We’ve discussed the benefits of rediscovering the lost art of letter writing before, so suffice it to say that writing letters in your spare time can be a very satisfying hobby. You can get into the cool tools of letter writing like fine stationery and fountain pens. Fire off a bunch of letters to friends and family. At least one will write you back and you can begin a lifetime correspondence with them. Or make your letter writing really count by using a program like Pen Pals for Soldiers. Soldiers love to receive mail, so take the time to write these brave men an encouraging note. Also take a look at something like the Bridge of Hope Nursing Home Pen Pal Program. Give a lonely senior citizen something to look forward to in their mail slot.
There are a myriad of benefits to learning a martial art: gaining self-defense skills, building your discipline and focus, increasing your health, connecting with a manly tradition, and giving the warrior side of yourself an outlet. There are a ton of different martial arts out there-choosing one will come down to what you are personally looking for. Do a lot of research and shopping around to find the discipline and instructor that’s right for you. You may wish to go the MMA route and learn how to incorporate a variety of techniques into your fighting repertoire. And of course, boxing comes highly recommended. You can join with other martial artists in the AoM Community.
Nothing beats a long hike to relax, get some fresh air, and rejuvenate your man spirit. What’s great about hiking is that in most cases it’s completely free. All you need is a pair of sturdy shoes or boots and a place to walk, be it some fields behind your house or a trail in a state park. Check out trails.com to find a hiking trail near you. There are always trails where you live, even in the flattest states-I should know- I’m from Oklahoma. You might just have to drive a little to get there.
Alcohol/Cigar/Pipe Smoking Connoisseur
You can walk into the store and grab whatever whisky you recognize or is cheapest. Or can you can become a bonafide whisky connoisseur, understanding why one whisky differs from another, where each brand comes from, and which you truly like. Things like whisky, beer, wine, cigars and pipe tobacco, can be things in which you become a true expert, a man who understands the subtleties that make each brand, each vintage unique. Not only can this heighten your pleasure in consuming such things, it can also help you meet others who share a similar interest and make you a desirable friend, the man who can mix the perfect martini and share his tips on the best cigar. Pick the thing that most calls to you and start reading books and blogs about it. Go down to the local tobacco shop and have the tobaccoist show you the ropes. And of course you need hands on study! Sip and smoke until you find the gems that leave you relaxed and smiling at the end of the day.
If you’ve always wanted to pick up an art, but don’t have the painter’s touch, try photography. With digital cameras and digital editing software becoming cheaper, photography as a hobby is more popular and accessible than ever. One benefit of photography as a hobby is that you can combine other interests with it. Love the outdoors? Snap some nature photos while on your hike. Are you an aficionado of classic diners? Take a picture of every diner you visit. A vibrant community of photographers exists online and many photo hobbyists have free sites dedicated to teaching photography. Check out Digital Photography School and Strobist to find out more info on how to get started with this hobby. And be sure to join the friendly and welcoming AoM PhotoGroup
Every time I watch the The Hustler, I get the urge to walk into a smokey pool hall and become the master of the cue stick. Pool and billiards combines strategy, geometry, and oftentimes psychology in order to win. It’s also a great way to spend time and shoot the bull with your friends. If you can’t convince your wife that the game room won’t be complete without a pool table, try hitting up a pool hall or bowling alley to get your game on. A game costs a couple of bucks, more if you get hustled.
If you’re into camping and hiking and are looking for a new challenge in the great outdoors, then look no further than mountaineering. Mountaineers, well, climb mountains. Why? Because it’s there of course! There are few things as satisfying in life as getting to the peak after a grueling climb, gazing out to a breathtaking view, and knowing that you just conquered the mountain. For some mountaineering tips, check out this good article by Adam Cook.
We’ve said it again and again; every man should know how to cook. The benefits of knowing your way around a kitchen are legion-it gives you independence (no more relying on others to feed you), it saves you money over having to go out to eat or buy pre-packaged foods, it impresses the ladies, it helps you stay healthy (ever read the nutrition information for fast food?), and it’s just plain enjoyable. You’ve got to eat a few times every single dang day, so you might as well get some pleasure out of it. Plus it’s a cheap and accessible hobby to take up. You can get fancier foods and tools down the road, but with the basics already in your kitchen, some groceries, and a few cookbooks, you can send your HungryMan dinners packing.
