The term “third place” was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg to describe a social environment that is separate from the first place (home) and the second place (work or school). Third places are considered essential for community building and social interaction.
Oldenburg argued that third places play a crucial role in fostering a sense of belonging, social engagement, and a supportive community. These places are typically accessible, informal, and inclusive, providing people with a comfortable and neutral ground where they can gather, interact, and form relationships with others.
Examples of third places can vary but often include places like coffee shops, libraries, parks, community centers, pubs, churches and other gathering spots where individuals from different backgrounds can come together to relax, converse, and build connections.
Unfortunately, our modern society with its fast-paced, digitally connected world has created increased isolation and many third places of previous decades are no longer available to us. But fortunately for skydivers, many of us have found a third place in our dropzone. This is a place where we can fulfill our innate need for connection, adventure, and camaraderie. Here are some of the reasons why dropzones are such effective third places:
The Adventure Hub:
Dropzones bring together individuals who share a passion for adventure, pushing boundaries, and embracing the extraordinary. The common thread of seeking thrill and the willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone instantly bonds individuals and fosters a strong sense of community.
A Diverse and Inclusive Community:
Dropzones attract people from all walks of life, irrespective of age, gender, or background. The inclusive nature of the sport creates a melting pot of diversity, fostering a rich tapestry of stories, experiences, and perspectives. Whether you’re a first-time jumper, a seasoned skydiver, or simply an enthusiast watching from the ground, everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate. This vibrant and diverse community ensures that there’s never a shortage of interesting conversations, new friendships, and a support system that extends beyond the dropzone.
A Home Away From Home:
One of the things that makes skydiving so unique is that being such a small community, even a dropzone far from home can be a third place. The community is spread far and wide around the globe, so often we are able to create a third place in a completely different country when we travel too! It’s not uncommon to walk up to a new DZ, check your gear in, and feel like you’re already part of the family.
Building Trust and Camaraderie:
Skydiving is an inherently team-oriented activity that relies on trust and collaboration. Jumpers form bonds and develop deep levels of trust with their instructors, coaches, and fellow skydivers. The shared experiences of overcoming fear, supporting one another during training, and celebrating successful jumps create a strong sense of camaraderie. Dropzones often become a second home—a place where everyone knows each other’s names, where lifelong friendships are forged, and where people come together to celebrate achievements and support one another during setbacks.
A Sense of Empowerment:
The act of skydiving instills a profound sense of empowerment. Overcoming the fear of jumping out of a “perfectly good airplane” is an empowering experience that ripples through various aspects of one’s life. Dropzones foster an environment that encourages personal growth, resilience, and self-confidence. The challenges faced in the sky create a mindset of perseverance, pushing individuals to conquer their fears, set and achieve goals, and unlock their potential.
Wellness and Mindfulness:
Beyond the adrenaline rush, skydiving offers a unique opportunity to disconnect from the digital world and embrace the present moment. The serene ambiance under canopy, coupled with the stunning aerial views, can provide a calming and meditative experience. Think of that feeling you get on a sunset high-pull. Skydivers often find solace in the stillness of the sky, gaining a fresh perspective on life and finding a renewed sense of gratitude. These moments of mindfulness and self-reflection contribute to overall well-being, reducing stress, and promoting mental clarity.
As our search for meaningful connections and unforgettable experiences continues, dropzones present an unexpected option as modern-day third places. You may arrive searching for a sense of adventure, but walk away with a diverse and inclusive community, opportunities for personal growth, a sanctuary for mindful reflection, and life-long friendships.