Travellers tend to be curious people who are eager to learn about the world and people. This is just the nature of the lifestyle. However, we also tend to be a frugal population that likes to spend our money where it will have the greatest impact. For many, the word “free” is just too tempting to pass up. With both of these points in mind, here is a list of free resources to expand your knowledge. These are all sources that I currently use or have used in the past, for varying purposes.
Free Learning Resources
These days, a library card holds a lot of power. If you live in a larger city, this can mean a lot in addition to free books–films and documentaries, audiobooks, magazine subscriptions, online courses, and more. My library card gives me access to several online course communities that normally require a monthly subscription. These include Lynda.com, a reputable site that offers courses in a variety of technical skills, including design, video, and photography, and Treehouse, which focuses on coding and website development.
Before you decide to invest in a course, check what your library is giving you for free.
I’ve listened to many a podcast in my day. Some of these have been more productive than others. The one I always go back to is Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com. HowStuffWorks has a bunch of podcast shows, but Stuff You Should Know is the only one I’ve really grown attached to. It’s released multiple times per week, but also has an archive of over 700 episodes. They cover everything from How Dying Works, to the recent Earwax: Live with it.
If you’re looking to get into it, here are a few of my favourite Stuff You Should Know episodes:
- How Dissociative Identity Disorder Works
- How Panic Attacks Work
- How the Space Race Worked
- How the Rosetta Stone Works
- Why Do Lefties Exist?
Honestly, you grow attached to the hosts, Josh and Chuck, and I’ve listened to podcasts just because they can make any topic interesting. For instance, I really listened to that earwax one. The entire thing.
Of course, finding a quality podcast is not too hard if that one’s not for you. Googling ones that speak to your interests should yield a ton of worthy options.
I think this is the third time I’ve brought up Quora on this blog. If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically a question and answer site where the answers are waaay more insightful and knowledgeable than you would ever expect. Just choose your interests and browse. You’ll be surprised what you gain from it. For example,
- What is it like to live in Iceland?
- What was your weirdest dream?
- What are some easy and cheap recipes?
More trivia than learning, this site makes you feel productive while testing your knowledge. I do it to quiz myself on my Spanish vocabulary. Every correct questions adds ten grains of rice that will be donated to someone who needs it. It may not be much, but it’s not costing you anything. However, it does make you feel guilty at times when you choose harder subjects that you might not ace. Don’t think of it like that. Be productive, while watching the rice multiple. That’s what keeps you coming back.
Probably one of the easiest ways to take a few minutes out of your day to expand you mind. There is just a huge range of topics and speakers. The easiest way to get started is by checking out this playlist of the most popular TED talks of all time.
Open University Studies
It’s no secret that there is a movement towards universities offering open studies programs. These are self-paced courses that you can do for free, or choose to pay for a verified certificate in some cases, at your own pace or alongside a group with a teacher. I tend to get lazy with these, but they definitely work for some people. Here are a few choices, but there are many to choose from.
Maybe you don’t remember any of your high school math, or just have developed a sudden interest in art history. You can brush up on a variety of academic topics at Khan Academy. There are also plenty of resources for teachers and parents to use for their own coaching.
I go back and forth between Duolingo and Memrise, though I’ve tried many an app. The trick is to find an app and use it. Don’t spend all your time looking for something that is new and better. If it works for you, just stick to it. If it’s not working, then you can look for something else. The truth is that people spend waaaaay too much time looking for the best resource and never end up getting far into their studies.
Duolingo and Memrise complement each other well. Memrise focuses on teaching vocabulary and phrases, while Duolingo goes further into sentence construction and actual listening skills.
While it might fit better in the General Knowledge category, I’ve only used BBC Learning for the languages module. They offer 12-week courses (with email prompts weekly) in Spanish, Italian, and French (though, they also have resources for German learners). I used it specifically for the Spanish course, Mi Vida Loca. I literally became obsessed with this interactive video drama. Really. I wasn’t even taking Spanish that semester, but I wasted a lootttt of study time during my final exams with this series. I recommend it to any Spanish learner. You can watch it with or without subtitles (English, Spanish, or both). I got so into the story, I mean I really felt like it was my life. Is that weird? You don’t have to answer that.