If you think blacksmithing went extinct along with the horse and buggy, you’d be wrong. While very few men make their living these days by being a blacksmith, there are men who enjoy this craft as a hobby. For the cost of buying a nice camera to get into photography, you can take up this classic, manly and tradition-rich pursuit. Soon you’ll be building a fire in your forge and hammering away at a glowing piece of iron on your trusty anvil, just like Vulcan himself. See if a local blacksmith offers classes, as some do. Also check out this site for more info on what to expect from a class and this site to read about the experience of a middle-aged electrical engineer who took up blacksmithing as a hobby.
Some of history’s manliest men were those who conquered the skies- men like Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, and Wiley Post. You may not be setting any records, but you can still soar like an eagle. Of course, the biggest obstacle to taking up flying as a hobby is the cost. It’s expensive. Pilot lessons can run a couple thousand dollars and licensing is a few hundred. On top of that, you’ll need a plane. Some men combine their love of mechanical work with flying by building their own prop plane. But even so, you’ll need a place to store it, so you’ll probably have to pay a monthly rental feed for that as well. Despite the cost, many amateur pilots I know say it’s completely worth it just to feel that sense of pure freedom up in the air.
Every man should know at least a couple of good magic tricks to impress friends, woo ladies, and delight children. There are few hobbies as fun of the practice of magic; the pay off of having people beg you to reveal the secret will leave you with a lasting grin. Practicing a trick over and over again to make it absolutely smooth and seamless is the kind of work that doesn’t feel like work. And every man knows that the only kind of shopping that is fun is that which is done in a magic store. Finally, magic can become a new hobby for very cheap; all you really need to start is a good book of magic tricks and a deck of cards (a magic deck of cards never hurts either). You can keep working your way up to more and more complex tricks until you’re sawing your mother-in-law in half in the living room.
Learning a Foreign Language
There are few hobbies as unarguably useful as learning a foreign language. How many times have you been in a situation where you wished you could communicate with a server/student/parent/victim, but could not. And how much did you wish you could speak the native language the last time you traveled abroad? Learning a foreign language can be pretty difficult, but when you really think about it, the ability to speak two entirely different languages is pretty dang cool. Community colleges always offer language courses for a good price, or you can try an at-home method like Rosetta Stone. The key is to continually practice or you’ll never get better and retain what you’ve learned. Some libraries host weekly get togethers where people can come and practice speaking a foreign language with others. Watching movies and television and listening to music in the language you’re studying helps too.
From cribbage to poker to hearts, men like to play cards. The perfect social setting card playing creates-low key and relaxed but coupled with friendly competition-allows men to talk and hang out without it being forced. Get some cigars, have some guys over, and play for all the chips.
Writing is a manly hobby in and of itself, of course. But blogging offers its own interesting twist on this timeless activity. A blog can be an outlet for sharing something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about with other people. You can meet people from all over the world that share your interest, and you can start great discussions and online friendships in that way. Or you can use your blog to update friends and family on the goings on in your life (moms love their kids’ blogs). Or you can use your blog as your personal journal, a permanent treasure trove of musings and photographs that you can look back on in the years to come. You can also use your blog to boost your professional career, network, and build your personal brand. No matter what reason you start a blog, it can also teach you a bit more tech savvy- how to upload pictures and videos, web design, online marketing and so on. It’s the kind of thing you may not understand the appeal of before you start, but becomes addicting once you get into it.
Remember when you were a kid and you’d play war with your friends with imaginary grenades, bazookas, and bullets? Well, now that you’re a “big boy” you can play war, but this time with the experience of getting shot at with 100 mph paintballs. Trust me-it definitely adds to the excitement factor. Paintballing isn’t too expensive. For about $30 you can rent a gun, CO2 cartridge, safety mask, and enough ammo to last you most of the day at a paintball course. If you really get into paintballing you can always buy your own equipment and just pay for the cost of using a facility
En garde! What do The Three Musketeers, Zorro, and Luke Skywalker have in common? Mad sword fighting skills, of course. A sport that has been around since ancient Greek and Roman times, this is a true gentleman’s pursuit. Take part in a tradition that the knights and lords of old were schooled in, a last vestige of proper dueling. Gain balance, coordination, flexibility and focus as you learn the ancient art of parrying with an opponent. There are three different types of weapons used in fencing-the foil, the sabre, and the épée. Each has a different weight and is used in conjunction with different rules. Do some research on what fencing is really like and watch a video of a match to understand what you are getting into; it is different than the movie version with the continual clashing of swords; much of it consists of bouncing around, carefully looking for an opening and an opportunity to thrust at the opponent.
