14 Awesome New Skills to Learn in 2024

With a New Year come new possibilities

As we move further into 2024 there are all sorts of opportunities to learn new skills.

Whether you want to become a sommelier or professional photographer there’s a world of new skills out there to master and I’m here to spur your imagination.

This is a list of 14 awesome new skills to learn in 2024.

Here we go!

Photographing birds at Whitewater Draw in southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Learn photography

Photography is a lot of fun and it’s also a valuable skill.

Whether you want to start with just learning the basics of snapping better photos on your smartphone or are looking to upgrade to a professional camera, there are many wonderful resources to become a great photographer.

I recommend starting with this list of helpful articles:

2. Start a stamp collection

Nowadays it’s all about text messages and e-mails but back in the day people sent these incredible things called letters. And to send them they used stamps.

Stamps are actually very cool and collecting stamps teaches you so much about history, geography, and the world.

Growing up my uncle got me into stamp collecting and I just loved getting packages of stamps from him and fitting them into the stamp collecting book.

It’s easy to get started in just a few simple steps. You don’t have to buy expensive equipment to enjoy this hobby. Some simple stamp-collecting accessories will serve you well.

You’ll need some stamps to get started but it makes sense to spend more on stamps and a lot less on equipment than vice versa. The basic equipment I recommend includes:

  • A pair of stamp tongs or tweezers
  • Magnifying glass
  • Stamp albums
  • Hinges (small gummed strip that’s used to fix a stamp to the page of an album)
Wine tasting at Black Hills Winery near Oliver, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Become a sommelier

You know what would go down really smooth right now?

A nice, classy, delicious glass of wine! Red, white, rose, you name it!

If you want to take it up a notch, learn the art of being a sommelier, a professional wine taster who is also an expert in pairing wines with food and grading them.

Even if you don’t do it as a job it’s an impressive skill to have.

Are your taste buds tingling? I have some articles on wineries, wine regions, and wine tasting:

Truth BBQ in Brennan, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Start smoking

Another excellent skill to try out is smoking. I don’t mean cigarettes or cigars, of course, I mean food!

Smoking meat is a stupendous skill and the result is mouth-wateringly delicious meats. You will need a smoker but it’s well worth the money and the variety of flavors of smoke you can do is amazing.

You don’t need a decade of practice to get the hang of smoking but it’s more demanding than a round of grilled cheese. First, there’s the heat—you’ll want the temperature low over a long period. And then there’s the smoke—you need to keep it smoking for hours.

In addition to hardwood and charcoal, you’ll also want:

  • A culinary brush used to swab meat with sauce
  • A mop, a tool that looks like a miniature mop that is used to apply sauce
  • A rib rack (if you plan on smoking ribs)

I expect to be invited over later to share in the tasty treats.

Check this out to learn more: Texas BBQ: By Meat Alone

5. Write a blog

Blogs are very rewarding and interesting and almost anyone can write one!

As for the subject matter think about what you love, hate, find funny, or what makes you unique.

Then write, video, and post photos about it on your blog. Readers will start coming and taking a look at what you’re up to.

6. Start journaling

Keeping a journal is something I’ve done for years.

But I will say that the journaling I have done has been rewarding and helped me get my thoughts in order. There’s just something about getting your words on the page that helps clarify various situations, thoughts, and even dreams.

Here are some tips for starting and keeping a journal.

7. Find inner peace

Inner peace is underrated. When you feel good about yourself many things fall into place and even those aspects of life which are kicking your ass stop crushing you so badly.

You get back in the driver’s seat of life refocus on what’s in your control and rediscover that inner peace that’s so vital to survival and thriving.

Inner peace is a skill we could all use more of, 100 percent.

Take up knitting © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Knitting

Knitting is nifty and you can learn it in no time flat.

Whether you embark on an ambitious project like knitting a sweater or something simpler like a small scarf, knitting is an enjoyable and absorbing activity. Try out knitting and see how it goes.

9. Become a biker

One of the best exercises you can do is bicycling. For less than you think you can be outfitted with a mountain or road bike, a helmet, and a nifty backpack to go on short trips.

Then head out into the fresh air and enjoy our beautiful planet.

Get started with cycling today.

10. Practice better planning

Planning is a skill that ties all sorts of other skills together. When you get better at planning you get better at…well…everything.

There are simple things like keeping an agenda, various online scheduling tools, making a vision board, and more but there are also techniques and mindsets which will help you plan more consistently in your life.

Here’s an excellent guide on planning a cross-country road trip.

