Years ago, when I owned an ad agency, we had a rule when people went on business trips. While you were away, you were supposed to do something you’d never done before. My one and only helicopter ride took place on a business trip to Atlanta. I remember visiting a comedy club in Huntsville, Alabama, eating stone crabs in South Beach, dancing till dawn at an underground club in Berlin, snorkeling off the reef in Key West.

Karla finds the hidden letterbox.

Karla finds the hidden letterbox.

Over time I’ve abandoned that rule for myself, but I still thrill when I encounter something new when traveling. Today I’m down in Key West for the Literary Seminar with my friends Judy and Karla. Karla, it turns out, is an avid letterboxer. She took me with her to find one of the hidden treasures.

Apparently letterboxing works like this: People hide little boxes all over the world. Letterbox finders carry with them personalized rubber stamps. A letterboxing website tells you how many boxes  are hidden near the place you’re visiting; in Key West, there are currently nine. You can print out clues for finding the boxes. When you discover one, you open it, stamp your stamp in the enclosed notebook, write the date and any comments you’d like, then carefully replace the box so other people can have fun finding it.

You’re not supposed to reveal the clues or whereabouts of the boxes, so I won’t tell you where this letterbox was. (I will say, though, that we had to chase away one of Key West’s ubiquitous chickens before we could approach the hiding place.)

The guardian chicken.

The guardian chicken.

Karla found several letterboxes in Key West, and a geocache box as well (geocaching is something of the same animal, except that you use GPS coordinates to locate the boxes).

We’ve talked about making a letterbox to leave for other people; I don’t know if we’ll get around to doing that (it’s cold and raining right now, so not too conducive to hunting up outdoor spots). But I’m looking forward to finding a letterbox or two next time I’m in Paris.