This post was written by me and brought to you by Skillshare.
“Beating the post-travel blues.” It’s a popular topic for travel blogs, though I’ve never covered it here in Wanderland. Why not? Well, for one thing, I haven’t stopped traveling. While I may retreat to different bases throughout the year, I’m still very much on the move. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a taste of what it’s like to yearn for certain destinations, or know that sinking feeling when the thrill of a huge adventure is in the rearview. So what to do when you’re back at home nursing memories and a fun hangover?
Enter Skillshare. Skillshare is a subscription service for online course. Think of it like Netflix for learning, or Rent the Runway for a new skill — but you get to keep what you learned! While many of the 16,000+ classes are free, the best of the best are part of a premium membership (which I’m gifting all of y’all two free months of!) With over two million students, it’s safe to say that there are several different reasons for being on Skillshare.
Some are there for professional development – personally, I’ve bookmarked courses on increasing Instagram engagement, learning to write with humor, creating ebooks, food photography, creating Pinterest pins, and how to increase email productivity. Some are there to hone in on passion skills – I saved a class on perfecting yoga arm balances and another on how to learn a language in one hundred days. Some are there for self improvement – I can’t wait to take some of the courses on fitness and nutrition, and healthy cooking. And of course some are there for a bit of fun – to try something totally out of their comfort zone, pick up a new tool for the first time ever, or just switch on another part of their brain for a few hours.
I recently enrolled in three different Skillshare courses with the theme of kicking the post-travel blues – classes that can lift your spirits when you’re pining for a certain place. Here’s a little review of each!
How to Make French Macarons
by food writer and food stylist Marie Asselin
When I think of my travels in Europe, one memory always floats to the forefront: my chocolate and sweets tour of Brussels, where I truly fell in love with macarons for the first time. I’d always heard these heavenly desserts were insanely difficult to make, and so when I saw a Skillshare course on the topic pop up, I knew I had to tackle the challenge.
Once upon a time I was a passionate baker, loving to whip up something special for my family and friends at every occasion. I was somewhat intimidated by such a difficult project, but well, every macaron baker has to start somewhere, right?
I was lucky to have most of the ingredients and tools needed on hand at my mom’s house, running to the store only to buy white baking chips and almond flour. I watched the entire thirty-two minutes of Marie’s Skillshare videos before even entering the kitchen, and then printed out the recipes and shell templates included in the course. Finally I dove in, rewatching the videos as necessary for important steps. Marie’s videos are filmed beautifully and were a joy to watch, and her instructions were detailed and clear.
Things were going pretty fabulously – until it was time to take the shells out of the oven. Marie warned that knowing your oven was key, and since I was using our family friend Noreen’s oven for the first time, that was kind of a wild card for me. My first batch quickly cracked and deflated when I took them out of the oven – oops. Checking the community section, where students upload photos of their macarons and Marie gives feedback, I saw I’d fallen prey to a common issue of undercooked shells.
The next batch came out better… but just slightly. I decided to forge forward and pipe them with icing regardless. The good news? They tasted delicious! The bad news? They looked like deflated little macaron contenders for a Skillshare Fail tumblr. But more good news? I’m definitely motivated to try again, learning from little mistakes I made along the way and experimenting with the oven temperature and bake length. I took plenty of photos which I plan to upload for Marie’s feedback before a second attempt.
Most importantly, I had so much fun getting back in the kitchen again to bake for someone – in this case, a thank you gift to my neighbor for taking me to the airport the next day! – and have a newfound appreciation for those gorgeous macarons I first fell in love with in Brussels, all those years ago.
Urban Sketching for Beginners: Watercolour Sketch in 3 Steps
by illustrator, letterer, and urban sketcher and Julia Henze
It will come as no surprise to regular readers that one of my favorite places on the planet is our family cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. The last few years I’ve been making it a huge priority to try to spend at least two weeks a year there – more if possible! And believe me when I say I look forward to those two weeks all year.
