Apps and websites to help you grow in 2021
To describe 2020 as ‘turbulent’ would be an understatement. As full-time travelling housesitters, who have spent the past three years tweaking and carving out this new life on the road, having it suddenly grind to a halt felt like learning a new way of life all over again. It was exhausting, and emotional.
Many people used the enforced downtime during lockdown to learn new skills, pick up a hobby, or discover new things online. Having had some practice over our travels with packing light, relying on the Internet for games, books, and learning skills, we’ve got a LOT of resources to recommend for anyone who’s stuck at home, wishing they could go out and try something new! There are so many wonderful websites and apps that we use every day to help us grow, gain knowledge and try new things together. We are not sponsored by any of the companies on our list – we honestly recommend these as the perfect intro to learning something new!
So if your New Year’s Resolutions list for 2021 is full of skills you want to master, but you’re unsure when gyms, libraries and classes will be open and running again, check out our list of recommended apps and websites to help you grow in the coming year:
Yoga / HIIT workout with Down Dog
We’ve spoken about Down Dog on our 5 ways to keep fit on the road blog post, but to recap: Down Dog Yoga is an app with hundreds of different yoga videos that guide you through your practice in real time. If you’re looking to take up yoga in 2021, this app is perfect to get you started as its customisable options give you complete control. You can choose the length of your practice, the background music (or turn it off if you prefer) and even pick from a list of Boosts to focus your practice, whether it’s Breathing, Hip Stretches, Twists or more.
You are able to access a limited amount of practices with fewer customisations for free with Down Dog. But when you pay for Down Dog Yoga, you’ll also get unlimited access to all the other Down Dog apps too, including their fantastic HIIT Workout app. The HIIT app is also completely customisable, and you can choose how long or hard to workout each day!
We usually practice yoga for 25 minutes, then follow it up with a workout on the HIIT app while we’re all lovely and stretched out. It’s the perfect app for an at-home workout, and if you’re still looking for something different, Down Dog also have Barre, Prenatal Yoga, and Meditation apps too!
Get fit with YouTube
Have you ever wanted to attend a fitness class, but felt too embarrassed or self-conscious to actually sign up? And now, gyms are closing with Covid Tier adjustments! Enter YouTube – the hub for learning at home. A couple of years ago Suze was keen to try out Zumba, but with us travelling around so often it would have been impossible to attend a regular class. She searched YouTube for beginners routines, and came across the fantastic ValeoClub, who post a variety of easy-to-follow, upbeat videos to get you started with this fun form of exercise! If you’re looking to get moving in a fun way in the new year, we highly recommend following ValeoClub or searching YouTube to find other fitness routines to try out at home!
Learn life-changing information with TED talks
If you’re looking to ease yourself into the new year with something a bit less energetic, YouTube is also an excellent place to learn about LITERALLY anything via TED talks. TED videos are influential talks from experts in any given field, and are completely free to stream. We love the self-help talks and inspirational stories – check out some of our faves and let us know yours!
- How great leaders inspire action – Simon Sinek
- How to achieve your most ambitious goals – Stephen Duneier
- My life as a work of art – Daniel Lismore
- I’ve lived as a man and a woman — here’s what I learned – Paula Stone Williams
- Why you should make useless things – Simone Giertz
- Inside the mind of a master procrastinator – Tim Urban
- What if you could trade a paperclip for a house? – Kyle MacDonald
- What I learned from 100 days of rejection – Jia Jiang
- The three A’s of awesome – Neil Pasricha
You can also check out more TED talks straight from the TED website, but we’ve found that some of our faves aren’t on there! The website does, however, have an excellent homepage where you can explore TED talks by topic, which we find helpful if we’re looking for inspiration on a specific subject.
Learn a new skill with SkillShare
We discovered SkillShare in the first lockdown, and spent hours completing online lessons from masters in their respective fields. There are thousands of courses in a vast range of topics, from photography tips and graphic design, to unlocking your creative potential and habit building, and even smaller things like how to make the perfect chai latte! If there’s a new skill you’re hoping to master in 2021, or at least give it a shot, you can search the library on SkillShare by keywords and find classes on that topic from a range of tutors, and pick one to suit you. Grab a free two week trial for SkillShare by using our link!
Meditation with Headspace
We had Headspace on our phones for a while before using it. Coming out of the first UK lockdown and heading back out into the scary world of social-distancing, masks, and ever-changing guidelines, we found ourselves in need of some daily calm, so we opened up the app and subscribed. Unlocking the full Headspace library (limited practices are available for free) we suddenly had hundreds of guided meditations at our fingertips for every eventuality.
There are three Basics courses to get you started with learning to meditate, as well as courses and single sessions to deepen your practice – we found ourselves drawn to the Navigating Change course, with ten sessions to work through in either a male or female voice. The app is beautifully designed and carefully thought out, with a judgement-free vibe and an emphasis on just showing up when you can, even for a short amount of time, and little by little you’ll build your practice and make progress. The app also has a Move library full of quick and simple exercise videos, as well as a Sleep library of gentle stories and sounds to help you sleep.
Get a good night’s sleep with Calm
Before investing in Headspace for meditation, we discovered Calm for sleep and it has changed Suze’s life. While Chris has the ability to nod off within seconds of getting into bed, Suze has been plagued her whole life with racing thoughts at nighttime, and anxieties keeping her awake. The Calm app is a complete GAME-CHANGER if you’ve ever struggled to get to sleep, and have made it your goal to sort out your sleep habits. The app is comprised of a library bursting with sleep stories spoken by well-known people, like Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Harry Styles and Idris Elba. You can download the stories to your phone so they are available even if you put your phone on airplane mode at night. Suze has been using Calm most nights for the past six months, and she’s still yet to hear the end of a story – they are so calming and beautifully put together that she happily drifts off within the first ten minutes. We’re so glad we found this app!
