothers. There is no one to teach them self-respect or self-defense. There is only the goal and a distant owner who may or may not follow their progress. And so they go. First into the backpack, or maybe into a pocket. Darkness that will surely lead to the light of rebirth in a new cache. The bug is patient - it can wait a few days, even a week. After all, not every cacher caches every day. Weeks go by. Other bugs arrive, crowding the space between. A bottle of suncreen explodes, which prompts a thorough scrubbing of the backpack's contents. Hope lies in the indignities, but so does disappointment. Such is life in the hands of the Travel Bug Bandit.

It was not always this way.

Many a-cache ago, a wide-eyed neocacher discovered her first travel bug. Inside a swampy, arachnid-infested quagmire, lay a lock-and-lock that was home to GI-Wanna-Go-Caching (a GI Joe action figure with bendable appendages and a thinning layer of paint). It was like opening a box of cereal to find a slinky, or scratching a lotto ticket to find 3 liberty bells in a row. Joyous! The travel bug was posed for photos, logged, and promptly dropped in the next accommodating cache.

It continued this way for a time and the geocacher did her part to help bugs reach their goals. She even released a few of her own into the wild. This how she learned the truth about this whole travel bug ownership thing. No one pays attention to the goals, the bugs sit in the same cache for weeks, people rarely post pictures. These neat little treasures are nothing more than pieces of flair, masking the dignity of waiters and waitresses everywhere. The Travel Bug Bandit reared it's ugly head.

One day, while caching on vacation, the cacher and her boo discovered a geocoin clearly marked "DO NOT REMOVE." The Bandit tossed the coin in her backpack. The boo protested, but the Bandit would not be denied. When she returned home, she was met with insecure dogs, dirty laundry, and guilt. The tag did not mean "do not remove the tag from the coin," it meant, "do not remove the coin from the cache." She could see this now. The cacher immediately emailed the owner, apologized profusely, and mailed the coin back to it's rightful place. The Travel Bug Bandit momentarily lost it's hold.

But like a recovering addict, the urge was always there, barely in-check. The demon just under the surface waited for a moment of weakness. Occasionally a particular coin would pique it's interest - an ornately designed coin, or a super-cute travel bug necklace. If she didn't log the find, who would be the wiser? But she resisted, always passing travelers along in a timely fashion, unaware that the Travel Bug Bandit lurked on the horizon.

It gained strength with each passing day. A bug here, a coin there. Toss them in the car, move on to the next, get busy, don't cache for a while, add another traveler to the collection. It continued this way for moons and moons.

Do not abandon all hope, for this is a tale of redemption. One humid, sunny morning, the Travel Bug Bandit found itself at a tree much older than travel bugs and geocaches. A tree that pre-dated GPSr units, satellites, and even electricity. It had survived hurricanes, witnessed civil war, and laughed at Ponce de Leon's quest for a fountain of youth.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Near the tree was a cache holding a homemade paper geocoin. It was printed with the words, "Bad Karma." The Travel Bug Bandit faltered, but did not lose it's grip.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

The coin made it's way to the car and settled in the cup holder. It stayed here for weeks, a daily reminder of the Universe's ability to restore balance (to the force). One by one, the kidnapped travelers resurfaced - one in the backseat, another in the trunk, a coin mixed in with a pile of mail, and a couple at the bottom of the backpack, coated in some unknown goo. The Travel Bug Bandit revealed itself for the awful creature it truly was. The cacher brought them all together, washed off the goo, and planned a bunch of bug-friendly caches. In a matter of hours, months of abuse came to an end as each traveler was reintroduced to its former life.

The final test came when the cacher crossed paths with a cache holding a geocoin. She thought about leaving it. Avoiding all temptation was surely a way of preventing future transgressions; however, this was also a chance to find out if the Travel Bug Bandit was truly gone. Not only was the cacher successful, but shortly after logging it, she received an email thanking her for finding the seemingly lost coin. Apparently it had encountered its own bandito. It probably would again, someday, but for a brief moment it's owner knew exactly where it was.


  1. An interesting take on moving trackables. I like the way you did it. Well done! I sometimes hold 'em a bit too long, too. Alas, I get them going as soon as I can!

  2. Good for you. I'm glad the bandit moved things along. I have placed several travel bugs and always enjoy seeing where they go.