So when I saw this urban sketching course pop up while browsing through illustration classes, I knew exactly what structure I wanted to sketch.
Now, this is where I remind you guys that I actually have a bachelor of fine arts from one of the top design schools in the US, which I’m kind of embarrassed to admit in this context because I think it might raise expectations a little too high. Really, I’m not sure what admissions was thinking.
The good news was that I had the vast majority of the supplies I needed for those course right in my mom’s basement with all my high school and university art projects. The only things I needed to go out and buy were some fresh watercolor paper and a brush pen, though my hometown craft store was out of the latter so I did without.
Digging through my mountains of old canvasses and paintbrushes made my heart ache, guys — do I ever miss those days of staying up all night pulling screens in the printmaking studio or throwing paint on a canvas somewhere. I have been saying for years how much I miss making physical art with my hands, and so this was a long overdue start.
Like the first course, I watched Julia’s 28 minutes of instruction in entirety before starting in on my own piece and rewatching as I went. I particularly enjoyed the timelapses Julia included so that you could watch her complete an entire illustration as an example.
I felt pretty rusty going in, but quickly remembered the joy of having a paintbrush in my hands and the phenomenon of looking at something totally differently when you’re trying to recreate it. As I was in Florida and not Massachusetts when I took the course, I worked from a photograph that had me bursting with excitement at my upcoming trip to the island.
While I certainly made little mistakes and wish I’d had a mechanical pencil and a greater variety of pens, I was pretty pleased with the results! Like a little kid bringing home a finger painting, I can’t wait to give it to my mom. I seriously had so much fun making a physical piece of art again – and I’ll never look at that cottage the same way again.
Map Making: Learn to Communicate Places Beautifully
by design + communication guru Anne Ditmeyer
What traveler isn’t totally obsessed with maps? On the road, I often find myself scrutinizing them, and in the office, I spend much of my day thinking about how to visually communicate places and ideas to my readers. Which is what made this map making course in particular a must-take for me.
While this particular course was filmed over four years ago and thus might not match the image quality of some of the newer offerings, it has over 3,000 students who have produced over 460 projects – that success speaks for itself! In fact, being inspired by the maps of my fellow students in the projects section was one of the most rewarding parts of taking this course. One such project? A student’s subway journey home, mapped on a bright yellow banana.
Working on the computer is definitely my comfort zone, and so I was pretty pleased that much of this course involved just that – though there was also plenty of experimenting with hand-drawn maps, creating imaginary places, admiring the works of other map artists, and plenty of activities that get you away from a screen. I loved the enthusiasm and passion of the instructor Anne, who reminded me of so many of my design professors from college. She really pushed the idea of mapping not just places but memories and experiences, something I think most wistful travelers still aching for a trip would love to dig into.
I chose to focus on a project I’ve flirted with several times over the years – mapping my beloved winter retreat, the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. While I’ve made various versions in the past, this course really pushed me to think outside the box and produce something I could be proud of, commemorate my time on the island with, and even use professionally on my blog and in products I’m working on producing. (Final product to be revealed soon!)
Inspired to try your own Skillshare course? (Or heck, even teach one?) You can use this link to try out two months of Skillshare premium – for free! And if you decide to stay on after that, you’ll find that Skillshare is about the same price as a Hulu membership. You can take as many classes as you want for every month you’re enrolled.
Skillshare is a unique opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top experts in their field (an SEO course by Rand Fishkin, for example) for less than the cost of a few fancy coffees. Most of the courses were shorter than I expected, yet still packed a massive punch — and can even be watched at 1.5x speed, if you’re in a big rush. If you’re a perpetual student, a budding entrepreneur, a lapsed creative or any combination of the above, don’t surprised if you’re quickly hooked!
Are you an online course addict like me? What Skillshare class would you take?
I was provided with a free access code in order to review Skillshare and compensated for my time in doing so. Find more travel product and app reviews here!