11. Pick up healthy habits for longevity

Having a few good days is enjoyable but having a life of healthy habits can add years to your longevity and make the time you have on our planet all the more amazing.

Picking up healthy habits for longevity isn’t just about exercise, a healthy diet, and breathing well, either. It’s also about healing and owning those difficult emotions and experiences that challenge us in life and optimizing our mental and emotional health.

Let’s call this self-actualization.

12. Learn to canoe or kayak

If you want to learn to canoe or kayak your best bet is to go to an outdoors or boating store and see if they offer lessons and rentals.

By the way, I have a post on Exploring National Water Trails.

Horseback riding in Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Learn to ride a horse

Equestrian sports are an excellent hobby although they can add up in price.

Having said that, going for a trail ride and learning basic horse riding is not necessarily that expensive. If you have a love of the outdoors and have always hankered to try out horse riding there are all sorts of opportunities to try it out and see what you think.

Look for a paddock near you that offers trail rides.

Spend time in nature © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Spend time in nature

There’s nothing quite as healing and spiritually revivifying as spending time in the great outdoors. Listening to the loons out on the lake and contemplating the horizon or walking a quiet forest trail as shafts of sunlight danced between the trees has a kind of magic that nothing else can match.

Nature has been linked with the divine and with spiritual regeneration since the earliest days of humankind and it’s still a place of refuge and peace every day for people all across the world.

As Taoism founder Lao Tzu put it: Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

An amazing insight for all of us to ponder!

Worth Pondering…

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

—Les Brown

Rainy Day Camping Activities for Adults

Don’t let the rain ruin your camping trip. Here are the best rainy day camping activities for RVing adults.

Rain, rain, go away,

Come again some other day,

We want to go outside and play,

Come again some other day,

Even as an adult, that nursery rhyme always pops into my head whenever it rains. Especially when we are camping and all we want to do is go outside and recreate!

But with over 25 years of enjoying the RV Lifestyle and lots of rainy (and a few snowy) days, we’ve learned how to keep ourselves entertained on days when the weather is not cooperating with our original itinerary.

I’m going to offer numerous ideas on how to spend a rainy day while camping plus some links to help you make the most of these ideas.

I’ll start easy but don’t expect all of these activities to be lounging activities—they’re not! Sure, rainy days are a great day to relax but that doesn’t mean you have to be completely inactive.

Savannah is the setting for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Read a good camping book (not just any book)

Now I know you may think this isn’t original advice but reading a book is a go-to rainy-day camping activity for good reason. There’s something about the pitter-patter of rain that helps you immerse yourself in the pages of a good book.

I will point out, too, that I said you should read a good camping book. Not just any book! 

A good camping book will transport you to another world while keeping you connected to your current travel experience. It will help inspire and motivate you to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors as soon as the rain lets up. That’s why I highly suggest you keep at least one of these great books to read while camping at the ready on every road trip.

Here’s a few to get you started:

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer
  • Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Into the Wild by John Krakauer
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Watch a good camping movie (again, not just any movie)

That’s right, not just any movie—a good camping movie. As I said about books, you should choose a movie that keeps you immersed in your travel experience. That way, you still get a taste of adventure even if confined to your RV. 

To make it easy for you, I’ve made a list of 10 Iconic Road Trip Movies. This list includes a WIDE RANGE of movies bout life on the road. I researched the history of road trip cinema and chose 10 of the most iconic films in which people drive across the U.S.

Speaking of movies, I have posted articles on film-making in various regions of America. Here’s a quick sampling:

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Invite camping neighbors over

No matter the size of your RV, you could always invite fellow campers over. Whether you squeeze inside or tuck under your awning, it’s always nice to gather together on a rainy day.

Plenty of campers will agree that one of the best rainy-day camping activities is playing games. So, invite some people over and have a game night! Or, rather, a game rainy day!

This brings me to my next rainy day suggestion…

4. Host a championship game day

Forget game NIGHT. Host a championship game day! Whether you invite your camping neighbors over or play at your travel party, games are always fun on a rainy day.

But don’t get stuck playing the same game for hours. Instead, organize an impromptu championship series where you play various games to determine an ultimate winner.

Since every person has different strong suits, this style of game day levels the playing field. Each player can pick a game and then the person who wins the most games is the champion.

You can pick standard board games or card games or you can get creative with different challenges. 

There should definitely be a prize for the champion, whether it’s a silly homemade trophy or an inexpensive gift for RVers.

