Editor’s note: Groundspeak Lackeys are traveling thousands of miles from H.Q. this year to share smiles, shake hands and make geocaching memories at more than a dozen Mega-Events worldwide. Nate, aka Nate the Great, attended the Mega-Event 11 Years! Oeiras – Portugal on May 1st in Lisbon, Portugal. Nate has been a Lackey since 2003 and guides new Groundspeak development as a Product Planner. This is Nate’s account of his trip.
I’m more than 8000 miles from home and among 500 of my closest friends (whom I just met today), in a park outside Lisbon, Portugal having my caricature painted while the DJ spins a-ha‘s “Take On Me.” The absurdity of the situation is enough to keep me grinning like a lunatic for the 10 minutes it takes to complete my portrait. A geocacher swoops in smiling, snaps a picture of my Trackable Lackey nametag, high fives me and then disappears into the crowd. The artist complains: “Please, try and sit still.”
It’s difficult to sit still at a Mega Event.
Culture shock? Geocaching is culture. When you’re on the road and feeling out of place, attend a geocaching event and you feel right at home. Witness the familiar cast of characters: the frenetic first-to-finder with smartphone glued to his hand, the prolific cache hider with more Tupperware in the woods than smileys, and more cachers with muddy boots than a pack of school kids on holiday. Except for the lovely shushing sounds of Portuguese being spoken all around me, I could be anywhere right now.
An adventurous spirit is naturally shared by all people, but the Portuguese in particular have exploration baked into the national identity. Age of Discovery explorers like Vasco da Gama brought fame and riches to Portugal from the 15th century to the 17th. You can’t go anywhere in Portugal without tripping over a monument commemorating this voyage or that. Chances are good you will find the solution to a mystery cache on your way down, too. Nowadays you can buy detailed topographical maps at the corner store. This may help explain the huge growth of geocaching in Portugal in the last couple of years as cachers find expression for their urge to explore, and are impelled to rediscover their own backyards. As a country with more than its fair share of enticing and historical backyards, Portugal is ground zero.
Or maybe geocaching is just fun. Why overthink it.
I’m back in the States now, sifting through a notepad of hastily scribbled ideas for improving Geocaching.com. Yes, I admit to an ulterior motive for my presence at the Mega. No, my motive wasn’t only to stuff my face with roasted pork on a spit (heavenly), or to avail myself of local geocachers’ hospitality (limitless), and certainly not to hear 80’s music while becoming a cartoon (bizarre). I wanted to connect with geocachers and learn more about what Groundspeak does right and what we can work to improve. I have learned in my experience as a Lackey the best thing I can do for geocachers is show up and take notes and then help the website match up with how the game is already being played by those muddy boots on the ground. Because cachers in Portugal are at the leading edge of innovation in geocaching, I have my work cut out for me.
Muito obrigado for the Mega, Portugal!
You can also find a Lackey at one of these upcoming Mega-Events:
New York, USA – ASP GeoBash 6
Ontario, Canada – COG Spring Fling
Salzburg, Austria – Pinzgau 2011
Pennsylvania, USA – GeoWoodstock IX
Ohio, USA – Midwest Geobash
Wales, UK – Mega Wales 2011
Wisconsin, USA – West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h
HQ in Washington State, USA – Groundspeak Block Party
Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany – Geocoinfest Europa
Catalunya, Spain – Mega Event Catalunya
South Carolina, USA – Geocoinfest