๐ŸŽ… 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Creators and Explorers

2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Creators and Explorers

Celebrate the winding down of this chaotic year with some holiday shopping. Below are my gift suggestions for the 2020 holiday season. This list emphasizes creation, exploration, and learning. You will find useful things, fun things, and causes worth supporting. Good luck shopping, and happy holidays!

Disclosure: Some of the products listed below link to Amazon.com. I am an Amazon Associate member, which means anything bought through one of these links sends a little money my way at no extra cost to you.


Get these beautiful notebooks for writers with an appreciation for the outdoors. The National Parks memo books are sold in packs of three. If you can’t decide which parks you want, get all 18 by buying the box set.


The Freewrite Traveler is a great gift for the easily distracted writer. It consists of a keyboard and an e-ink screen for maximizing writing productivity โ€” no editing or web browsing capabilities included. When finished writing, press a button to send your work straight to your email.


Songwriter Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame breaks down his creative process. Even those who aren’t musically inclined and have no wish to ever be could benefit from this book.


Get the largest collection of classic cinema. The Criterion Channel is a curated collection of the best movies ever made, making it a perfect gift for film buffs.


Start your YouTube career. The Sony ZV-1 is made specifically for content creators. It includes a pull-out screen that allows you to see yourself as you record โ€” perfect for the filming crew of one.


This award-winning memoir by writer Alexander Chee explores life as a gay Korean-American and the impact it has on his art.


Play librarian. Turn your bookcase into an at-home library. This kit comes with card catalog checkout cards, bookplates, a pencil, a date stamp, and an ink pad.


Wake up to the sounds of cities across the world. Press a button and listen to the radio from a city of your choice. Customize your cities from up to 18 different locations around the world.


Commemorate your travels across the world with custom coasters.


Create art. This portable watercolor set is perfect for anyone wishing to connect nature to their art.


A beautiful writer deserves a beautiful pen, and there is none more beautiful than the LAMY Safari. It’s a great pen for the beginner fountain pen enthusiast as it is quite affordable (as far as fountain pens go) and easy to use.


Support public libraries, specifically the New York Public Library. They sell all kinds of merch at their website including the hat seen above. You can even buy bookends of the famous library lions Patience and Fortitude.


Rediscover the outdoors. With 50 Things to Do in the Wild you will learn skills and projects to bring you closer to nature.


The Raspberry PI 400 is a computer in a keyboard. It’s great for the project enthusiast or those who want to learn about tech. When you buy the Raspberry PI 400 you also get a mouse and a beginner’s guide.


Recreate dishes from the popular New York noodle shop. Xi’an Famous Foods will teach you how to make delicious Western Chinese meals.


Support our National Parks by purchasing something from the Parks Project. Proceeds from the purchase of these beautifully designed items go directly to helping out parks. The mug seen above depicts landmarks from parks across the nation.


Fix your stuff. The iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit comes with (almost) everything you need to repair your electronic devices.


For most people the opportunity to fly a plane will never be a reality, but with Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, you can get close. Fly over the world and do your best to scratch your pandemic-induced travel itch.


Write letters to your future self. This notebook comes with perforated pages and twelve envelopes, so you can tear your letter out and save it for later. This is a limited edition release from Baron Fig, so once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.


The perfect pencil makes the perfect stocking stuffer. With the Blackwing 602, Palomar promises โ€œHalf the Pressure, Twice the Speed.โ€ After using these pencils, you will never look back.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ How to Learn Things as an Adult

Learning shouldn’t stop with the acquisition of a diploma. As writer and scientist Isaac Asimov said, “Education isn’t something you can finish.” Unfortunately, many adults are not aware of the avenues available to them for lifelong learning. Kids have teachers and parents to teach them, but what are your options? Here are a few of my favorite methods for learning things as an adult:

1. Take online courses.

The internet is a wealth of information, much of it entirely free. Whatever you wish to learn, there is likely a free course on it. In fact, there are so many classes out there, it can be difficult to know where to start.

How to find courses worth taking:

2. Take a course at your local community college.

Your local community college is a hugely underutilized resource. They have all kinds of classes at an extremely affordable price. They even have classes on less academic subjects like woodworking, cooking, and welding. Head over to your community college’s website to view their course catalog and find out more.

3. Pursue your interests with experts.

Find one-on-one lessons. Get a tutor. If you can afford it, having a teacher who can give you hands-on lessons will expedite your learning more than anything else.

Finding hands-on lessons can be difficult, but there are options. Find a language tutor with iTalki. If you are looking to learn an instrument, there is surely someone nearby offering lessons. Restaurants in major cities often offer cooking classes. REI offers classes on outdoors and survival skills.

4. Do it yourself.

Put your target skill into practice. YouTube is an especially great resource for DIY skills. Learn cooking, auto repair, musical instruments, and much much more. Check out my list of educational YouTube channels to get started.

5. Work on it daily.

Works of genius are not the results of flashes of brilliance, but instead of consistent, daily output. The only way to get good at a thing is to practice it a lot.

