URI alumna on quest to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks

NYC resident hopes to turn ‘hobby hoarding’ into motivational book

Libby Segal is addicted to trying new things, and she is inspiring others to become addicted, too. The associate producer of reality crime television programs and 2010 graduate of the University of Rhode Island is in the midst of a yearlong “quest to become a professional amateur” by trying a new hobby every week.

She has taken lessons in Samurai sword fighting, glass making, shark diving, beer brewing, chocolate making, trampolining, unicycle riding, stilt walking, knife throwing and breakdancing, among dozens of others. And she is documenting every experience on video and in a blog she calls The Hobby Hoarder.

“If there’s one thing I hope to do this year, it’s inspire others to try something new, because you never know what you’ll learn, who you’ll meet, or what you’ll fall in love with,” said Segal, a native of Bethlehem, Penn., who now lives in New York City. “This year, I’ve fallen in love with life.”

Trying new things isn’t new to Segal. She has been doing it all her life. She played numerous sports while growing up – and played for the URI field hockey team – while also taking lessons in ballet and clarinet. And she has enjoyed collecting baseball cards, photography, drawing, skiing and other activities along the way. But she didn’t morph into the Hobby Hoarder until a co-worker told her she was doing too many things and should quit some of them.

“So I went in the complete opposite direction and decided to try even more things,” Segal said. “The only thing I quit was the job I had at the time.”

She said her favorite hobbies so far have involved flying – piloting a plane and learning the trapeze.

“I’ve had an obsession with the sky ever since I was little,” she said. “Once I was up in the air in that plane, I felt great freedom, like I could paint the whole world the way I want to. The trapeze was like that, too.”

Not every hobby has turned out so well, however. She missed a turn in a downhill mountain biking course and crashed, and she had to be taken down the hill in an emergency vehicle. Despite the bruises, she still enjoyed the learning experience.

One of the things she has learned about herself through her experiences is that the activities that would appear to be the most frightening, like skydiving or shark diving, are a great deal less stressful than the activities where she felt vulnerable, like taking a singing lesson.

“The one-on-one activities where I was learning from my friends were much more intimidating because you don’t want to mess up in front of them,” she said. “But that’s the point of learning. You’re supposed to mess up to get better. The scary things weren’t really scary because no one was judging me. Turns out that the scariest thing about the shark dive was having to wear a bathing suit in front of people.”

Segal hopes to turn her adventures as the Hobby Hoarder into a book, and she may even use it as the basis of a potential reality television program.

“People who have commented on my blog say they’ve really gotten inspired by what I’m doing, so I’m thinking it could be a self-help or motivational book,” she said. “I want to motivate people to go out and try something new, because you’d be amazed at how much you can do when you try something new every week. You really become incapable of being incapable. The biggest challenge is often just saying ‘yes, I’m going to do it.’ “

In the last few months of her hobby year, which will end in February, Segal plans to go sky diving and snowshoeing, learn curling, get a tattoo, take a mime lesson, go on a New Year’s polar bear swim, and finish by taking a cross-country road trip.

“Since I started this project I’ve become more confident, more ambitious and more versatile as a blogger, writer and speaker,” Segal said. “And I’ve found that I’m more open and willing to try activities that I never imagined myself trying, like Jedi light saber training or stunt jumping or pole dancing.

“The project is no longer a project,” she concluded. “It’s a lifestyle, and one that I intend to continue living well after the project is over.”

Photo submitted by Libby Segal.