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Most people think of hobbies as something you do at home.
Playing guitar, woodworking, or painting — these are things you leave behind when you step on the plane, right?
Not so fast.
Many normal hobbies can be turned into travel hobbies.
Traveling hobbies make travel even more fun. And if you’re on the road long term, they can keep you sane. One of my backpacking hobbies even helped me meet my wife while abroad!
So, whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or are planning your very first trip, choose one of these awesome travel hobbies to take your adventure to the next level.
Table of Contents
Epic travel hobbies for every type of traveler
Most of the best travel hobbies can be broken down into four categories:
- Creative hobbies
- Adventurous hobbies
- Cultural hobbies
- Travel-related hobbies you can do at home
You can skip to the section that looks most interesting to you. Or better yet, choose one hobby to pick up from each category.
Creative travel hobby ideas
Travel is an excellent way to unleash your creative side. Best of all, most creative travel hobbies are easily portable, making them the perfect outlet to document your adventures.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Everyone loves some fun holiday snaps, but if you really get into it, photography can change your entire travel experience.
You don’t need to invest loads in a fancy camera (unless you want to). Most recent smartphones are more than enough to get started. Use what you have, and don’t let a lack of professional equipment stop you from starting.
Sketching is like photography on steroids.
Snapping a photo of a beautiful mountain is one thing. But enjoying its majesty for extended periods, focusing on all the details while carefully drawing the scenery—now that is a landscape you’ll never forget.
Don’t expect masterpieces as a beginner. Your first drawings probably won’t be anything to write home about.
But even if they’re ugly, they’ll still be special. Plus, practice makes perfect.
When just starting, it can be tricky figuring out what to draw and how to practice. If you’re feeling “artist’s block”, search for drawing idea inspiration online.
Start by carrying a simple pencil and sketchbook in your backpack. If you get hooked, you can upgrade to other art supplies.
Alternatively, you can carry an iPad (or other tablet) and make digital sketches.
A journal is a traveler’s best friend.
Disciplining yourself to write every day isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. I like to quickly jot down the events of the day, but more importantly, write out my thoughts and feelings connected to those events.
Over the years, these memories start to fade. And if you have a journal full of all your adventures, you can relive them whenever you want.
You can up your travel journal game even further by adding in sketches, artwork, watercolors, and even unique souvenirs (e.g., boarding passes, postcards, etc.).
In addition to my personal journal, I also carry around a “Friend’s I Meet” journal. Whenever I make a friend, I ask them to draw a picture of the memory we had together, then sign it.
It’s one of my most prized possessions.
4. Videography and blogging
Videos capture the moment better than photos. There’s no question about it.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons we started our Youtube channel. We were trapped on a remote Cambodian island during the pandemic, and we wanted a way to relive our adventures when we’re old and wrinkly.
One thing led to another, and now our channel earns a nice passive income each month — Win-win!
The same goes for this blog. It started as a hobby, and eventually morphed into an awesome travel-friendly job.
But even if you never earn a cent, you can use a blog like a versatile, virtual journal.
You can add images, videos, journal entries…whatever your heart desires (although you’ll want to leave out private details). And unlike a physical journal, you won’t have to worry about losing it or getting stuck in an unexpected rainstorm.
This definitely isn’t the most portable traveling hobby. But if you can cope with lugging a small musical instrument with you, it can certainly be one of the most sociable.
If you’re musically inclined but aren’t keen on hauling around an instrument, you’ve got options.
Why not hire a local music teacher to give you lessons on a traditional instrument from the region? This can be a fantastic way to immerse yourself in a culture and practice your language skills.
If playing music isn’t your thing, you can still turn music into a travel hobby. For example, when in Cali, Colombia — the Salsa Capital of the World — hit up a salsa show like Delirio. Or if you’re headed to Vienna, consider a night out at the opera.
Look for opportunities to experience the local music scene wherever you go.
Outdoor travel hobbies
Got a taste for adventure? Whether you’re an adrenaline junky or simply love getting out in the fresh air, these outdoor travel hobby ideas will spice up your trip.
What could be simpler than going out for a walk?
Even if your idea of a “hike” is just a stroll around the neighborhood you’re staying in, you’ll be surprised what jumps out at you when you’re exploring on your own two feet.
But maybe a leisurely traipse through the local market doesn’t cut it for you.
Some of us are crazy enough to spend hard-earned vacations sleeping on the ground out in the wild. There’s nothing quite like wondering whether every small noise you hear is a hungry animal looking to chew on a meaty hiker.
If you fall in love with hiking, it may turn into even more than a hobby. Many travelers plan their entire itineraries based on trekking opportunities.
This is especially true in the United States, where there are an estimated 57.8 million active hikers. This is no surprise considering the vast hiking infrastructure and stunning national parks.
But international hiking trips are also popular with adventurous travelers.
We traveled to Chile with the sole purpose of hiking the O trek in Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Was it the most comfortable travel experience in the world? Definitely not.
We almost starved to death. My wife cried daily. And a stomach bacteria in the water gave me the squirts for three weeks.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.
