Be inspired to discover new pastime
Anytime is a great time to learn something new!
Do you have a secret ambition to speak Greek, make jewellery, throw a pot, grow tomatoes, knit a Dr Who scarf, build a drystone wall, take fabulous photographs, dig up the past? Or perhaps your inner adventurer yearns to learn the salsa in Cuba. Whatever it is, now’s the time to do it.
If you accept the challenge of learning something new, you’ll quickly discover the benefits that giving the brain a workout can bring.
It’s no exaggeration to say that it can be life-changing, although absorbing and enjoyable are probably more to the point. It’s great to feel you’re spending your leisure time doing something worthwhile and, who knows, you may discover a talent you didn’t know you had.
Once embarked on your quest for knowledge, you often get to meet like-minded people, and making new friends is always a joy. Any incipient boredom is staved off and with an active mind you tend to adapt more quickly to life’s inevitable changes. And last, but by no means least, the sense of satisfaction you feel when making progress is second to none, a real confidence booster.
Whether your reasons for taking the plunge (literally, if learning to swim is high on your list) are any or all of the above or to increase job prospects, for personal development or just to be happier, there’s no time like the present.
Have a go
What to learn and to what level may decide themselves, or not, but they still need considering carefully. Learn a language? Great! But which one? Where do you go on holiday most often? That may be the one. Do you feel an affinity to a specific language and think you’ll find it easier to pick up than some others? That may be the one. Take your time to decide.
Be inspired but realistic when deciding what level of commitment you are prepared, or able, to give. Dropping out is not a good feeling (despite any initial relief). Why not try a day or weekend course before committing to anything longer term? Fun and friendly, it may well lead on to bigger things if you want it to. In any case, knowledge is never wasted.
You could even combine dipping your toe in the learning water with a holiday – a relaxed state of mind, no day-to-day distractions, nothing else pressing to do. Sound good? Take a look at ‘learning something new’ on responsibletravel.com for ideas and possibilities galore. Whatever you want to do, it’s all there for the discovering.
Where to look
The internet is awash with online courses and video instruction, although that cuts out the social aspect of lifelong learning. Check for local opportunities but for more specialist activities, you may have to go farther afield. For courses in every craft imaginable, from wood turning to soap making, around the country, check craftcourses.com
Flexible in-depth learning with a degree to show for it. Most courses have no formal entry requirements, you have a tutor and student support group.
Nearly 1000 free courses produced by the Open University in eight subject areas, and you can start right away.
U3A (University of the Third Age)
Great for socialising while learning for anyone no longer in full-time employment. Join your local branch for classes and activities arranged by the members for the members.
Museums and galleries (such as the V&A)
‘Spend a weekend, a term or a whole year learning from the experts.’ Subjects reflect the Museum’s collections. Check specialist museums, too. For example, the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick (derwentart.com) runs drawing classes and workshops.
The National Trust runs courses in all sorts of subjects from gardening and wood carving to rag rugging and photography. The Hayloft Learning Centre at Knole in Kent offers a whole range of traditional skills, such as stained glass and perfume making. Look for others along the same lines.
Look at your local learning institutions to see if they offer night classes or activities that interest you.
Facebook is a great place to look for and get in touch with groups that run activities or classes near you. This means you can often see what’s been posted in the group and decide if it’s something you’d be interested in and like to have a go at before you attend.
Craft material suppliers
Many offer courses, in sewing, for example, jewellery making, cake decorating.
Learn a language
If you want to learn a language, try Duolingo (fun and free).
I look after communications and marketing at Dairy Diary. I’m a busy mum and love home baking and cooking for my family. In my spare time I enjoy visiting the theatre, eating out with friends and exploring the great outdoors!