In a pandemic rut? You’re not alone. Rather than whiling the hours binge-watching your favourite Netflix docuseries, why not get around to finally picking up that new hobby you’ve been putting off? Especially with travel and movement restrictions in place, embracing a new pastime is a fun and socially responsible way to let your mind discover and explore curiosities, despite being physically locked down.
From portrait photography to stargazing, we’ve curated 10 new hobby ideas you can pick up from home. The best bit? Most of these are completely free and can be easily learnt from the comfort of your home – all you need is plenty of curiosity, perhaps one or two tools and a stable WiFi connection, of course.
New Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” has certainly sparked a new surge of interest in the boardgame; since the show’s debut in October last year, chess sets have reportedly flown off the shelves and chess gaming apps have also seen a spike in downloads. If you too are looking to hone your chess-playing prowess much like the show’s protagonist Beth Harmon, learn everything from the basics to tricks of the trade through the free beginner-friendly tutorials on online chess communities such as Chessable or chess.com. This highly cerebral pastime is not only great fun but has been said to improve overall brain function.
2. Candle making
Love candles? Why not try your hand at making your own? With people spending more hours cooped up at home, it’s no surprise to learn that demand for home scents such as candles, essential oils and diffusers have soared this year. Rather than purchasing one, create your very own candle through an online candle-making workshop by Singapore-based boutique Sally‘s Room or this Skillshare class. Just be sure to have some soy wax and a suitable jar at your disposal and you’ll have your very own homemade scented candle in no time. (These will also make for some thoughtful gifts the next festive season!)
3. Photography techniques
Upgrade your hastily shot smartphone vacation photos by mastering a few basics of photography in your down time. Arguably one of the easiest classes you can take virtually, photography is a useful skill to have in your repertoire. The good news is that there is an endless array of resources available online, from YouTube channels by professional photographers to paid-for classes. For a more structured learning experience, look to Coursera’s Photography Basics course (in partnership with Michigan State University) that dives into basic photography techniques such as exposure, ISO, light metering and more, or stream this free short course on shooting via manual on Udemy.
4. Take up a new language
While globetrotting seems implausible for now, learning a new language might be the next best thing for the travel starved. If you’re not quite ready to commit to an in-person class, free apps like DuoLingo gamify language-learning through flash cards which you can easily play on the go. Aspiring polyglots can choose from any of its 38 languages, which include Spanish, French, Korean and even High Valyrian. Once travel is back on the cards, book a vacation to your destination of choice so you can practice (and hopefully impress) the locals with your newfound language skills.
5. Learn the basics of a foreign cuisine
Trying your hands at a foreign dish sounds a bit daunting – but with the right coaching, you can trust that you’ll be in good hands. If, like us, you adore hummus, shakshuka and all things Middle Eastern cuisine, you’ll love this Masterclass by James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi. In his meticulous and easy-to-follow video tutorials, the Israeli-born chef teaches the basics of contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine and shows how to cook everything from hearty mezze platters (variety of appetisers) to berry labneh (a creamy yogurt cheese dessert), with tips on the art of presentation in the mix. With all these new recipes under your belt, the only thing left to do after is to host your own themed and intimate dinner party.
6. Wine appreciation
If you’re a self-confessed oenophile, might we suggest a wine appreciation course? Learn the basics and practices of how grapes are grown and how wine is made through this World of Wine: From Grape to Glass course by the University of Adelaide or discover all about the famous Bourgogne wines through this engaging online module courtesy of Burgundy’s regional wine board. After the course, you’ll be able to confidently and accurately describe and identify wine appearance, aroma, flavour and taste. Now, pass the wine glass.
7. Urban dance
Countless studies have suggested that dancing is a great way to elevate your moods and reduce stress which – let’s face it – we could all use right now. Depending on what type of dance you’re keen on trying, there are a slew of virtual classes that will help you find your feet. For urban dance style workouts, we love US-based Steezy Studios’ incredible library of video classes, which run the gamut of hiphop and krump to breakdance and jazz funk and has options for both beginners and advanced dancers. Each hosted by incredible instructors, their videos allow you to loop moves, control speed and switch views so you can accurately follow the choreography.
8. Tie dye
Got a spare old tee or canvas bag lying around? Give them a new lease of life with a tie dye makeover. You can learn this fun craft via various workshops available online – like this Skillshare class which walks you through creating your own hand-dyed pouches or bags with a traditional Japanese shibori technique, a manual resist dyeing process. This elaborate, multi-step activity is the perfect way to occupy time and something you can rope the little ones in too. All you’ll need is a shirt, some dye, gloves and ties, and you’re all sorted.
The common stereotype is that knitting is for the older folks, but there are actually plenty of benefits when you pick up the skill. Besides allowing you to exercise your creativity, it’s also known for its health benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety, improving focus and concentration, and slowing down the onset of dementia. If you are only just picking it up, don’t fret. You can find tons of online classes everywhere, including on Udemy and SkillsShare. Another alternative is Sheep & Stitch, a YouTube channel that teaches you the basics of stitching, hacks to fix mistakes and tutorials for different patterns.
You don’t need fancy fountain pens or expensive Tombow brush pens to learn calligraphy. When first starting out, all you need is a pencil and a sheet of paper. There are tutorials available for you to hone your skills, whether it be on YouTube with AmandaRachLee, SkillShare, and more, including a very useful website dedicated to learning calligraphy complete with resources. Calligraphy has a myriad of methods and styles, as elaborately shown in this online web tutorial, so don’t be afraid of getting it wrong on the first try. You’d be impressing your friends with handmade cards in no time.
This article was originally published on 8 Dec 2020 and updated on 24 May 2021.