But, what if you don’t have time to hunt through the thickets to get that prized little smiley for the log?
What if you have just five minutes and feel like doing a little hunting and explore new places? What if you have a car full of small children and it is raining outside? Is there a hobby that plays nice with technology and is quick and easy?
Welcome Gowalla! Gowalla is a smartphone app that allows you to “log in” at many locations across the globe. Without hunting, you can simply use your iPhone [iTunes link] or Blackberry to find checkpoints near you, explore new places and then log in your visit. While you are there, you can drop off a little virtual swag like a watermelon or a guitar. You can find out who else has been there and how recently they visited.
Your Gowalla friends are automatically generated from Twitter and Facebook, and you get updates of the cool places they have been.
The part I love the most is that you can create, right on the spot, a new checkpoint. Some people establish themes like stopping at every Dunkin’ Donuts and creating a checkpoint or finding every statue within a town. More popular places like historical sites and graves of famous dead folks are listed, as well.
A Hit with the Kids
Gowalla is great for small children because every “outing” is a success. Sometimes it is hard to explain to my small kids why we spent 2 hours hiking up a mountain to come out with a “Did Not Find.” Gowalla makes every trip, even those uphill treks, a success for them.
Pre-readers can follow the easy to read icons. The “Featured Spots” menu helps you to pick out a few destinations near you. The icons are easy enough for my kids to ask about them, and we take the time to go learn about the different spots.
Going Global with Gowalla
I feel like Gowalla tries to do more globally. They seem focused on the international benefits of checkpointing, and I really love that concept. The world opens up for me and my children when we look at the checkpoints placed in all corners of the earth. They also did a campaign for Haiti and a little ditty for the Olympics. These posts help me explore new places and share the world from the hiking trail or in the car when it is raining.
Connecting with the World
We also love to check where our friends have been lately. We kiddingly “checkpointed” the nearest drug store, and we’re excited to see friends of ours log in and take our watermelon.
We have also talked about places where we feel a checkpoint should be placed, and discussed whether or not we should also consider placing a geocache in the same location.
Another Awesome Checkpoint Program
There are other “checkpoint” programs like FourSquare that do the same sort of thing. They also allow you to track where you have been somewhere, and it is an equally robust and fun program (and I am geeky enough to log in with both programs). Foursquare seems to be geared more to the techie side of the hobby, and marketed to adults.
Geocaching and “checkpointing” are awesome tools to help children learn about the environment, community, or historical foundation of an area.
Hunting for treasure is a real hit in our house, but learning about those treasures that surround us help us all to be better global citizens. We feel connected to our friends and to strangers we have never met, and we realize that we may all cross paths at some point.
While geocaching will always be near and dear to my heart, I am loving the chance to share the world with my kids.
Do you geocache or checkpoint? Which programs do you prefer?
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