If you’re anything like me, you spend way too much time on a computer. For travelers, it’s almost compulsory. Between coordinating travel logistics, checking local events, and trying to keep up with the rest of the world, it’s a necessity. Sometimes, though, we need to unplug.
Travel hobbies are a great way to do that, but they can come at a disadvantage while you’re on the road. After all, you can’t exactly fit your entire model airplane construction kit into your backpack. That rules out some hobbies, but not all. Take a look at some travel hobbies that are a perfect fit for backpackers on the road.
1. Sketching / drawing
Any form of art draws (see what I did there?) on reality. Even if you’re just starting out, throwing a pencil and a sketchbook into your bag can open the door to a new travel experience. Find a cafe, a market, or a quiet street and practice your lines.
Because resources are easy to replace, sketching and drawing has a low barrier to entry. Fill up a sketchbook? Send it home and buy a new one. Lose a pencil? You can probably find one lying on the ground somewhere if you look hard enough.
Geocaching is analogous to a global game of hide and seek. Someone hides a container and posts the coordinates online. Your job is to locate the container. When you do, you can sign the log book inside and trade nicknacks left behind by other players.
While geocaching requires cellular data or a GPS device, it’s definitely worth the investment if you like to explore every nook and cranny during your travels. Some of the most popular geocaches will take you to scenic overlooks or unique areas off the beaten trek, and these are places that you might not have discovered on your own.
3. Writing / journaling
If you want to remember the raw experience of your trip, make a habit out of writing it down. Keep a daily journal. Highlight events, make notes, go crazy. Write a story, and base it on your experiences while on the road.
Journaling is like a time capsule, and will probably have the longest lasting impact, as far as travel hobbies go. If you take the moment to make a note of your experience, you’ll remember more of the details when you look back years later. Your emotions and thoughts color your writing, and when you’re looking back on the past, that flavor may be just as important as the trip itself.
Easily the most dangerous of the travel hobbies. When traveling with a book it’s easy to get sucked into the story so much that you skip your traveling adventures to read the next chapter. Books are relatively lightweight (provided you didn’t pick up some coffee table book that weighs a metric ton), easy to transport, and durable. Plus, they’re a great way to stay connected on a deeper level to the world around you.
Reading Arthurian myth while traveling through the United Kingdom, or diving into the European classics can connect you to a culture more deeply than crowded streets, tourist hotspots, and street vendors.
And when you’re done with a book? Leave it behind and pick up another one. Book exchanges are great for this (as are hostel bookshelves).
Making a difference on the road is as easy as signing up for it. If you want to make friends with the locals or really get a feel for a place, volunteer for a few days and see where it takes you. There’s always someone to help, no matter what part of the world you’re in.
If volunteer work is your thing, there are entire programs built around providing volunteer opportunities for folks who like to wander. Check out WOOFING, summer volunteer programs, and national programs, like the PeaceCorps.
Preparing an amazing meal is one of the only travel hobbies to make immediate friends who love you more with each bite. If you’re staying a hostel or traveling with a group, knowing your way around a kitchen is a great way to make yourself invaluable. Everybody’s gotta eat, after all, and if you can make meals on the cheap, you’re everyone’s hero.
Recipes don’t have to be super complex, though you’ll win extra points with a complicated meal, rather than a bowl of rice. Just makes sure you’re not always footing the bill for the ingredients — and set out a tip jar, just in case.
My preferred pastime, modern origami is more than paper cranes, planes, and boats. It’s a puzzle of folds and creases designed to transform ordinary paper into extraordinary shapes. Not only does origami challenge the mind, it’s one of the few travel hobbies I’ve found that makes for great gifts.
As with the other paper-related hobbies, origami paper is pretty easy to transport. If you need larger paper, fold it in half (precisely half!) before packing it away. A certain subgenre of origami utilizes paper money as well, which makes it easy to keep folding resources on hand — unless you spend it!
8. Martial arts / working out
Staying in shape is more about commitment and while some might argue that traveling means it’s impossible to work out, those dedicated to their health would take issue with that. You can find a gym in most major cities, or utilize parks and bodyweight training to create an efficient workout with minimal gear. As far as travel hobbies go, working out without gear means an optimized routine with minimal luggage. I’ve been known to take a single tension band with me when I travel, and that’s it.
If you’d like to flavor your workouts with a little culture and practicality, consider training in local martial arts styles while you travel. The idea isn’t to gain rank, but to get a solid workout in, and — if you’re a connoisseur of combat arts — find the unique differences in each martial style.
The quest for rare and unique items is a great way to add value to any place you visit. The one caveat to collecting is that the size of what you collect matters. coins, rare books, and unique clothing are easy enough and can add new dimensions to any trip, but larger you’ll likely have to ship larger objects home if you can’t live without them.
Both watching and participating in sports is a great way to make friends on the road. Maybe you don’t care about rugby, but you can tag in for a game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Knowing the rivalries or the cultural pastimes in an area is an easy way to connect with locals in a new region. Whether it’s ice hockey or football, following a team is a great way to strike up a conversation.
This article first appeared on Hello, Summers and is reposted here with permission.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
100,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
100,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points