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Travel Hobbies: 8 Reasons to Find a Project to Work on While Traveling

If you were home, you wouldn’t regularly work from early morning to late at night, right? Despite this, many travelers pack their travel days from dawn to way-past-dusk with itineraries, transfers, and to-dos. Long-term travelers know that to avoid travel burnout, travel itineraries need to leaves space for rest and some non-travel activities. For sustainable long-term travel, self-care through play is even more important.

Why travel hobbies can help us make friends in hostels, pass time in airports, and prevent burning out during longer travel.

Why Having a Travel-Friendly Hobby is Self Care:

Standard Your Mileage May Vary disclaimer: if you’re headed out on a short trip- or traveling in a young, healthy body you may find yourself able to sustain a busy travel schedule for your whole trip. For others, learning how to take a break while on the road is travel critical self-care. (which maybe isn’t such a big deal if you have a certain trip length or have age/health/fitness/energy to sustain more, but standard YMMV disclaimer)

Find a travel-friendly hobby. For me, it’s drawing and painting (used to be a lot of on-site sketching and then watercoloring in cafes or back in my bedroom but now I’m all digital on a tablet). If you want to still be social, pick up a handicraft: braiding bracelets, or carving little figures with a cheap pocketknife bought on location, needlework, etc. It’s something to do, it’s still very social (may actually invite new friendships), and if you get good it might be a way to make a bit of $$ on the road.

1. Travel hobbies can help you make friends while traveling

Hobbies are interesting, easy to talk about, and a way for people to bond. Often, a hobby or interest can be a point of connection between strangers who might not otherwise have anything to talk about.

Travel hobbies can help us make friends in more tangible ways too: making small trinkets while traveling and giving them away to people you meet in hostels or on tours can be a way to break the ice and create a positive connection between you and other travelers- potentially leading to connection, conversation, and maybe even new travel friendships.

2. Travel hobbies can you make money to fund travel

If you are particularly good (or practice enough to become good) at your travel hobby on the road, you can potentially make a little money to fund more travel by selling your creations. You might be able to sell braided jewelry or carved soap figures to fellow hostel guests or even sell small drawings or bracelets to other tourists in areas that don’t require a vendor license to join a street market.

Handmade necklaces spread on a blanket, near a traveler with jewelry making supplies.
This fellow traveler in Chile had an assortment of handmade jewelry to sell while making more.

3. They can help you avoid travel burnout

Travel itself can feel like a full-time job. Itineraries, planning, and the pressure to see and do everything can be overwhelming. Over time, even many professional digital nomads get burnout on traveling (that’s one reason that slow travel is growing in popularity). Even though it might be difficult to give ourselves permission to rest and not spend every moment of our trip doing and exploring, it’s important to take breaks- a travel hobby can be a helpful way to occupy your hands and your mind while you give your body a chance rest.

4. Travel hobbies help pass time

Seasoned travelers know that in-between visits to majestic vistas and awe-inspiring monuments is a lot of waiting. Travelers may spend hours each week in airports, train stations, and various lobbies or lines. A great way to pass time in any of these situations is with an easy-to-carry and lightweight hobby like bracelet weaving, braiding, embroidery, wire art, journaling, or sketching. Each of these activities can be done in an airport lounge, on a moving bus or van, or even in a line to get into an attraction- All without adding much weight to your daypack.

5. Travel-Friendly Hobbies can give your body a rest

The physical exertion of exploring and the mental exhaustion of navigating a foreign-to-us culture can be exhausting for our physical bodies. Travel hobbies can help us give our body a break while stimulating our minds with a not-travel related task like writing, painting, braiding, wood carving, or even checking in on an online game with friends back home (a great way to stay connected)

6. Travel Hobbies = Creative Travel

Travel hobbies can be helpful for travelers because they help prompt a more creative, embodied engagement with your travel. You may not be able to imagine forming a fond memory of waiting in an hours-long line for the Gallery de Academia in Florence or the Louvre in Paris, but I do. Why? Because during that time I had to pause and wait, I invested the time in creating something I love: Doodles and sketches scribbled in a notebook while standing in those lines help me recall fondly what it was like to be in that particular place in the world at that particular time creating something that was uniquely mine.

7. Travel crafts make amazing souvenirs

Hobbies are a great way to create inexpensive and totally unique souvenirs. While mass-market souvenirs tend to look-alike from destination to destination, things that you made yourself (perhaps using materials sourced in your destination or inspired by something you saw during your travels) are unique and meaningful. Travel crafts can help you create an object that you can display with fond memories of your travels.

A tiny handmade weaving being held up on a beach.
A tiny weaving made on a beach with locally sourced materials.

8. Having a Travel Hobby Makes local Markets more Interesting

Have you ever wandered aimlessly through an open street market or famous bazaar and thought, “This is amazing, but I don’t really need anything?” Having a hobby we enjoy while traveling can turn wandering aimlessly through a market into an all-out treasure hunt.   A craft or project can generate motivation to “hunt” for new or unique supplies- an enjoyable pursuit for those of us who enjoy the thrill of the hunt. Knitters might scour open markets for unique fibers or textiles, while artists can look for the next perfect sketchbook, pen, or paintbrush.

Some examples of travel hobbies include

  • Travel journal writing
  • Wire art
  • Wood carving (*it goes without saying that traveling with pocket knives is challenging, but using small knives or cheap knives that can be replaced as often as needed may be an option)
  • Painting, sketching
  • braiding or weaving bracelets
  • Embroidery
  • Knitting or crochet
  • And more! Drop a comment below to add to this list.
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