It’s Saturday morning. Your favorite team is playing on College Game Day and you’ve invited your friends over. What sort of beverage will you provide? Sure, you could go to the grocery store and pick up a 12 pack of Miller High Life, but wouldn’t it be cooler, nay, even manlier, to offer a cold one that you brewed yourself? Well, you can once you get started with beer brewing as a hobby. Getting started with home brewing is cheap and easy. Trent at The Simple Dollar provides a step-by-step photo walk-through and cost breakdown of brewing your own beer. For $35 worth of ingredients and equipment Trent was able to brew seven six packs of beer. Not too shabby. Once you get familiar with the brewing process, you can start experimenting with the flavor of the beer and make your own limited edition beer that you can give as gifts to friends.
Drawing and Painting
Winston Churchill was an avid painter. He would spend hours in his garden or indoor studio painting while smoking his cigar. It was his way of keeping the black dog of depression at bay. He understood the healthy affect having a creative outlet can have on a man. Many men give up on art because they feel they have no inherent talent for it; this may be so, but classes and practice can make you a lot better. Drawing is the most accessible art to try. A few art pencils and a moleskine will keep you busy. Painting requires a bit more set up and cost depending on the type of painting you want to do. Watercolor painting is cheaper (and easier to clean up) than oil painting. Most hobby and art stores provide drawing and painting classes. If you’re too cheap for that, you can always watch the man with the greatest white-man fro in history, Mr. Bob Ross. He’ll teach you the Joys of Painting. That’s a happy little tree…
Space. The final frontier. While you might not be able to actually visit space, you can still get caught up in its awe and majesty right from your backyard. You’d be surprised what sorts of things you can see in space with a small telescope or even a pair of high powered binoculars. If you really want to see deep into space, you’ll need to get a high powered telescope which of course will set you back a thousand dollars or so. But the payoff may come when you spot something in your backyard observatory that even the big dogs at NASA haven’t caught; amateur astronomers have made several big discoveries. And remember that astronomy is more than just looking in a telescope; it’s also learning as much as you can about our wondrous universe from books, shows, and lectures.
Genealogy is a funny thing. It’s the kind of hobby that seems really boring from the outside. But once you get into it, it can totally grab hold of you and become something you love. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but how do you know what kind of apple you are, if you don’t know from whence you fell? Every man should know and understand his roots. You’ll understand more about why you are the way you are, and why your parents are the way they are and their parents and so on. You’ll come to a greater appreciation of the people who made your existence possible. Once you start building your family tree, you’ll be amazed at the long lines that lead to you. You’re not just an isolated man; you come from a very real lineage, and your ancestors are all a part of you in some way. Start building your family tree by talking to relatives that may have already started on it and by searching free sites like Family Search.
Looking for a bigger challenge than running a 5k? Has doing a marathon become too cliche? Check out the world of adventure racing. Adventure races last all day and incorporate a variety of activities; you may have to run/hike for 10 miles, paddle a kayak down a river for 10 miles, and then mountain bike through a forest for 20 miles. And along the way you have to stop at checkpoints which can only be found by using a map and a compass. Physical activity+the great outdoors+orienteering=very manly. Check out the United States Adventure Racing Association to find an event in your area.
Knitting? Knitting?! The thing that your grandma adores and your great aunt uses to make you a scarf for Christmas? Yes, knitting. Far from the sissy activity that many think it to be, men invented knitting, and it’s time we reclaim our place in its history. Men were the first professional knitters, plying their trade in Europe during the 16th century. And sailors were the other original knitters. They would make fishing nets and sweaters to keep them warm. These days, knitting for men is making a comeback; it’s both useful and relaxing. My good friend Cameron learned to knit while on a mission in Bolivia ,and he was the only man in the knitting club at law school. And his manliness is unassailable. Be sure to watch this video about knitting and men and join your knitting brothers at Men Who Knit.
What ham radio was in the 1950s, computer programming is today. While women are making advances in the area, coding has traditionally been a male pastime. Many men have made computer programming their living, but there are millions more who have day jobs but pound out code in their spare time just for kicks and giggles. These are the people who make silly online games, useful open source apps, and cool web projects. There’s a variety of code languages you can learn. Personally, I’m fond of web programming and have found W3Schools a great resource to learn PHP, SQL, and CSS completely for free.
Inspired to take up a new hobby? Remember, starting out is always the fun and exciting part. But getting good is never as easy as you think it will be. You’re going to hit bumps in the road. Don’t make your new hobby another things you drop by the wayside and let gather dust in your closet. Good luck!
What are some more manly hobbies? What’s your favorite hobby? What hobby do you want to explore? If you’re already experienced with one of the hobbies on this list, please offer your tips for those men who are just starting out. What things do they need to know? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
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