Travel skills: 10 things you can learn while waiting for international travel to resume
So, you’re grounded right now. No international travel. Even crossing state borders seems dicey.
You could spend this enforced layover wallowing in your own wanderlust-driven misery, which would be reasonable. Or, you could take the opportunity to better yourself, to gain new skills and qualifications to ensure that the next time you leave Australia’s shores you’ll get far more out of the experience than you would have before.
This enforced break is the ideal time to “upskill”, to learn to do things you previously couldn’t, to open up new ways of seeing, new ways of doing, and new ways of appreciating.
Take a scuba or free-diving course
If you’re only exploring the world above water level, you’re missing out. On your next holiday it’s time to go under the sea, to witness life at the bottom of the ocean, to explore coral bommies and drop-offs, to spot turtles and rays, to see clown fish darting through anemones. And the only way you’re going to do that is with a scuba-diving or free-diving certification. If you live near the coast, there’s a school near you. You will never look at the world the same way again.
Get a license
The more licenses you have, the more freedom you have as a traveller. Can’t drive a car? That’s a good place to start. Now you’re on Route 66; you’re cruising the Amalfi coastline (pictured). But don’t stop there. Get your motorbike license – you’re not insured to ride a scooter overseas (in Thailand, in Sicily) unless you have one, and a scooter is one great way to see the world. It’s also worth doing a boat license course, and suddenly you’re hitting the water in Sardinia, in Turkey, in the Bahamas and more.
Take a photography course
Most travellers fancy themselves as photographers – how can you go wrong in places like Morocco or India or Vietnam? Now, however, is the time to take your snapping game to the next level. Sign up for a photography course with a local studio (or a specialty “on location” course with a professional travel photographer); learn to take your camera off automatic and start getting the best out of your equipment and your subjects. At worst, it will make your Instagram feed look better.
Learn a language
Unless you’re some sort of wunderkind, you’re not going to pick up an entire language between now and the next time we’re allowed off this island. Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. My advice for monolingual travellers would be to begin with Spanish – it will get you through most of South and Central America, as well as Spain itself – though it’s really up to you. Follow your passion, and consider your next destination. Even a very basic understanding of the local language will put you ahead.
Learn to handle a 4WD
The importance of this will depend on the style of holiday you like to take. If you’re thinking Paris in the summer, maybe don’t concern yourself with a 4WD course. However, if you’d like to tackle, say, a self-drive adventure through Southern Africa, or going off-road in the Scottish Highlands, exploring national parks in the US, or dune-bashing in Oman and the UAE, you’re going to need to know your way around a 4WD. There are companies providing courses throughout Australia.
Take a mechanics course
If you do fancy heading out on one of the above-mentioned 4WD adventures, it’s also a good idea to have a basic knowledge of what’s going on under the bonnet of your car. TAFE offers introductory mechanics classes across the country.
Do a sake-tasting course
Photo: Edwina Pickles
I’ve drunk a lot of sake, and yet I still know very little about it. Partly, that’s because of the amount of sake. It’s also because Japanese rice-wine is an intimidating and impenetrable world, with labels you can’t read and flavours you can’t discern. For those planning to travel to Japan, try taking a level 1 sake tasting course through WSET, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, which offers classes periodically around Australia (see sommeliers.com.au). Alternatively, if your future travels are taking you into wine or whisky country, switch it up.
Go on a survival and navigation course
Perhaps adventure on foot is more your thing. If your next trip overseas is likely to include some hardcore hiking in out-of-the-way locations, now is the time to attain the skills to do that safely and enjoyably. The Australian School of Mountaineering (see climbingadventures.com.au), based in NSW’s Blue Mountains, is one organisation that offers survival and navigation courses, teaching basic bushcraft, as well as finding your way around with a compass or GPS. Perfect for that future hiking trip to Nepal or Peru.
Take a specialist cooking class
You could just turn up and eat. If you love food you will get plenty of pleasure out of a journey to the likes of France or Italy, India or Thailand, China or Mexico, regardless of how much you know about the cuisine. However, this is the perfect opportunity to deepen your understanding of a particular country’s food, to know the dishes to look out for, the ingredients to cherish, and the etiquette around consuming them. You can do that with a cooking course that specialises in the cuisine of your country of choice. A quick search online will open up the options close to you.
This isn’t exactly a skill, per se, but it will improve so much of your travel experience. Get yourself fit now and all of a sudden you’re striding around foreign cities without a huff or a puff; you’re climbing mountains and you’re skiing down them; you’re cycling through vineyards and kayaking along rivers. You are, in other words, living the dream.