Buddhas In Phnom Penh Cambodia
Just For Fun | Sabbatical Inspiration | Travel Tips

9 Benefits of Travelling as a Hobby [+ Tips List]

There are many benefits of travelling as a hobby from seeing amazing new places and understanding different cultures to a personal feeling of accomplishment and even learning a new language.

Let’s start off with the basics though:

Is travelling a hobby?

100% it is.

The dictionary definition of hobby is ‘an activity someone does for pleasure when they are not working’.

So if you travel for pleasure whilst you are away from one, you can absolutely consider your travel as a hobby.

Bonus points for those who geek out on research, follow fellow travellers on social media and read travel books and stories in their spare time!

Hobby Definition
Credit: Cambridge Dictionary

In this article, I’m going to cover some of the benefits of travelling as a hobby as well as linking to my favourite posts that contain great tips for helping you make the most out of your trips.


1. Understanding Different Cultures

Buddhas In Phnom Penh Cambodia
Buddha statues, taken in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Mark Twain

One of my favourite reasons for having travel as a hobby is being able to immerse myself in different countries and cultures rather than seeing them on screen or reading about them in a book.

I’m not trying to claim for one second that spending a week in another country teaches you everything about the place (I’ve lived in Australia for two years now and have barely even scratched the surface) but I certainly feel it gives me more understanding and appreciation of a culture than never having visited.

When I can talk to people, live alongside them, shop in the places they do and feel out of my comfort zone in their world, it begins to help me realise some of what is important. I often quickly realise how little difference there is when all is said and done, we all want a happy, healthy family, somewhere safe to live and a decent meal at the end of the day.


2. Seeing Amazing Places

Monk At Angkor Wat
A monk inside Ankgor Wat

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”

Aldous Huxley

Whilst I don’t completely agree with the quote above (see my commentary piece on Medium here) I do agree that the only way to truly comprehend the amazing places on Earth is to see them with your own eyes.

It’s easy to be an armchair traveller or documentary discoverer, forming an ‘expert’ opinion based on books and photography, but the only way to really understand is to be there.

Flick through all the photos of Angkor Wat you want, but it’s not until you go that you appreciate its size, see the detail of the bas-reliefs, smell the incense blowing through ancient corridors or feel the humidity that the gets held inside the huge sandstone buildings.

So, maybe not everyone is wrong about other countries, but you simply won’t know until you visit for yourself,


3. Meeting New People

Travelling As A Hobby Friends
Taking a cooking course in Thailand

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”

Tim Cahill

My Instagram account is absolutely filled with people who I’ve briefly crossed paths with whilst travelling and my phone book has the numbers of a few that have become more than just people we’ve passed on the way.

Whilst most don’t become lifelong friends, the colourful characters we meet on the road become part of the stories we tell for a lifetime.

To the Thai teenager who quizzed my wife and I for nearly two hours as we all waited for a delayed train, asking us questions to help improve her English, including such killers as ‘why exactly do you love your wife?’ and ‘what is your favourite thing about her?’. Just a tad awkward.

To Clay, who we followed around the Thakhek Loop in Laos, sharing travel stories over an evening fire.

To Sara and Miguel, with whom we spent three hours doing a cooking course in Thailand and laughing so hard that it felt like we’d known each other for years.

To all of you, and the hundreds of others we’ve met, thank you.


4. Learning a New Language

Funny Signs Thailand Metro
Seen on Bangkok Metro

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ok, so a straight up confession here, I speak one language, and that’s English…

…and there are some who would argue I haven’t exactly mastered that yet.

But, if you are someone who’s learning a new language, travelling as a hobby can really help you out by immersing yourself in exactly that language you’re hoping to learn.

A friend of mine has moved to Germany and it’s amazing how quickly he’s picked up the language now he’s surrounded by it. He does everything to accelerate his learning, from watching The Simpsons in German through to changing the instructions and menus on video games into the language.

I made a similar move abroad, but mine was to Australia, and whilst I’ve got really good at ‘how ya going’ and ‘too easy’ it’s not exactly a second language to add to the CV.


5. Self Reflection

What is 'real' travel?
A man looking out of the window at Pak Khlong Station in Thailand

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Henry David Thoreau

There is a lot of time for self reflection when travelling.

