Have you ever had that one project you could never put down? A passion that haunts you, and won’t let you go, no matter how many failures you encounter along the way?
That’s how treasure hunts have been for me.
When I’m making a treasure hunt, walking through a city looking for hidden locations in plain sight, I’m making my dreams come true.
It surprised me to realize that I have spent five years actively trying to get these treasure hunts to work. Once I made a real-life superhero to try implementing this concept on a city-wide basis, and although the project spectacularly failed, I was able to work with the idea enough that I was finally able to make a functional treasure hunt for World Domination Summit in 2014.
(Disclaimer: I also made a treasure hunt for WDS in 2013 as well, but in keeping with my RLSH character, I did it guerilla-style. It was totally unsanctioned and without permission. People still had a good time doing it anyways. You can read about that first treasure hunt here.)
While I’m out scouting for locations to hide my treasure chests, flexing my clever muscles to construct the riddles and clues that stitch them all together, I always feel more passionate and alive.
This cause for this could very well be that one of the best moments of my life was during my very first treasure hunt, when I proposed to my wife.
The Origin of my Treasure Hunt Fixation
We were living in Santa Fe, the city of Holy Faith, and I was attending St. John’s College, studying the classics while we both worked in restaurants and loved being young and in love.
I told my then-girlfriend that we had to go to campus for a half hour on Saturday, because of a meeting I had with a tutor, and after that I could drive her to work.
She got all dressed up and hung out in the parking lot for half an hour while I planted clues around the beautiful campus. I had no meeting. I had a plan.
Laying out the clues was really fun. I got my taste of climbing buildings here, because my perch to make sure that she was able to smoothly go from place to place and clue to clue was on a rooftop.
I found an idle family nearby with an adorable three year old daughter, and I asked this child to deliver the first clue to my lady. As soon as she received it, she later said, she knew I was going to propose.
The thick, rich paper was folded into a large rectangular envelope, sealed with wax. She broke the seal and unfolded the large piece of parchment to find a poem in iambic pentameter, written in calligraphy with thick, dark ink. The content of the poem was a riddle, playfully and coyly inviting her into campus, to the heart of the library, where she found an identical envelope, with another riddle. The answer to each riddle was another location on campus, and she followed this unexpected path with a grin on her face as she wandered around campus, following my clues, hunting for her prize.
We had known we would marry each other ever since we met. We both knew within a week of dating that our search was over, and we would someday find ourselves in a proposal. I had to make the event something worthy of my beautiful lady.
At the end of my very first treasure hunt, my future wife discovered me waiting by the koi pond, ring in hand, on one knee.
It took me weeks to plan it all in secrecy, along with the weekend getaway to Taos to celebrate. The car was all packed with clothes and food, and she had the night off of work, unbeknownst to her, and we got in the car and left that very moment to celebrate our formal engagement.
That was one of the best days of my life.
It was full of treasures that were not given to me, or discovered around me – these were treasures that I earned, by planning them, by visualizing them, and by making them happen.
That’s probably why I love treasure hunts so much, and why I love making things happen: because it reminds me of when I made a marriage proposal into an adventure, for an audience of one.