The benefits of learning a new skill have been proven in studies again and again. Not only does challenging yourself benefit your brain health, but it can also add new levels of enjoyment to your life.
Picking up a new outdoor skill or activity can make your time outside more fun, help keep you and your friends safe, help you maintain the gear you’ve invested in, or just get your heart pumping in a new way. And this journey into the unknown doesn’t have to be intimidating! The key is to just get started; so we put together a list of resources to get your ongoing quest for outdoor knowledge started on the right path.
You might be surprised at the hobbies and skills that your colleagues, friends, and acquaintances have! No, it’s not always great to learn a technical skill from a friend that’s not an experienced teacher. However, sitting down over a beer to talk about things to consider, resources to tap into, and adventures you can have together once you’ve picked up said skill can be a great motivation and introduction to the new activity.
So reach out via social media, an office email, or start talking to everyone you know incessantly about this new skill you want to pick up. Bet you learn something new about a friend and pick up a new skill!
Whether you need to get started with basic wilderness skills - like selecting a campsite or building a fire - or are looking to get your adrenaline pumping with a next-level activity like whitewater kayaking, tap into local or regional opportunities to learn from the experts. It is typically well worth the time and financial investment to attend a course or hire a professional guide. The value of learning in person, hands-on from an expert can't be underestimated. Often, the guide or course will provide you with gear, as well, so you can try out the activity and gear before making an investment in your own equipment. There's nothing worse than spending hundreds of dollars on gear and then deciding you're just not that into an activity!
Here are a few places to get started:
- REI Classes, Outings, and Events
- Community College: Check online for your local community college’s course offerings. Many offer outdoor-focused courses that are available to anyone.
- Professional Guides: Activity and location-specific guides are available nationwide. Local outdoor shops, activity-specific shops, visitors centers, and good old Google are good places to start when you’re on the hunt for a guide.
Travel to Learn
There’s something to be said for a fully immersive experience. And if you’re always putting off taking a vacation, scheduling a trip you’re that also incorporates picking up a new skill could be the perfect motivation to take time off! From group backpacking trips to advanced mountaineering excursions, there are extensive opportunities to learn or enhance your skills while on vacation. Time to put in that time off request!
Learn Online / In Print
The idea of learning an outside skill at home on a computer may feel a little off-putting to you at first. But here’s the thing…if you’re learning something online (or via a book) at home, you can also often practice that thing at home and pause and re-watch sections 1,000 times. That way you can get the hang of setting up that tent in the comfort of your own home where no one but your loved ones can laugh at you (or does that only happen in my house?). Here are a couple of resources to get you started:
- AIM Adventure U: Online courses from the experts behind publications like Backpacker and Climbing magazines.
- Outdoor Project: Interesting resource for some how-tos, basic outdoor skills, conservation education, and outdoor itinerary suggestions.
Find a Community
Local bike shops, running stores, and outdoor retailers often host free or low-cost group outings that welcome a variety of experience levels. Don’t be intimidated to check these out! You won’t be the only one who is just starting out and it’s a great way to make a group of friends that want to spend time outside. People go to these events because they want to be part of a community; and many of them have learned what they have because of groups like this, so they’re usually enthusiastic about paying that knowledge forward to those just starting out. Plus, you'll often get to test out or rent gear for these outings if you don't already have it.
What new outdoor activity or skill do you want to learn? Tell us int he comments below!
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