Truth BBQ, Brenham, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Cook up some comfort food

Comfort food and rainy days go hand in hand! Whether you’re curling up to a good book or movie, doing crafts, or playing games, comfort food is the perfect complement to all the activities on this list.

6. Camping puzzles and adult lego

What can be more relaxing than working on a puzzle while listening to raindrops hit your RV roof? If you think it’s not practical to do puzzles in a bumpy RV that you move from campground to campground, you’d be (happily) wrong!

You can use a roll-up puzzle mat to preserve your progress until you finish!

And I’m a big fan of crossward puzzles. As well as a rainy day activity, it helps to keep ones brain active as we age.

And on that same note, what about 3-D puzzles? Yep, I’m talking about Lego! Lego aren’t just for kids anymore.

Like the puzzle mat, you can use an organizer box to stay tidy. As an RVer, you might consider the following:

  • Lego Volkswagen Camper Van
  • Lego Wildflower Bouquet
  • Lego Birds Model
Journaling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Journaling and scrapbooking

Another great rainy day camping activity is journaling and scrapbooking. It’s the perfect time to sit down and catch up on your recent experiences on the road.

If you want to be prepared for such a rainy day, you can check out my Guide to Journaling.

Some of the journals have prompts, while others give you plenty of space to write freely. 

8. Unique crafts and related activities

Doing arts and crafts is one of the best ways to keep yourself busy while being stuck inside on a rainy day. You can draw, paint, knit, quilt, leatherwork, carve, or even color. You can also enjoy many different activity books from crossword puzzles, sudoku, and miscellaneous games.

Okefenokee, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Plan your next RV road trip

There’s no time like the present to plan your next RV trip especially if rain is keeping you from enjoying your current one. If you’re stuck inside, you might as well make good use of your time and start planning your next adventure whether it’s reworking your current itinerary or starting a new one.

I have lots of articles about planning a great trip but I recommend starting with The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Cross-Country Road Trip.

Or, you can take the opportunity to review some of my tried-and-proven road trip guides. That way you only have to decide where to go next rather than plan the whole trip yourself.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Go out in the rain

Just because it’s raining, doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! It doesn’t mean you can’t hit the trail or enjoy what you had planned for the day regardless. (As long as there’s no thunder storm, of course.)

Rain is just water, after all. You’re not going to melt. Like they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. 

So, whip out your camping poncho, put on your Tilleys hiking hat, and slip on your waterproof shoes. Get out there and see how the world looks different under its cover.

Jump in puddles if you will, turn your face up to the sky, and enjoy the rain!

Worth Pondering…

The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.

—Ray Bradbury

Guide to Journaling

What’s the deal with journaling? It seems like everyone’s talking about it, yet there’s this foggy understanding of what the practice actually entails.

Journaling is not just a little thing you do to pass the time, to write down your memories—though it can be—it’s a strategy that has helped brilliant, powerful, and wise people become better at what they do. 

Oscar Wilde, Susan Sontag, W.H. Auden, Queen Victoria, John Quincy Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, John Steinbeck, Sylvia Plath, Shawn Green, Mary Chestnut, Brian Koppelman, Anaïs Nin, Franz Kafka, Martina Navratilova, and Ben Franklin. All journalers—just to name a few!

For them and so many others as Foucault said, it wasa “weapon for spiritual combat.” It was part of who they were. It made them who they were. It can make you better too.

Whether you’re brand new to the concept of journaling or you’ve journaled in the past and fallen out of practice, my guide to journaling will inform you of everything you need to know to help you make journaling one of the best things you do in 2023 and beyond. You’ll learn not only how to journal but also about the benefits of journaling, the famous journaling of the past 2,000 years, the best journals to use, and more.

Journaling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The benefits of journaling 

The scientific research to support journaling is extensive and compelling:

  • According to a study conducted by Harvard Business School, participants who journaled at the end of the day had a 25 percent increase in performance when compared with a control group who did not journal.
  • The Journal of Experimental Psychology found that journaling before bed decreases cognitive stimulus, rumination, and worry, allowing you to fall asleep faster.
  • Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that reflective writing reduces intrusive and avoidant thoughts about negative events and improves working memory. These improvements in turn free up our cognitive resources for other mental activities including our ability to cope more effectively with stress.

Bring your problems to your journal

On June 12, 1942, Anne Frank made her first entry to her famous, existentially essential diary, “I hope you’ll be a Great Source of Comfort and Support.” Twenty-four days after that first entry, Anne and her Jewish family were forced into hiding in the cramped attic annex over her father’s warehouse in Amsterdam. It’s where they would spend the next two years.