Consistency isn’t easy though. It’s hard to keep working at something day-in and day-out โ€” especially when you aren’t very good at it (which you won’t be at first, no one is). So to combat this problem, try giving yourself a 30-day (or longer) challenge. Challenges are fun, and they often come with a community to keep you accountable, making that day-to-day grind more palatable.

Find a challenge: 

If you can’t find a challenge that fits your needs, create your own. Try the Jerry Seinfeld method (note: there is some debate over whether or not Seinfeld actually did this). Get a calendar. Every day you complete your required work, mark an “X” on that day. The goal is to avoid breaking the chain of Xs you have formed.

6. Immerse yourself.

Surround yourself with real life influences. Follow experts and hobbyists on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to subreddits and web forums for those who share your interests. Anything you could possibly want to learn, other people are trying to learn too.

If you wish to learn the effects immersion can have on the learning process, check out Scott Young’s “Year Without English” learning experiment. Scott spent three months at a time in foreign countries in order to learn their languages. During those months, he was only allowed to speak his target language. At the end of his year abroad, he became proficient in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean. This might seem extreme, but it does reflect the impact immersion can have on learning.

7. Read read read.

Read everything you can on what you want to learn, especially books. The more familiarity and context you can get on a subject, the easier learning will be. Visit your library, buy books from bookshop.org, or check out my list of useful websites for online book resources.


Be curious. Pursue that curiosity. When you’ve settled on a project, act before your enthusiasm begins to wane.

For more on optimizing your learning, I highly recommend checking out Barbara Oakley’s free course Learning How to Learn, and the companion book A Mind for Numbers. Both course and book break down the science behind learning and the optimal techniques to employ.

๐Ÿ’ป The Giant List of Useful Websites

The Giant List of Useful Websites

This is a running list of over 100 useful websites. Websites are organized by category. Click the category names to toggle the lists of websites. Hover your mouse over the website names to view a description.

๐Ÿ“น The Giant List of Educational YouTube Channels

๐Ÿฅž 10 Food Rules for Healthy Eating

I try to be a healthy person. I exercise semi-regularly, and I watch what I eat. But eating healthy isn’t always easy, which is why I have laid out a few ground rules for myself.

These rules are more guidelines than absolutes. I do break them from time to time, but just having rules means I am always aware of them, which in turn makes abiding by them that much easier. I’m always tweaking them, so they are subject to change. Here are my ten rules for healthy-ish eating:

1. No soda. No juice.

As many of you know, soda has a ton of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup, but you might be surprised to discover that juice also has an unhealthy amount of sugar. Just because juice is fruit flavored, it doesn’t make it good for you. So I stay away from soda and juice.

Not only do I think it’s important to avoid drinking sugar, but I think it’s a good idea to avoid drinking carbs altogether (the exception I make is an occasional alcoholic beverage). I stick to water in almost all situations. I don’t even drink coffee (not that I’m against caffeine, I just don’t find a need for it).

2. No fast food. 

What I define as fast food is any restaurant that typically comes with an attached drive-thru. I make an exception for In-n-Out (I live in California), not because itโ€™s good (which it is), but because of the quality of their ingredients. And sometimes on road trips, convenience is a necessary evil.

3. Never eat out more than once in a day.

There are a couple of reasons for this: 1. It’s impossible to gauge all of the ingredients a restaurant kitchen puts into a meal. It’s almost guaranteed my home cooking will be healthier. 2. It’s expensive to eat out all the time. If I’m in a situation where I’m not near a kitchen or I can’t pack a meal, then I try to find something healthy-ish at a grocery store to eat.

4. Don’t buy sweets at the grocery store.

If I buy a tub of cookies at the grocery store, I’m going to binge eat a tub of cookies when I get home, and ignore all of the healthy stuff I just bought. I don’t shun sweets altogether, but if I want dessert, I force myself to leave the house to get it.

5. Don’t skip meals.

Even when I don’t feel like eating, I force myself to eat something. This keeps me from bingeing at my next meal, and it ensures I have the energy to stay productive throughout the day.

6. Stop eating before the full feeling sets in.

There is a delay between your stomach being full and your brain registering your stomach being full. If you don’t stop eating until after that full feeling sets in, it’s already too late.

7. Cook whenever possible.

If I can cook a meal in my own kitchen , I cook a meal in my own kitchen. Frozen foods and the microwave don’t count. Real food must be involved.

8. Eat the leftovers.

When I cook, I end up with leftovers. I force myself to eat those leftovers for lunches until they are gone. This does a couple of things: 1. It keeps me from being wasteful. If leftovers don’t get eaten, they get thrown out. 2. It saves money. 3. It saves time. Leftovers mean less planning and less cooking.

9. Take it easy on the red meat.

I try to stick to chicken, ground turkey, and fish when I cook at home. Sometimes, I’ll have a steak or burger, but only on rare occasions. I keep red meat of my regular meal rotation.

10. Plan ahead.

Failing to plan inevitably leads to me opting for the most convenient solution. And the convenient solution is usually an unhealthy one. So I take a little time each week to plan out when and what I am going to cook. I then write that down on my calendar for future reference.

Those are my rules for healthy eating. They might not be right for you, and they definitely aren’t perfect, but hopefully you found something to inspire you moving forward.