If you’re the kind of person that gets sucked into stories and can’t sleep to the sound of someone speaking, Calm also has sleep music and meditations to help you drift off to dreamland.
Learn a language with Duolingo
Whenever we’ve spoken to someone who’s learning a new language, 100% of the time they’re using Duolingo. We began learning Swedish with this app around five years ago, though we didn’t become daily users until last year! Suze is now on a 470+ day streak using Duolingo for just ten minutes each day to learn a few new words and practice. The app is completely free which we love, as it means there are no financial barriers for someone whose resolution is to learn a new language this year – and with thirty-eight languages to choose from there’s a good chance that your dream to be fluent in a language can be fulfilled! The fun, colourful design of the app makes it enjoyable to learn, and while it’s by no means a substitute for immersing yourself in the language, it’s an excellent place to start if you’re sad to be stuck at home instead of jet-setting to your favourite country.
Track and plan your walks with OSMaps, Strava and AllTrails
We love a walk, whether it’s with four-legged friends or just to get outside in nature and clear our heads. In 2021 we want to get outside even more and these three apps help us to find, plan and record our adventures. We find that logging our walks keeps us on the right path to complete our walking goals.
Ordnance Survey Maps are the pinnacle of UK walking maps and cover the whole of the UK in great detail. Footpaths and other details that are vital for walking are accurately marked – Google Maps doesn’t come close in comparison in this regard! But carrying around tonnes of paper maps when we are housesitting isn’t feasible. Fortunately they have developed an app which has all the same maps as the paper versions but in digital format, so no matter where we go… we know where we can go!
We use the OS Maps app for finding routes that others have shared, but also for plotting out our own routes, which can then be saved for use when we are out on a walk. One useful benefit of the digital version is that it uses your GPS on your phone to pinpoint your exact location – you don’t even need great map reading skills anymore!
We enjoy looking at our stats, whether this is how far we’ve walked or just seeing a map of where we have been. Chris has a Garmin watch which records our walks and then syncs with Strava to record our stats. You can also record just using your phone through the Strava app.
The last app we use is a recent addition – All Trails. All Trails can help you plan and record routes (we still prefer the above) but its best feature is the community driven database of walks. We use All Trails for finding walks which we can then convert into our own maps on OS maps.
*Bonus App* We also have an app called What3Words. We don’t actually use it very often at all, but it is there in case we need it. The basic premise is that it divides the whole world up into 3×3 metres squares and gives each square a unique 3 word ‘address’. If you are lost and need to contact the emergency services, you can give them this unique address and they can pinpoint your location.
Gain pet care experience with Borrow My Doggy
We’ve talked extensively about our experience with Borrow My Doggy, in our review blog post and in our subsequent FAQ blog post, firstly because it’s the website/app that got us started with our housesitting journey and secondly, we love it!! Simply enter your location and it shows you all the doggies in your area who are looking for extra walks, playtime or a friend to care for them when their owners are out at work. While we mainly use the website on desktop, the app is great for replying to messages from dog owners when we’re on the go.
We’re forever grateful to Borrow My Doggy for giving us our initial pet care experience, which meant we had references to show homeowners when we began applying for our first housesits back in 2017. It’s a simple idea that could be the start of your very own worldwide housesitting adventure! Be sure to check out our Borrow My Doggy blog posts and Instagram posts for more information on using the site.
Challenge yourself to read more books with Goodreads
We’ve recently made a habit to read more books, and to encourage us to achieve our goal we’ve signed up to Goodreads. On Goodreads you can set yourself a challenge to read X amount of books in 2021 (Suze has challenged herself to read twenty, while Chris is aiming for forty!) We also use the site to log books we’ve read, and to get inspiration for books to read next. You can also connect your account to Facebook to see which of your friends are on Goodreads, and read their reviews for books they’ve read or see what books they recommend.
Make a digital scrapbook with 1 Second Every Day
We got so excited about this app after watching the app creator’s TED talk about how he was planning to record a one second video every day for the rest of his life, to help him remember how he’d spent his days. As long as you remember to take a photo or a video every day, 1SE compiles them into a timeline of one second clips – the easiest scrapbook you’ll ever make! We recorded every day of 2020 and now have a six minute video scrapbook to remember what we got up to last year – surprisingly, it was quite a lot! Even in lockdown we made the most of every day and with the 1 Second Every Day app we’ll remember that time we took a different path on our walk, that sunset we captured, the page of that book that really resonated. It’s amazing to look back on your year and realise how much you accomplished – especially if you recorded all the new habits you started in 2021!
Keep on top of your goals with Streaks
Streaks is a simple app where you write your goals, they appear as bubbles, and you simply fill in the bubble when you’ve achieved your goal! The app lets you set reminders if you haven’t yet completed a goal that day, as well as choosing how often you want to complete a goal and what days – if you want to run every Saturday, you can log that on the app and even link it to your Health app on iPhone so it automatically completes the bubble for you. We love using this app every day to keep us on track with our goals for 2021. Over time we update and adjust our goals, but currently ours a mix of things likes ‘Read for fifteen minutes daily’, ‘Headspace meditation five minutes daily’ and ‘Walk 8,000 steps daily’.