A lot of busy people make the mistake of thinking they don’t have the time to indulge in a hobby, but in fact, a hobby is no indulgence. It’s a great way to relax, and a great way to expand your personality and skill set. There’s plenty of research to show that hobbies make us happier and healthier, and even more productive than we would otherwise be. For expats, hobbies can be especially valuable.A hobby is a great way to keep yourself busy, and also to meet other enthusiasts. Finally though, and most importantly, hobbies are just fun! And what more reason do you need for doing something than the fact that you enjoy it?
Here are a few hobbies that you might want to consider taking up, no matter where in the world you are.
With digital cameras becoming more and more accessible and affordable, photography is among the most popular hobbies around today. Of course, there’s also plenty of laughter directed at “budding photographers”, usually revolving around the fact that anyone with a digital camera can spend a few weeks shooting, create a website or a social media profile, and call themselves a photographer. However, there’s plenty of space between this and professional photography to explore as a hobby without being pompous or silly. What most people fail to realize is that photography is challenging, but if you’re up for the challenge, it’s also incredibly rewarding.
One of the best things about photography is the way it forces you to look at the world differently and pay attention to detail. For expats in particular, this can provide access to countless layers and perspectives that you would otherwise miss. Photography is a great way to record and document your new life and surroundings, and over time, you may well develop the eye and the technical skill to warrant creating a site that people will want to visit!
Origami is often overlooked as a hobby that’s either too old and boring or too difficult to attempt. However, this is not the case. When you actually get around to exploring origami, you’ll find that it is truly magical. The range of sculptures that it’s possible to create, the range of techniques and materials, the complexity and beauty of it all, is mind-boggling. Have a look at a few photographs of origami sculptures online – the realization of what’s possible simply by folding paper will almost certainly make you want to try it yourself.
As most origami lovers will attest, it’s also wonderfully meditative and relaxing. And because you start with the simplest designs, such as the classic crane, and then gradually move on to more and more complex designs, origami is much easier than it seems. With online videos to help you, origami is arguably now easier to learn and more accessible to people all over the world than it has ever been before.
Although glass painting and stained glass are often assumed to be the same, they’re actually very different. Stained glass traditionally used glass that had been colored during its manufacturing process, and then involved a great deal of complex and intricate cutting and arrangement, with some amount of painting in more recent times. Glass painting, on the other hand, is much simpler, involving only painting the glass, but can still produce some incredibly beautiful pieces of glass work.
The materials you need are minimal – glass is of course available anywhere in the world, and the paints, if they are not locally available at craft stores, are compact enough to be shipped or to carry back with you when you travel to a place where they are available. Everything else probably already exists in your house. Glass too doesn’t necessarily need to be bought – you can simply paint old bottles, glasses, jars, and vases lying around your house.
Even if you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking or who does it only out of necessity, you might want to give baking a try. Today, almost no one really needs to bake daily, which means that most people bake only for fun. You can save your baking for the weekend, as an enjoyable way to unwind and be creative. Many people find that they enjoy the physicality of kneading dough and mixing batter, and there’s no smell to rival that of bread or a cake in the oven.
However, there’s plenty more to baking than just bread and cake. You can limit your focus to cakes, cupcakes, pies, tarts, or bread, if you find that you enjoy any particular one, or else you can endlessly explore all of them. Of course, not all baking ingredients and tools are available across the world, and some baked foods depend on the climate to turn out the way they should, but the great thing is that there are always local recipes and ingredients that you can try out. Every place in the world has its own breads, as well as its own baked desserts and savory dishes. To start out, all you need is an oven and a few basic supplies.
Anyone who enjoys and appreciates good wine and beer ought to try their hand at brewing at least once in their life. The basics are simple and easy. There is of course a considerable amount of preparation, planning, and clean-up that goes into brewing, but the actual work of converting sugar to alcohol is done by the yeast. All you really need to do is add yeast to fruit juice or some other sweet, fermentable solution, and allow the yeast to do its job. From those basics, you can proceed to endless levels of complexity and experimentation.
For many home brewers, brewing turns into a lifelong passion, with constant invention and fine-tuning of recipes, and with a batch or two of wine or beer always fermenting in a cupboard, another batch or two aging, and some that’s ready to drink. You may not be able to do everything brewers can do in a place with a strong home brew culture, but for almost all the equipment and ingredients (especially if you’re making wine), there’s always a workaround, either local or DIY. For wine, for example, all you really need is fruits, sugar or honey, yeast, and perhaps lemons and tea. There’s a wonderful magic to filling a jar with a sweet liquid, and opening it a few weeks later to find that it has turned to alcohol.
