So, what’s your favourite hobby? It’s a question you might expect from a doily-loving great-aunt, or worse, the world’s most boring Tinder date.
The word itself can conjure up visions of coin collecting, knitting padded coat hangers or playing Dungeons and Dragons – while unashamedly loving every nerdy moment. (As a child this writer collected business cards, until discovering latch hook and the edgy art of making pom-poms).
Maria Yebra, general manager at Laneway Learning, says when she hears “hobby” she thinks of “an ’80s dad doing stamp collecting in the basement type thing”.
But when it’s de rigueur to post your handmade macramé creation on Pinterest, crochet your own mini cacti or head out for a spot of swing dancing, one thing is clear: hobbies are hip. Hipster, even.
Laneway Learning, which runs “cheap, fun classes” on everything from hula hooping to opera appreciation, hosted about 10,000 students in Melbourne alone last year. The most popular included classes in hair braiding, silver ring making and activities revolving around mindfulness.
“I feel like a lot of people are looking for hobbies these days,” says Yebra. “It’s becoming cool again.
“Hobbies have always been there, but there is an intentional push for recovering time for ourselves and the things we like to do – whatever it is, from fishing to knitting.”
Yebra says many people are also attracted to the idea of doing something physical, rather than just staring at a screen. “In my crochet classes a lot of people come because they want to use their hands more, they want to learn something that they can create with.”
So if you like the thought of having another interest in your life, but can’t think of anything new to take up, where do you start?
Yebra says this was part of the reason Laneway Learning was established – to allow people to try something new in a casual, inexpensive way and point them in the right direction to continue if they enjoy it. “A 75-minute class is definitely not enough to learn a hobby, but that’s the whole point.”
After all, there’s no point paying for a term of pricey guitar lessons or a 10-week course learning the basics of French if you’re going to hate it after week one.
Of course many skills can be learned via your computer these days, but Yebra says learning in real life is different. “There’s something about learning face to face with other people and learning a skill with other humans around you, and asking questions and laughing.”
Gabriella Torrisi, co-founder of Melbourne Salsa, believes hobbies, in this case, dancing, are vital in a world that’s become socially disconnected.
“With everyone on their phones, iPads and computers, hobbies like dancing are bringing back the social, emotional, physical and spiritual interaction that we all need to thrive and survive,” she says.
Torrisi says salsa, and a growing number of Latin dance styles, are extremely popular.
“It’s a happy, fun environment, great exercise, very social. A gateway for self-expression,” says Torrisi. “The music is addictive and you are learning new skills all the time.
“For some people some hobbies can be intimidating, but it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone.”
Most people go to classes solo, but quickly relax and get into the groove, she says.
Yebra believes that with work taking up so much of our time and brainpower, it’s good to have a hobby purely for enjoyment – for the sheer pleasure of learning.
“I think hobbies … they kind of bring back parts of you that you might have buried that you really like,” she says, noting that she hopes it’s a sign we’re growing tired of just watching TV.
“Whether it’s using your hands or creating or flower arrangement or just thinking out of the box, solving problems, all these skills are actually really good for life in general.”
At the very least, it will give you something to talk about on that Tinder date. Sooooo, how about that macramé?