Think back to a day when you were free, when time was all just relative and money was no concern. Think back to your early childhood. What was the first thing you wanted to do every day? Ride your bike? Play with friends? Watch cartoons?
When I was a kid, I loved to draw. I loved to read. I could ride my bicycle for hours. This was my happiness.
As I got older, I thought my interests should be more mature too. I thought I should like wine and fancy food, skiing and art museums, and it used to bother me that I didn’t. Over the years though, I’ve come realize that I don’t have to like something just because everyone else does or because I’m supposed to “at my age”. I hate wine. I’d rather have a Coke. I cringe at the thought of going into a museum but I could live at the zoo. I still love McDonald’s, children’s books, and television. I bike. I garden. I read. I write. I cook. And I am happy.
Left to my own devices, I’m drawn to hobbies that are simple and cheap.
Here are a few of my favorites.
I’m an avid reader (though not as avid as I used to be). I’m not burning through a book a week anymore but for at least a few minutes every day, I try to read something – a book, a magazine, or a blog. It’s good for the brain and it’s relaxing. For Christmas one year, I received a Kindle Fire – quite possibly the best gift ever – and now it is the only way that I will read. With the receipt of this one gift, the world was reopened for me. You see, I’m not germaphobe but I absolutely can’t stand a used book. They smell funny and God only knows whose bathtub or toilet they’ve been around. With Kindle, I can read library books again. I can read old books. I can read new books. I can read FREE books…scores and scores of FREE books. Every day, I search Amazon for freebies. Just type in your topic of interest – mine are usually travel, simplicity, minimalism, happiness, and off the grid living – and sort by price. You’ll be surprised at the number of quality e-books you can get for nothing more than a few minutes of your time.
I’ve read that swimming is probably the most beneficial workout for the entire body. That’s all well and good but I’m not a swimmer. I’m more of a water-frolicker. I love the water so much that I moved to Florida just to be surrounded by it. For about nine months of the year, we can swim in the ocean or in our pool (sadly, it’s not heated).
Letterboxing is probably my most favorite hobby. It’s active. It’s cerebral. It’s cheap. It’s just plain fun! All you need is an ink pad ($1 at Dollar Tree), a notebook (we use printer paper in a 3 ring binder), a rubber stamp (or even just a pen will do), and a sense of adventure.
Back in 2013, I met a woman who had just started letterboxing. She was so enthusiastic about it that I ran right home and looked it up (www.atlasquest.com). We’ve been hooked ever since.
Letterboxing is a worldwide scavenger hunt for grown-ups. Boxes containing rubber stamps and logbooks are hidden or “planted” in parks, along trails, in cemeteries, or even in urban downtowns. Clues to the boxes are online. Once a letterbox is located the finder uses the stamp inside to mark their journal and leaves a print of their signature stamp in the box’s logbook. Before we had a signature stamp, I just signed our names in the logbook. Angie and I are “Operation Pinecone” and our signature stamp is…you guessed it…a pinecone. Most letterboxers carve their own stamps but we were lucky to have ours made for us by another letterboxing couple. We met them at a box one day and they offered to carve our stamp for free. You can’t beat that!
Since there are stamps hidden all around the world, we can easily tie letterboxing to another of my favorite hobbies – travel. We’ve searched for letterboxes in 7 states so far.
Because we’re minimalists, it is very easy to travel frugally. I won’t go into the whole spiel about how reducing responsibilities increases spendable income and frees up valuable time to do the things that really matter. You know that already, right?? Anyway…about travel. I’ve found that the key to traveling cheap is simply to do your research. There are no magic websites that will do it for you (despite what some may claim). I keep a list of places that I want to visit and start by finding the best time of year to go. For me, that’s usually the off-season, when things are cheaper and there are fewer tourists. I also look for cheap flights by making my own connections and I try to stay in a house, apartment, or campground instead of a hotel. The rates are usually better and I can prepare a lot of meals there, saving even more money.
Paddling and Pedaling
Since I originally made this post almost 2 years ago, I’ve discovered (or rediscovered) a few new interests right here in my own neighborhood – biking and kayaking. We’re fortunate to have access to two free bike share programs. One is here in our apartment complex. The other is operated by TEAM Punta Gorda. They have loaner stations in six locations in Punta Gorda, FL. On several occasions, we’ve “rented” bikes and cruised the waterfront, taking along a picnic and our camera to capture the great views.
Paddling is not a free hobby but it hasn’t been all that expensive either. Living near the water, there are plenty of rental agencies around; some that charge as little as $10 per hour. However, when we fell in love with paddling, we bought our own equipment. Last year, we spent approximately 50 hours on the water and went everywhere from Don Pedro Island (Placida, FL) to the Orange River (Fort Myers, FL) and lots of points in between. The best part of paddling for me is the peacefulness. Very rarely do you have the opportunity to sit almost right on top of the water and watch a manatee or a dolphin swimming beside you.