Tip: Don’t forget to download offline maps like Google maps and Maps.me before you go traveling. Google maps once saved me from getting lost in the desert! AllTrails is another must-have for hikers.
Kayaking is one of the most underrated travel hobbies.
You obviously can’t pack a boat with you in your backpack. That’s silly.
But you can rent them near many touristic bodies of water.
It’s an awesome way to experience beautiful scenery from a different perspective.
You can also choose different levels of adrenaline — from hardcore whitewater canoeing and kayaking to lazily floating around a calm lake.
If you’re lucky, you may even bump into some cool animals along the way.
8. Wildlife watching
I never appreciated wildlife watching until I started traveling.
Growing up, my only experience was school field trips to the zoo (which in retrospect is a little depressing). But spotting wild beasts in their natural environment is a whole different ball game.
Whether you’re bird-watching in Colombia, safari-ing in Africa, or exploring untouched nature in the Galapagos Islands, mashing travel with animals is a great way to give purpose to your trip.
You could even make a bucket list of all the animals you want to see in the wild, then choose your destinations based on where you can find them.
Diving opens up a whole new world to explore when traveling — the underwater world.
This is a traveling hobby I recommend everyone try. The longer you wait to get your diving certification, the more destinations you’ll miss where you could have gone scuba diving.
Two of the top (AKA cheapest) to get certified are Koh Tao, Thailand and Roatán, Honduras. I did my Open and Advanced certifications back-to-back on Koh Tao, and I can’t recommend it enough. My travel partner loved it so much that she seriously considered switching career paths to become a scuba instructor.
So this hobby could potentially turn into a full-fledged travel job.
That said, it’s not for everyone — it can be a bit stressful for some people — but you’ll never know until you try.
Just watch out for sharks (Kidding! …kind of).
If scuba diving intimidates you, you could also try your hand at snorkeling and free diving. Sometimes you don’t need to go deep to see awesome stuff.
Stargazing might well be the easiest hobby on this list. Ever looked up at the night sky? That’s it, you’re stargazing!
There’s more to it though.
If you take the time to understand what you’re actually looking at, it’s pretty fascinating, especially for space nerds (myself included).
When you travel to different parts of the world, you see different constellations. To help you identify them, you can use free apps like Star Chart (there’s a bunch of similar apps as well).
To take it to the next level, travel to destinations known for little light pollution. Once you get an unpolluted glimpse of the Milky Way, it may even inspire you to try your hand at night photography.
Cultural traveling hobbies
Cultural hobbies help you immerse yourself in the local culture. Instead of thinking of them as hobbies, think of them as a foundation for your travels (which begs the question, is traveling a hobby in and of itself? Hmm…). After all, if you don’t get a taste of the local culture, why bother traveling across the planet in the first place?
11. Language learning
If you can only choose one cultural hobby, this should be it.
Learning the basics of the local language is your portal to unique, unforgettable opportunities.
Sure, you can probably survive with just English, but it’ll be a superficial cultural experience.
Even the most broken attempt at speaking the local tongue will endear you to the locals. It allows you to venture to areas where English isn’t commonly understood, and that’s where the best travel memories are made.
Make it a goal to learn the basics wherever you go. Greetings, numbers, foods, directions, bartering skills (“That’s expensive! How about __?”), and of course, how to ask for the bathroom.
To learn even more, consider taking lessons in your destination. I once did a 5-week homestay with a local family in Guatemala while taking daily lessons. Immersing myself made my Spanish “click”, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.
Nowadays, this is my go-to travel hobby. I never expected it to be, but as I passed through Cali, Colombia, I figured it’d be a waste not to take a salsa class while in the Salsa Capital of the World.
That one class turned into two. Which turned into several hundred, property investments, and the love of my life.
Now we scope out the salsa scene wherever we travel. We’ve even started planning trips specifically to learn different dance styles (tango in Argentina, bachata in the Dominican Republic, etc.)
It’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in a culture, make friends with locals, learn a new skill, and stay fit on the road.
Don’t be the traveler who flies across the globe just to eat the same chicken wings and pizza you can get at home (unless you’re in Italy, perhaps).
Eating traditional food from different countries can be your travel hobby.
In fact, many travelers have built successful blogs and Youtube channels doing exactly that — traveling to new places with the sole intent of tasting all the yummy foods.
And it’s not all about yumminess. It can also be an adventure.
Maybe you make it your travel goal to try all the most “exotic” foods — crickets, spiders, alligators, frogs. This obviously isn’t a vegetarian-friendly hobby, but these experiences always turn into crazy stories to share with friends and fam.
If you’re traveling with friends, it’s also fun to all choose something different from the menu without knowing what it is.
Eating at small local joints can feel intimidating, but they often have some of the best, most authentic food. Just make sure to choose a place where you see a lot of locals eating. If it’s empty, think twice.
And if you’re not quite that adventurous, you can also find food tours that will take you to all the best spots — places you’d never find alone.
Cooking is one of the best backpacking hobbies — and you may even pick it up without even trying.
If you stay in hostels with communal kitchens for long enough, you’re guaranteed to meet travelers from all over the world with mad cooking skills.
