The True Meaning of GISHWHES

This is dedicated to my GISHWHES teammates: past and present, good friends and new friends.

Quick intro for anyone reading this who may not know what it is. In a nutshell: The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen or GISHWHES (all pronunciations welcome) was created by actor and all around awesome human being, Misha Collins. You may know him as the Over Lord of Twitter, genius behind TSA America, or Castiel the Angel (in a trench coat) from CW’s Supernatural, the TV show. Four years ago, Misha realized the power he had over his twitter followers and combined it with his love of scavenger hunts–he was an avid participant in his college days. The week long annual (5 time Guinness record breaking) scavenger hunt has spread across the globe bringing people together from all over to form (a copious amount of) 15 person teams.

The goal: win a trip to a location of Misha’s choosing–usually some place he has really wanted to visit–with Misha and your entire team for a fun filled adventure of a life time. The challenge: complete as many items on the extensive list as possible in order to be awarded a predetermined amount of points. The catch: The items are not just things you have to find, but often things you have to create that are unique and artistic or performed. For example: Offering free hugs on a street corner while covered in jam, power washing an item that shouldn’t be power washed, getting CPR certified, donating blood, getting dressed in nothing but items found in your garage, creating the movie poster for the upcoming sci-fi blockbuster starring Misha Collins and the Queen of England, ordering fast food in Shakespearean dialog or for your adult baby in the backseat, singing to a bar full of people or in a dust storm…I could go on.

Let me summarize by saying the list is far from ordinary and completing items from it can be fun, crazy, stressful, and extremely gratifying (often at the same time).

So why do we do it? Why do we deprive ourselves of sleep, stress ourselves out to get as much done as possible and stare at computer screens until our eyes bleed? You might think I would say it’s for the prize, a chance at hanging out with Misha and claiming the title of GISHWHES champions. You would be wrong. While winning would certainly be very cool, that’s not why we do it. It’s not why I do it. This year marked my second year of participating in the hunt and nothing on this earth could keep me from participating again next year. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into in 2013 when I agreed to create a team with my friend Erin and a large part of her family and friends. None of us knew anything beyond our love of the idea and of the show, Supernatural.

We survived and came out on the other side exhausted but with no regrets. This year, due to personal circumstances, a large portion of our team was unable to participate and Erin and I found ourselves actively recruiting for a new team. This was in no way a hurdle for us. We were excited for the opportunity to be paired up with people from around the world. If you are unable to gather 15 people prior to the deadline, two teams are absorbed into each other or you receive new teammates at random to fill a couple spots. It’s this randomness that has yielded connections beyond a person’s hometown and even country.

A community has formed around this hunt made up of international members–newbies and veterans of the hunt alike. It was through this community and specifically the GISHWHES Network Facebook group, that we recruited three amazing ladies from Canada to round out our team. Where most of us already knew each other, we knew hardly anything about them, except for where they were from and that this would be their third year participating. That was in July and by the time the whole thing kicked off in August, they were as much our friends as they were teammates. We still have not met in person but there is so much that we know about each other. So many things we have in common, beyond the hunt. Because that…is what GISHWHES is about.

GISHWHES forces you out of your shell, it changes you and I can honestly say it has been for best. You have no idea the self confidence you obtain by putting yourself out there. By being unashamed of making a fool out of yourself because you’re not doing it alone. No one is an outsider because anyone can be included (active participant or not) no matter their race, gender or background. The support and camaraderie is undeniable and it’s the best feeling in the world. I’ve even formed friendships with people on other teams because that feeling is shared throughout the GISHWHES community.

It’s the unbridled kindness and passion to want to make a difference not only for yourself but for others–the true meaning of GISHWHES. You don’t have to be a returning participant to be able to share a heartfelt story about how it has changed your life. Social media and the GISHWHES website itself are flooded with stories before and after the hunt from not only Gishers (the nickname given to a participant) but friends, family, complete strangers, and first timers who were effected in one way or another by this amazing event. I must admit I’m getting a bit choked up right now, just thinking about the great things this hunt has accomplished and the countless lives it has touched through random acts of kindness. It’s a mother’s tears of joy after being reunited with a child once given up, children’s laughter brightening a hospital ward, helping to build a new life for a family in need, sending a care package to a member of the military, getting to know a homeless person enough to bring them their favorite food and spending time with the elderly in a care home. You step outside of yourself, your problems, and you commit your time, blood (literally in some cases), sweat, and tears to something abnosome (to coin a GISHWHES phrase meaning abnormally awesome).

So here’s my request: visit the website, www.gishwhes.com. Invest a little bit of time exploring all the information on this wonderful hunt. I hope this explanation does it justice. Although, I can’t imagine how it could not, when this is my own admission of how much this scavenger hunt means to me–how much its personally changed me. Regardless of whether it’s this post or the website, I hope it sparks an interest in you to join up next year. Honestly, you will not regret it and when you make it through to the other side of your first hunt, let me know. I’d love to hear all about it.

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