On never growing up, or why you should do GISHWHES

I always assumed there would be some point in my life where I finally felt grown up. When I reached that age, I would no longer feel the need to jump in puddles, or giggle at fart jokes, or build pillow forts. I would read nothing but Serious Literature and I would know what kind of wine to drink with what kind of meat and I would dust my house on a regular basis.

Well, I’m 33 years old now, and I don’t think that point is ever going to come.

Frankly? I’m thrilled.

Oh, I’ve learned to manage my life now in a way that would have stymied 17-year-old me. I can get almost any stain out of clothes, I can manage a budget, and I can kill the spiders in the shower. (Seriously, spiders? I’ll rescue you if you’re in the house, but if you’re in the shower, I’m going to drown you without mercy. You cannot live in places where I am naked.) Nevertheless, I haven’t lost the childlike joy in simple pleasures, and I’m not above making a fool out of myself in the name of fun.




GISHWHES, which stands for “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen,” is a world-record-breaking scavenger hunt hosted by Misha Collins. Teams “scavenge” items by photographing or videotaping scenarios on the 150+ item list, which is posted on the first day of the week-long hunt. Past items include the artistic (A portrait of Chris Hardwick from the Nerdist made entirely of dried fruit), the kind (You and a friend seated side-by-side, donating blood or platelets), the difficult (You, dressed as the Flash, in any actual, operational particle accelerator), and the absurd (Attend a ballet or “spinning” class in full SCUBA gear). The winning team of 15 is taken on some amazing trip – this year’s winners will fly to King’s Landing in Croatia for a pirate sailing adventure.

When I participated in GISHWHES last year, I wasn’t sure what the week would be like, but from the moment I heard about it, I knew I wanted in. I had the week off from work and went absolutely crazy – I put a tank top on a rooster, dressed up as a nun on a rope swing, made an American Flag out of Redvines, folded a paper crane in a rainstorm, and, yes, visited an actual particle accelerator dressed as The Flash, among several dozen other items. My team didn’t win, but I had more fun that week than I’ve ever had in any week, ever. (It narrowly beats out my honeymoon because I spent two days of that seasick. Sorry, husband.)

A rooster wearing a Gishwhes tank top. Snazzy.
A friend’s rooster wearing a Gishwhes tank top. Snazzy.

What really resonated with me was the childlike exuberance of GISHWHES. Here was an event that said it was okay to break the rules of normal, to try crazy things and make the world a better place. I asked ridiculous favors of friends – and complete strangers – and they obliged me! Better yet, they had fun doing it, and they thanked me for including them. It was truly a life-changing experience.

There are hundreds of testimonials on the GISHWHES website about how it helped participants overcome social anxiety and have an impact on their families and communities. For me, GISHWHES was a reminder that growing older doesn’t have to mean growing up. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, to forget that life is full of joyous possibilities. If you’ve lost your childlike exuberance and you want to get it back, then you should consider breaking out of that rut with GISHWHES.

At the time I post this, GISHWHES registration ends in less than 2 days. Go visit the website, watch the videos, read the details, and maybe – maybe – sign up for what could be the greatest week of your life. In the words of a tweet from last year’s GISHWHES Twitter feed, “You are not who you think you are. Act accordingly.”


Update: since this post was linked by Misha Collins, a ton of you have visited. Thanks for coming, and please leave comments! I love hearing from you. Tell me about your hopes for Gishwhes or why you also never want to grow up.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy “Why I’ll Always Get My Hopes Up” and “Why I Stopped Writing Bitches.” I also write saucy books if you like that sort of thing.

15 thoughts on “On never growing up, or why you should do GISHWHES

  1. Wow, that was beautiful. Now I am especially looking forward to experiencing this event.
    Stay young, friend.

  2. Misha Collins just tweeted a link to this! Congrats! Brilliant article <3

    1. I am new to this. I want to get involved somehow. I am from Michigan and I don’t know how to find a group here. Can anyone help? Thanks!

      1. You can register as an individual and be placed on a random team, but you can also join a existing team. Lots of teams are trying to fill their empty sports before registration ends. I recommend you follow the #gishwhes hashtag on Twitter, where lots of teams are posting. You can also search the tag on Tumblr or “The Gishwhes Network” on Facebook. Good luck!!

  3. Im in my 40’s now and my parents have asked me will I ever grow up my answer was NEVER.
    This is my first time doing GISHWHES and I a little nervous but looking forward to it. Not sure how much I will be able to do as I am disabled but I vow to do my best

    1. The list is so varied, I’m sure there will be plenty you can do – probably more than you’re able to get done in a week! That’s always the challenge. I hope you have a great hunt, and thank you for commenting!

  4. I loved this post! This is my first time doing GISHWHES, and I’m so nervous and excited and counting the days and it’s an incredible mix of feelings! The hunt week haven’t even started yet, but GISHWHES is already the reason why I know people literally from 14 different countries, so it was already worth it. Anyway, I hope we all have a wonderful and fun week 😀

    1. I love meeting people from all over the world through GISHWHES! And we know we all have a common lunacy, which is so much fun.

  5. This is a great blog post, really inspirational, but some of these items seem impossible, especially in the space of a week. How did you get access to a particle accelerator? There are only a few places in the country where there are ones. Did the winning team actually accomplish all 150 items or did they accomplish the most? Even with a large team, this seems very intimidating.

    1. Well, it’s important to note that all the items have point values, and you can earn up to 50% bonus points for creativity and excellence in your submissions. So it’s not at all about doing the most, but doing the best with whatever you complete. Also, judging is totally subjective: no one ever finds out how many points anyone got, including the winning team or your own team. It’s about challenging yourself, having fun, and learning that few things are really impossible. When the list is posted, it ALL seems impossible. Some items require you to be in a specific place (like Ayers Rock, Australia, or the Copenhagen City Hall) and getting those items is about networking and dumb luck. But most of the items can be done anywhere. Over the course of the week, even the impossible somehow becomes possible.

      Regarding the particle accelerator: I thought there was no way I’d get that. I called MIT on Monday morning and they said no (their government contracts make them a security risk), and that people had been calling all morning! But then upon perusing the list of particle accelerators, I realized that RPI isn’t far from me, and when I called them and explained what I was doing, they said “Sure!” I even got a two hour tour. It’s crazy how many people are willing to help just because they were asked.

  6. so do the submissions have to show an actual team member? For example something in a distant country… now if I and/or other members of my team are able to network between people we know to have someone able to be or do or complete whatever it is, I’m guessing that if at least one member of the team is not there then it probably doesn’t count?

    1. Generally, the submissions from other parts of the world don’t need a team member in them. At least, they haven’t in the past. So you can use your network and try to get someone to capture it for you. The spirit of the hunt, though, would say that you don’t want to outsource the rest of your items. If most of your pictures are done by other people, then it’s not really in the spirit of things, but some networking is fine. Happy hunting!

  7. […] the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. I’ve written about GISHWHES on past blog posts. Gishwhes requires me to make a lot of very strange phone calls. For Gishwhes, I’ve called […]

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