When it comes to music as a hobby, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of things you can try your hand at. If the standard instruments, such as guitar and piano/keyboard don’t appeal to you much, don’t worry. There’s plenty more you can try. Consider the flute, the violin, the saxophone, the trumpet, or the mandolin. If you want something easy, perhaps you could try the ukulele or the melodica. Arguably, there’s nothing easier than the harmonica, at least as a beginner. If you like percussion but think that getting an entire drum kit isn’t practical, there are hundreds of other percussion instruments to explore, from the humble triangle to the bongo or the cajon. You won’t find teachers for every instrument everywhere you go, but with the internet, access to both paid and free learning resources is incredibly easy. As an expat, you’ll also have the opportunity to pick up local instruments – perhaps the tabla in India, the didgeridoo in Australia, or the tin whistle in Ireland.
Knitting is another hobby that suffers a reputation of being meant for old people. However, it can really be enjoyable and satisfying to play with colors and patterns, to watch your own designs come to life, and to gift people warm clothes that you have made for them by hand, and there’s no reason why anyone of any age or gender cannot experience this joy and satisfaction. Your first attempt might result in an ugly, misshapen lump of wool that you will think looked better when it was a ball of yarn. However, don’t give up. The repetitive aspect of knitting makes it wonderfully calming and repetitive, regardless of the end product itself, and besides, your subsequent attempts will improve in quality surprisingly fast.
Gardening requires a bit of space, but not as much as most people think it does. If you have a proper backyard or front yard, or any similar garden space, the possibilities are endless, and you can meet a considerable portion of your food needs with produce that you grow yourself. However, you can have a lovely little garden in your balcony or terrace space too, or even on your window sill, using containers and the right techniques. Of course, the less space you have, the fewer options you have, but you can still get great joy out of nothing more than a couple of flowering plants and a few herbs. If you have a little more space, you can try growing your own fruits and vegetables. Even if it doesn’t add up to much, it’s fun and rewarding, and nothing puts you in touch with nature like working with your hands, with soil, and with the seasons.
Everyone loves magic. Even the silliest little magic trick, if done well, can dazzle you and put a smile on your face, no matter how old you are. If you have the time to spare, why not dabble in a little sleight of hand? Of course, to simply call it sleight of hand is to undersell magic. When you actually look a little carefully, it involves a wide range of tricks and techniques that rely on a lot more than mere sleight of hand. Great magic is a wonderful melting pot of sciences including physics, chemistry, and psychology, and various elements of art. And again, like so many things in the 21st century, all you need to learn the basics is an internet connection.
Woodworking, like gardening, needs a bit of space, but not as much as you’d expect it to. With a bit of planning and adjustment, it’s possible to do quite a lot even within the rather limited space that you’ll find in most apartments. Today, you may also be able to get access to “maker spaces”, which are becoming increasingly popular across the world. At a maker space, you’ll get access not just to the space, but also to tools that you might otherwise not have the space or money for, and to people with more expertise and experience than you. In the meanwhile, at home, you can stick to a minimal setup, with saws, drills, and some other basic equipment for working, for cleaning up, and for safety. You can start off with simple projects, like making tables and stools, which don’t require a lot of space, tools, or expertise, and then advance to more complex, long-term projects as you gain experience and confidence.
Bonus: Contributing to Wikipedia
Here’s a bonus hobby that you can take up when you feel you’ve reached a level of expertise in your chosen hobby. Contributing to Wikipedia is extremely easy, since the technical aspects are intuitive enough to be picked up by anyone with a basic familiarity with computers. In terms of the actual writing, don’t worry too much if you’re not a writer. There are other people who can contribute that aspect and clean up your work. What you can contribute is your expertise – fact-check entries on topics that you’re familiar with, fill in the gaps, expand entries where appropriate, provide references, and provide your own images if you can. Especially for hobbyists who use Wikipedia and other online resources when they’re starting out, this is a great way to later give back, once they’ve attained a certain level of confidence and expertise.
What’s your favourite hobby? Are there any here you’d like to try? Let us know in the comments!