Being away from a normal routine and with ample time waiting at stations and confined to transport, the mind naturally spends time wandering.

Honestly though, rarely have my reflections been life-changing, more life-affirming. I feel like I understand myself better, think more clearly and have a desire to slow down. I reflect on how grateful I am for what I have, how much I often take my family and friends for granted and what I wonderful country I grew up in.

I know for some, they asay travelling has changed their life forever.

It never has for me.

As they say…

If an ass goes travelling, he’ll not come home a horse – Thomas Fuller

For me, the self-reflection of travel is more a renewal, a chance to think long and hard about things I don’t get the time to at home and come back fresh and ready to go again. It’s why I prefer taking sabbaticals to quitting work completely, the time away invigorates me to carry on improving.

Read my full post on this topic: Reflections on a Sabbatical: 3 Months Later


6. Accomplishment

World Map

“A map says to you. Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not… I am the earth in the palm of your hand.”

Beryl Markham

I get a real sense of accomplishment from travel, in fact it’s probably the biggest thing that makes travelling a hobby for me.

Filling in the map, adding another country to the list, it really feeds my collecting and completion mentality.

That’s not to say I’m going JUST to fill in the map, but it is part of the reasons I choose to visit new places rather than go back to the same ones again and again. I want to try and see a bit of all of them.

It’s also the reason I tick off UNESCO World Heritage Sites as I travel. Not only do I know they are always incredible places to visit (in fact it’s one of my biggest tips for other travellers) but I also love keeping a total of how many I’ve made it to.

READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC:
My Personal Country Total
How Many Countries Are There To Visit? (It Might Not Be What You Think)


7. Becoming Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Damage To Toyota Hilux In Laos
Smashing up a hire truck on the Thakhek Loop. Definitely an uncomfortable moment

“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.”

George Bernard Shaw

“When you travel remember that a country is not designed to make you comfortable, it’s designed to make its own people comfortable.”

Clifton Fadiman

We only learn when we are stretched, when we are at the edges of what we feel comfortable doing.

And one of the biggest things I’ve learned from my travelling hobby is how to feel comfortable being uncomfortable and how to worry less about things that are out of my control.

The feeling of being in a new country where you don’t speak the language, don’t know anyone, don’t have anywhere to stay or any idea where or when you’re going to eat.

That’s uncomfortable.

But it’s also strangely liberating.

Weirdly, when life is cut back to the real basic human needs, all the more complex worries of emails piling up, deadlines that need meeting and workplace conflict seem so small and unimportant.

As someone who’s suffered with anxiety all my life, the anxieties of surviving in a new country seem far less than the more trivial problems I experience every day at work.

My body and brain adapt, I keep occupied and quickly learn how to survive outside my comfort zone.


8. Keeping a Record

Keeping A Record Of Travel
Tapping away at my laptop beside the Grand Palace in Luang Prabang

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

Oscar Wilde

We’ve already spoken about filling in a map, but there are other ways of keeping a record if you travel as a hobby.

Some keep a beautiful journal or travel diary, others take photographs and put together big glossy books when they get home.

I like to buy a Lonely Planet guide and bring home a wooden carving from each place we go to. We have a wooden bear from Croatia, a wooden shark from Seychelles and even a wooden ribbiting frog from South Africa

If you want to go to even more extreme measures, you can even start a travel blog like I did.

It’s a lot of work, but I love it and it forms a permanent record of our travels around the world and brings in some extra income.


9. Re-Appreciating Your Home Country

Travelling As A Hobby Appreciating Home
St Paul’s Cathedral in London, right beside my old office

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

G.K. Chesterton

The quote above says it far more articulately than I ever could.

One of the things I get most from travel is that, on my return, I have a new-found appreciation for my home country.

The longer I’m away, the more I feel like a tourist in my own land when I return, the more I notice the buildings and landscape I’d gone past hundreds or times before without noticing and the more I appreciate everything from local pubs to my friendly corner-shop owner.

If a hobby is an activity done for enjoyment, than travelling as a hobby gives a dual benefit – the enjoyment of travel itself and then the enjoyment in a new-found love of your home country.


BONUS: Travelling as a Hobby: Tips to Make the Most of Your Trips

Below I are links to some of my favourite articles that will help you to make the most of travel as a hobby:

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