When you see someone whipping up a delicious-looking dish, it’s the perfect excuse to introduce yourself. You’ll not only add a new recipe to your repertoire, but you’ll also add a new friend.
Apart from hostels, you could also make it your hobby to take cooking classes in each country you visit. During my very first backpacking trip, I took a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai — and I’m still using some of those cooking skills six years later.
15. Collecting cool stuff
There’s nothing quite like trawling through the local markets and shops in different countries. You never know what you’re going to find.
Souvenir hunting (in local markets) not only requires you to dip into local culture, but you’ll also come away with a cool travel do-dad that forever reminds you of your trip.
You can visit markets without knowing what you’ll find. Or you can hunt for a specific type of item. For example, my wife used to always buy picture frames from each destination. Now we have nowhere to store hundreds of picture frames, so we switched to magnets.
Another family member collects license plates from each destination, which make cool decorations.
Unless you choose a small item, souvenir collecting is best for short trips. If you’re traveling long-term, it’s best to either (1) save your shopping until the end, or (2) give gifts to friends you meet along your journey.
16. Wine tasting
If you’ve got “finer tastes” (I’m not sure why people say that), you can mix wine and travel for a buzzing hobby.
I never really appreciated wine until visiting the Concha y Toro vineyard near Santiago, Chile. It was quite fascinating.
And no two vineyards are the same.
Then, whenever you buy a wine from a certain region, it’ll remind you of your trip.
The pandemic threw a wrench in many of our travel plans. Fortunately, there’s plenty of travel-related hobbies you can do at home to inspire and prepare you for your next adventure — whenever that may be.
It can be hard to throw away travel memorabilia like ticket stubs, receipts, and foreign money you forgot to exchange. Some people call it hoarding. I call it nostalgia.
If you’re inundated with bits of random travel paper, scrapbooking might be your thing.
It’s an awesome hobby to unleash your creativity to design beautiful memory books of your adventures.
Nowadays, most people just have hard drives crammed full of pictures they rarely look at. But a scrapbook on your coffee table is a surefire way to keep your experiences fresh in your mind.
If you share them with house guests, you may even inspire them to take an adventure of their own.
If you can’t go there just yet, reading about a destination is the next best thing.
In fact, it’ll even enhance your experience once you are able to travel there. It allows you to experience a destination at a deeper level.
For example, when visiting Cambodia, I read a heartbreaking book about the Khmer Rouge genocide.
Whenever we were traveling overland by bus, I looked out at the countryside and could imagine everything that happened there back in the 70s.
Whether you read history books or fictional tales based on a certain destination, it’s bound to inspire your next adventure.
19. Planning your next trip
What better way to get over the lockdown blues than planning your next trip?
A recent study shows that travel planning during COVID lockdowns reduced stress and increased happiness among respondents.
Even if the trip is a year away, simply the act of planning and anticipation can boost your mood.
Heck, you don’t even have to book anything. Simply researching different destinations and dreaming of the places you could go and the routes you could take can be enough to cheer you up.
That said, if you’re itching to get out of the house, a short getaway to a nearby town or attraction can give you the same feelings. You don’t have to jetset across the world for an adventure — there are plenty to be had in your own backyard.
20. Learning outdoor skills
You don’t need to go any further than your backyard to unleash your inner Bear Grylls.
Upgrading your camping chops is a great way to temporarily scratch the travel itch. And when you do finally get the chance to travel, you’ll be armed with skills for a new type of adventure.
To get your feet wet, find a hiking trail near your house that allows backpacking. Stock up on outdoor gear — a lightweight tent, sleeping pad, cookware, etc. — and head out into nature for the night.
If you’ve never done anything like that before, it might be best to rent or borrow gear. Then if you like it, you can invest in your own and eventually work your way up to longer, multi-day treks all over the world.
Meditation is a hobby that will benefit anyone who tries it.
It’s the perfect antidote to the unpredictable times we live in. It also can enhance your travels.
Meditation teaches you to be more mindful. It’s the practice of living and experiencing the moment.
So instead of going through the motions in life, you start to become more aware of each moment — the feel of the ground under your feet, the cool breeze on your forehead, the smell of fresh pine in the forest.
You can bring this new awareness into your next trip for a more fulfilling and memorable experience.
Which traveling hobbies are right for you?
Odds are something in this list that stood out to you.
If not, you may just be overwhelmed with options (or just hard to please).
In that case, just choose one and get started. Sometimes you never know you love something until you try it.
That’s exactly what happened to me with salsa dancing. Before traveling to Colombia, I didn’t even know what salsa music sounded like.
But after stepping out of my comfort zone and taking some classes, everything changed. I not only stumbled on a lifelong travel hobby I can do while traveling the world, but I also scored a smokin’ hot Colombian wife <3
If you’re stuck, just choose something your current destination is known for. If you’re in a hippy town, try meditation or yoga. If you’re on an island known for diving, grab your scuba certification. And if you’re ever in Cali, Colombia — hit me up so we can hit the dance floor.
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered — where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
His advice has been featured in Forbes, USA Today, Yahoo, MSN, Reader’s Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, and more.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).