Explore Together! How Shared Hobbies Bring Us Closer

Together for 26 years, Road Scholars Mabel and Bill share a love of outdoor activities and have discovered that seeking out new active adventures are a great way to see the world. They gave us their top recommendations for couples, paired or platonic. “When you’re active in a new space, you take in so much more because you’re using all of your senses,” says Mabel — and we agree!

Bill and Mabel birding at Torres del Paine, Chile

1. Birding

The couple’s love for birding began over 25 years ago when they first traveled together to Colorado. “We were at the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, outside of Denver,” Mabel recalls. “We both saw a bird and pointed it out to each other, saying, ‘you like birds too?’” After that mutual discovery they officially became, in Mabel’s words, “more than explorers — we became birders.”

Afterwards, they researched all things birding, from equipment to clothing to best places to go. They’ve taken classes, attended birding clubs and festivals around the country and assembled a library of field guides for every place they traveled. 

One of their favorites? Costa Rica. “We’ve been three times with Road Scholar,” Mabel says. “We’ve learned so much from the experts on these adventures. On our first visit, we saw over 300 bird species. Over the years, that number has reached 400.”

Their hobby has taken them to all seven continents at least twice. “There are over 10,000 bird species in the world; we’ve seen 4,000. We need a database to keep track of it all!” 

And speaking of keeping track, if you’re interested in getting started with birding, Mabel and Bill recommend two apps created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology — Merlin and eBird. Merlin can identify birds through birdsong and photos, and eBird is useful for keeping track of life lists, sharing sightings and keeping records safely backed up. “It’s fun, too, because Cornell scientists use the sightings to explore patterns of bird distribution and abundance around the world,” Mabel adds. 

 

2. Rockhouding

“Rockhouding” is the term for those who love the geological hunt for minerals, rocks, crystals and gemstones. Just like birding, there are infinite possibilities for this hobby and global adventure. Books, websites and apps help, but you can also research the minerals common to your destination — they’re as varied as the destinations themselves. “Just don’t collect what you rockhound in National Parks,” Mabel advises. “Those protected boundaries make collecting of any kind illegal. Photos work, though!”

A few wonderful places to explore geology include Yosemite, Hawaii and South Dakota’s Black Hills.

 

Joshua Tree National Park, CA

3. “Collecting” National Parks

There are 63 National Parks and 130 National Monuments in the U.S. With battlefields and military parks added to the list, that’s upwards of 428 destinations. “There are so many to explore Stateside, but you can also find National Parks globally, including Canada and the Caribbean.”

The National Park Service sponsors a passport-like book, and you can have it stamped just like a regular passport. “It’s a great way to keep track of where you’ve been,” says Mabel. “A great souvenir too!” If you get really serious about collecting, Mabel advises checking out the National Park Travelers Club. “It’s basically a nonprofit social club that provides networking and recognition opportunities for visitors to America’s National Park System. It also helps support and expand appreciation of the U.S. National Park System,” she says.  

Mabel and Bill have found so much joy in making these discoveries together. How do you like to explore? Have an outdoor hobby (or hobbies) you’d love to share with a friend or loved one? Join the Road Scholar Facebook community and keep the conversation going!