According to Anne Frank’s father, Otto, Anne didn’t write in her journal every day. She wrote when she was upset or dealing with a problem. She wrote when she was confused. She wrote in that journal as a form of therapy so as not to unload her troubled thoughts on the family and compatriots with whom she shared such unenviable conditions. One of her best and most insightful lines must have come on a particularly difficult day. “Paper,” she said, “has more patience than people.” 

Your journaling is not your performing for history. It’s you reflecting. It’s you working through your thoughts. It’s you figuring things out and clearing your head.

Journaling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Journal for your future self

Produce something that will give you something to look back on and learn from. The musician, producer, circus performer, entrepreneur, and author, Derek Sivers, wrote an article that began, “You know those people whose lives are transformed by meditation or yoga or something like that? For me, it’s writing in my diary and journals. It’s made all the difference in the world for my learning, reflecting, and peace of mind.”

For over 20 years, every night, Sivers takes just a couple minutes to jot down a few sentences to recap his day, how he felt, and thoughts he had. What’s so transformational about that? As Sivers explains:

“We so often make big decisions in life based on predictions of how we think we’ll feel in the future or what we’ll want. Your past self is your best indicator of how you felt in similar situations. So it helps to have an accurate picture of your past. You can’t trust distant memories but you can trust your daily diary. It’s the best indicator to your future self of what was going on in your life at this time.

If you’re feeling you don’t have the time or it’s not interesting enough, remember: You’re doing this for your future self. Future you will want to look back at this time in your life and find out what you were doing, day-to-day, and how you felt back then. It will help you make better decisions.”

Journaling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forget all the rules about journaling. Do what works.

What’s the best way to start journaling? Is there an ideal time of day? How long should it take? How many pages? 

Forget all that. Who cares? How you journal is much less important than why you are doing it: To have quiet time with your thoughts, to clarify those thoughts, and to review the day that passed. There’s no right way or wrong way. The point is just to do it.

When Charles Darwin began keeping his little diary at the age of 29, he filled the pages with everything he could remember from his life, until eventually, he was up to date and shifted his journaling to daily notable events.

Thomas Edison made it his objective to record the most mundane events and details of his day. “Went into a drug store and bought some alleged candy, asked the gilded youth with the usual vacuous expression, if he had any nitric peroxide, he gave a wild stare of incomprehensibility,”

Thomas Jefferson’s morning journaling routine began taking weather measurements such as temperature, wind speed, and precipitation.

Ben Franklin used his journal to chart his progress with his personally constructed improvement program of living his thirteen virtues.

George Marshall jotted down the names of everyone he met in his journal and made notes of the character traits he observed.

Leonardo da Vinci’s habit was to write little fables to himself.

Susan Sontag typically journaled lists—movies seen, books read or to read, places to eat and drink, cities she hoped to visit, notable artists, words, and phrases she liked.

As Virginia Woolf’s husband observed in the introduction to Woolf’s collected journal, A Writer’s Diary, she used her journal for “practicing or trying out the art of writing.”

There are no rules in journal writing. The pages are for your eyes only. Be your weirdest self. Be your most curious self. Be your most prolific horrible idea-having self. Dump out everything and anything that comes to mind. There’s no one way to journal. There’s no right way to journal. There’s only your way of journaling. Make it weird. Make it fun. Just do it. 

Journaling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to Journal

Start Small

Tim Ferriss states in the 5-Minute Journal which he uses for prioritizing and gratitude:

“The 5MJ is simplicity itself and hits a lot of birds with one stone: Five minutes in the morning of answering a few prompts and then five minutes in the evening doing the same…Think of it as my boot-up sequence for an optimal day. The rest varies wildly but the first 60 to 90 minutes after waking are what I focus on most.” 

Your journaling does not need to produce Nobel Prize-worthy prose. You don’t need to commit to a life practice right now. Start with one line—about how you are feeling, something you did today, something you are excited about, or someone you met.

Start by doing it for one week. Start by writing a few things you are grateful for. Start with a sentence about the mindset you are going to attack the day with, about something interesting you learned, or about your plans for the day. Whatever it is, start ridiculously small. You’ll know when you’re ready to build on it and write in more depth.

Track something in your journal

Most people drop the journaling habit, or never begin, out of intimidation. The blank page is scary. Where do I even start? I have nothing important to say. Take the pressure off by creating an easy metric to track each day as the first line of your journal entry.

Nobel Prize winner Danny Kahneman suggests keeping track of the decisions you’ve made in your journal.

Neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart lists what she is grateful for and what she accomplished.

Bestselling author and avid runner David Epstein tracks workouts and training goals.

 Bestselling author and artist Austin Kleon keeps a logbook — writing down each day a simple list of things that have occurred. Who did he meet, what did he do, etc.?

Why? For the same reason many of us struggle with keeping a journal: “For one thing, I’m lazy. It’s easier to just list the events of the day than to craft them into a prose narrative. Any time I’ve tried to keep a journal, I ran out of steam pretty quick.”

You can track what time you wake up and how many hours of sleep you get. You can log everything you ate that day. You can record the tasks you accomplished, the hikes you took, and the places visited. The point is to know where to begin when you open the blank page each day. 

Journaling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Use your journal to review your day

Seneca seemed to do most of his journaling and reflection in the evening. As he wrote, “When the light has been removed and my wife has fallen silent, aware of this habit that’s now mine, I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by.”

He would ask himself whether his actions had been just, what he could have done better, what habits he could curb, how he might improve himself.

Winston Churchill was famously afraid of going to bed at the end of the day having not created, written, or done anything that moved his life forward “Every night,” he wrote, “I try myself by Court Martial to see if I have done anything effective during the day. I don’t mean just pawing the ground, anyone can go through the motions, but something effective.”

Journaling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Copy down important quotes in your journal

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius twice quotes from the comedies of Aristophanes, the Athenian comic playwright. Half a dozen times we see him quote the tragedies and plays of Euripides as well as the teachings of Epictetus. He quotes the tragedian Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. He quotes philosophers Democritus, Epicurus, and Plato. He quotes the poets Empedocles, Pindar, and Menander.

Petrarch kept one. Montaigne, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, Ronald Reagan, Charles Darwin, Mark Twain, Ludwig van Beethoven—they all kept a journal, a depository of quotes and anecdotes. 

According to his biographer, the author and columnist H.L. Mencken “methodically filled notebooks with incidents, recording straps of dialog and slang,” and favorite bits from newspaper columns he liked. Record what strikes you, quotes that motivate you, stories that inspire you for later use in your life, in your writing, in your speaking, or whatever it is that you do.

In 2010, when the Reagan Presidential Library was undergoing renovation, a box labeled “RR’s desk” was discovered. Inside the box were the personal belongings Ronald Reagan kept on his office desk including several black boxes containing 4×6 note cards filled with handwritten quotes, thoughts, stories, political aphorisms, and one-liners. They were separated by themes like “On the Nation,” and “On Liberty.” “On War,” “On the People,” “The World,” “Humor,” and “On Character”. 

Journaling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brainstorm ideas in your journal

 Ludwig van Beethoven was rarely seen without his notebook, not even when out to drinks with friends. One of his biographers, Wilhelm Von Lenz, wrote in 1855, “When Beethoven was enjoying a beer, he might suddenly pull out his notebook and write something in it. ‘Something just occurred to me,’ he would say, sticking it back into his pocket. The ideas that he tossed off separately, with only a few lines and points and without barlines, are hieroglyphics that no one can decipher. Thus in these tiny notebooks, he concealed a treasure of ideas.”

Pliny the Younger, a prominent lawyer and prolific writer in ancient Rome, was another to keep a notebook always at hand. In one letter to the eminent senator and historian Cornelius Tacitus, Pliny describes a morning hunting trip. “I was sitting by the hunting nets with writing materials by my side,” he writes, “thinking something out and making notes, so that even if I came home emptyhanded I should at least have my notebooks filled.

Don’t look down on mental activity of this kind, for it is remarkable how one’s wits are sharpened by physical exercise; the mere fact of being alone in the depths of the woods in the silence necessary for hunting is a positive stimulus to thought. So next time you hunt yourself, follow my example and take your notebooks along with your lunch basket and flask; you will find that Minerva walks the hills no less than Diana.”

Thomas Edison kept a notebook titled “Private Idea Book” in which he kept different ideas that popped into his head, possible inventions he’d later work on, such as “artificial silk” or “ink for the blind” or “platinum wire ice cutting the machine.” 

Entrepreneur and Bestselling author James Altucher carries with him a waiter’s pad and forces himself to come up with at least ten ideas per day.

Worth Pondering…

Keeping a journal is the veriest pastime in the world and the pleasantest…Only those rare natures that are made up of pluck, endurance, devotion to duty for duty’s sake, and invincible determination, may hope to venture upon so tremendous an enterprise as the keeping of a journal.

—Mark Twain