|Yes, when I get stressed, I basically|
turn into Tweak from Southpark.
When I was in grad school I had a number of different hobbies, some short-lived, some not, that let me escape from the grad school, homework (when I still had classes), research, and academia in general. Due to my self-diagnosed hobby A.D.D., the assortment of things I used as creative outlets and general stress relievers was pretty varied. Here's a list of three things I did (and may still do from time to time), along with the reasons I found them to be enjoyable, and things to consider if you wanted to take any of these up in the future.
|This is why I hate swimming.|
My wife and I took up kayaking after her parents took us kayaking a couple times during a summer visit. While I am not a strong swimmer, and generally am terrified of swimming in natural bodies of water (holla back if you saw Jaws as a six year old as well!), I found I actually enjoyed floating on top of the water, and being able to easily control where the kayak went.
The best part of kayaking, I think, is being forced to go out into nature and actually do something. Kayaking gets you out of the house, let's you see and explore the natural surroundings in your area, and is very relaxing. Note that I am not talking about whitewater kayaking, which requires a helmet, fast moving water, an updated will, and the ability to not freak the f*ck out when you flip over and are strapped into your death trap of a boat. I don't think I would find that relaxing, and since I'm allergic to drowning, I don't think I'll be trying it anytime soon. Rather, I'm talking about kayaking on slow moving rivers and calm lakes.
|Yeah... not this kind of kayaking...|
Kayaking has pretty high startup costs, especially if you want to buy your equipment and not rent it every time from someplace like L.L. Bean (which gets expensive quickly anyway). A good entry level kayak will start at about $250, and you'll need a paddle ($50), a life vest ($25+), a carrier of some type for your vehicle ($50-$200), associated straps and ropes ($25), and things like dry bags ($10-$30) and other accessories. It will probably cost at least $500 to get into kayaking (per person, if you go in as a couple like my wife and I did). The nice thing is once you've bought your stuff, the actual kayaking trips will be virtually free, minus gas to drive places and maybe admission to state parks.
My friend Matt convinced me during my first year in the Ph.D. program to join him for an iaido class. His sales pitch was basically "Do you like swords? You get to swing them around in Iaido." Since I do, in fact, like swords, and wanted to swing them around without someone calling the po-po, I decided to give it a try.
|Thanks to Iaido, I can theoretically|
defend myself in this situation.
Very useful on the college campus.
|Iaido is like this, but with |
more 'wooshing' sounds
The worst part is probably that it requires constant training if you want to be any good at it. It's not really something you can pick up for the month, put down for six months, and pick back up for a month. Like any martial art, to learn Iaido you likely need to find a school to join (run by a sensei), attend regularly, pay school dues, and practice outside of class.
Iaido has low initial startup costs, as you can practice in gym clothes (no shoes) and use a wooden sword called a bokken ($15?). Many schools will let you practice with these for the first few classes until you decide that Iaido is something you want to continue to pursue. When you get more into it, you can spring for the metal iaito sword ($100 - $1000+), and the samurai clothing (a gi and a hakama, $100+ for both). The main expense from week to week will be the class fees, which could be free (unlikely), or could be more than $50/week. Finding an instructor may also be a challenge depending on where you live.
3. Home-Brewing Beer
So let me say up front that I don't drink a lot of beer. I drink beer, I just don't drink a lot of beer. This, apparently, is not a good trait for being a home brewer, as you will quickly end up with hundreds of bottles (literally) of beer that you won't be able to possibly drink yourself, and with friends who are tired of drinking your homebrew beer. That said, I attended a party where someone brought some homebrew beer, and I was intrigued. It seemed like an interesting hobby where you could get creative and tweak recipes to brew what you liked. When I got the opportunity some time later to purchase my own homebrew kit, I dove in.
|It's best not to think|
about what this looks
like and just appreciate
the finished product...
The best part of homebrewing I think is the ability to customize your recipes to what suits your tastes. For example, I'm a fan of big malty beers, so I tweak recipes for barleywines, porters, and stouts. Other homebrewers love hops, and so they focus on brewing beers like IPAs. Thus, you can make what you like, and in fairly large quantities, for about the same cost as buying beer in the store. This gives you a creative outlet to make, tweak, and try out different recipes, and you have a tangible product at the end of it (albeit about a month later) that you can hold in your hand and say "I made this!"
The worst part of homebrewing, probably, is that you don't actually 'save' any money by homebrewing. For instance, a good recipe for a high alcohol beer might cost upwards of $50 in ingredients, and produce about 4 cases (48 bottles) of beer, for a cost of a little over $1 per bottle. That's not that much less than buying decent microbrew ($8/6 pack?) and is a lot more expensive than buying a 30 pack of cheaper beer. Actually, if you want to brew a basic America Lager (think Budweiser or Coors), you're going to end up spending significantly more money than if you had simply bought the same type of beer in the store. It also takes a lot of patience to brew the wort (5+ hours?), and then wait for the beer to ferment in the carboy or bucket (2-3+ weeks). So if you're one of those 'immediate gratification' people... well.. you probably shouldn't be in a Ph.D. program for one, but you also will probably find it hard to homebrew, for two.
|"After I had to mortgage my house to afford|
all of my homebrew equipment, my wife left
me and took the kids. BEST DAY EVER!"
|"My 'hobby' is academic research... as well as|
heart attacks... lots and lots of heart attacks."
Picture Credits: Tweak Jaws Kayaking Iaido_1 Iaido_2 Carboy Beer_Dad Professor_Heart_Attack