In England, letterboxing is old news – more than 150 years old, in fact – but I only heard about it for the first time (from two different sources) in 2007. It may be gaining more popularity because of its close relation to geocaching and the many recent books and movies about puzzle-themed treasure hunting (The DaVinci Code and National Treasure are the most well known of these, but Michael Stadther’s A Treasure’s Trove is more closely related to letterboxing.) For whatever reason letterboxing is gaining a foothold here in the U.S., the idea of it appeals to me and my frugal nature.
Letterboxing involves finding clues on the Internet (if you’re in North America, look for them at letterboxing.org) and following them to a hidden waterproof box containing a rubber stamp and a logbook. Letterboxers use the stamp to mark their own personal logbook and stamp the logbook with their own handmade stamps. Boxes are located in public places (usually state parks and similar outdoor recreation areas), and anyone can create and place boxes, writing their own clues for others to find them.
Letterboxing appeals to me for several reasons. For one, it reminds me of all the fun I had as a Girl Scout. Making a personal rubber stamp (following directions linked to the above-mentioned site) and hiking through the woods seems like something I might have done at camp had my counselors known about letterboxing at the time. Letterboxers, like Girl Scouts, know how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life – the satisfactions of crafting something with their own hands, solving puzzles, discovering new places and taking in the beauty of nature.
I also like that letterboxing is inexpensive. For the cost of an eraser, a pencil, a notebook, and some carving tools, you can make your own letterboxing kit (A compass and map are also helpful, but even those expenses are small compared to the cost of the GPS equipment required for geocaching). Incidentally, even if don’t want to try letterboxing but enjoy card making and other activities that generally use expensive rubber stamps, learning how to make your own rubber stamps is worth a visit to some letterboxing websites.
Letterboxing also seems to be a great way to teach children some principles that will help them be frugal and responsible adults. By taking children letterboxing, adults can demonstrate that adventure lies not only in expensive extreme sports and trips overseas, but also in a trip to the local park. The children learn that the free things in life are often the most memorable and enjoyable. They learn to be resourceful (by making their own stamps) and to share their skills with others (by making and placing letterboxes and clues). Letterboxing also teaches thinking and navigation skills and provides an opportunity for parents to talk with their children about conservation and taking care of both natural and man-made resources, an idea that saves money in addition to helping preserve the environment.
Image courtesy of thewoolleyman