This is the story of a woman with Asperger’s, who became a geocacher with Asperger’s. It’s not about conquering a disorder or beating an affliction. It’s about something more. It’s about the most human of all conditions: adaptation. It’s a condition geocachers are known to excel at, and Toni Brown first discovered that at work.
In many ways, Toni (Username: TattooBarbie) is a geocacher like many others: adventurous, fun, and outgoing. But this has not always been the case.
Long before she discovered geocaching, Toni was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. She says, “With Asperger Syndrome, it’s sort of a problem with your social life. You just don’t fit in. You don’t understand people and people don’t understand you. That has led me to have a rather secluded life.” Like many others with Asperger’s, Toni found it difficult to meet new friends and to get outside.
Then, one fateful work retreat, she found a way to do both. Toni works for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). TPWD uses geocaching as an educational tool for its Outdoor Family Program, and so the department decided that it would be a good idea for TPWD employees to test out geocaching during its annual retreat. For Toni, this activity turned out to be more than fun – it turned her life upside down (sometimes literally).
“Geocaching changed my life…I finally fit in somewhere. I’ve even hosted events when I travel out of town just to meet other geocachers. This activity is so much fun that no matter where you go you can meet perfect strangers and share a common bond.” With nearly 10,000 finds and 200 hides, Toni now spends a lot of time outside exploring. Her geocaching dream is to travel to Brazil to find the last remaining Project APE geocache. She also would like to find the International Space Station geocache, but concedes that “Brazil is [more] doable.”
Toni has been hooked on geocaching ever since that first experience at the TPWD retreat. Don’t believe us? Check out her rad trackable tattoo, featured in the video below. It’s in the shape of a treasure chest, which she thinks is the perfect representation of what geocaching is all about.
We think that Toni herself is the perfect representation of what geocaching is all about. She has used geocaching as a tool to step outside her comfort zone, to explore new places, and to surround herself with a wonderful community of folks united by their shared love of this crazy thing we call…well…geocaching.
Has geocaching helped you to overcome a challenge or step outside of your comfort zone? Tell us your story in the comments below.
Watch the video below (created by TPWD) to learn more about how geocaching helped Toni overcome the challenges associated with Asperger Syndrome: