There are great advantages to be reaped when people play together.
That’s the simple premise of Adventura, an outdoor adventure playground in Woodinville, where either you’ll find your inner child, or your inner child will jump out and surprise you.
Adventura offers activities, many of which revolve around its aerial adventure playground, that include climbing, zip lining, playing tag, obstacle courses, boat building and racing.
You can visit Adventura alone, with your partner, with your family or your colleagues, and while your time there will be all play-based, the idea is that you’ll learn more about yourself and those you’re with.
“The biggest benefit people get – the 800-pound biggest thing – is finding ways to build their connectivity with each other,” says owner and founder Scott Chreist.
“It’s not that there’s a problem, but they’re looking for ways to connect that’s different from the way they connect in the workplace or at home. When people play together, they learn new things. You see competitiveness; you see problem solvers; you see solutions come out of people you never thought would be like that. Play is the cornerstone for all this; you have to give people a chance to be back on the playground with each other.”
Attend Adventura as a small group and you are incorporated into a larger group at one of the playground’s three daily Playday sessions. If you attend with your company, they’ll customize a day for you. Groups larger than 10 people are given private sessions.
The Playdays consist of two and a half hours of climbing adventure on the Aerial Adventure course, which includes 50-foot cargo-net climbs, obstacles, traverse activities and zip lines. This course, says Chreist, emphasizes perceived risk-taking, trust, and peer-to-peer coaching.
While most small groups visit Adventura for fun, it’s rarely just about that, he says. “One of the great byproducts of what we do, especially on the adventure course, is that it teaches you about your connectivity with your partner, or your kids, or your friends. It teaches you some great stuff – how you pick on each other or push each other too hard in a very playful manner – and it definitely draws attention to the [relationship] between you and your partner or you and your son, spouse, or friend.”
It also helps participants conquer their fears. A person may stand on a high platform, rigged up to a harness but afraid to let go. But they do – at least almost always – “so people go from doubt and fear to a position of accomplishment,” Chreist explains. “You are no longer afraid of falling, so you go out and do things that challenge you more. So you graduate through fear, embarrassment, etc. to the end when you realize nobody helped you but yourself.”
According to Chreist, building relationships, both work-related and personal, requires knowing oneself better. Engaging in Adventura’s activities can help with this process, which he sees as a journey. “We can help you find the door,” he explains, “but you’re the one who steps through it.”
Play is the great release all of us need, he explains, but most of us don’t permit ourselves to do it. Instead, we get wrapped up in our 24-hour schedules of work and stress and relationships and forget the simplest thing: What’s better than just being happy?
But play does even greater things than simply letting us have fun and remember what it was like to be seven years old again.
“There’s a reason kids have recess in school,” Chreist points out. Recess, he believes, gives children the opportunity to develop their social skills in a setting that is not structured in the way that the classroom is. This unstructured setting affords a chance for children to explore how to maintain relationships and successfully conduct themselves in social interactions.
“There are all these things that are not contained in any curriculum,” he observes.
Chreist laments that there is no longer a recess period after fifth grade. “Recess should be continued into high school and into college and into the workplace where teams [attempt to] find ways to be socially interactive with each other.”
Chreist established Adventura on Bainbridge Island in 1997 and moved it to Woodinville in 2003. His life had been leading up to creating the company since 1984, when he faced a challenge as a teenager. “I was sent to Outward Bound as a kid to help my parents handle me. I had some difficulties growing up.”
In the wilderness he learned how much people need each other. “The overwhelming sense of being a tiny speck in the whole wild world effectively reminds one that being together is easier than being solo.”
As a result of this epiphanic experience, Chreist pursued outdoor education in college and then started working in the field, working for a company developing its own adventure course. Setting up his own company was a natural progression.
Most participants at Adventura are surprised – by themselves and by those they’ve come with. Some struggle, Chreist admits. “They fight with themselves to keep themselves from playing and from engaging. But if you present the activities in a way that’s irresistible, it doesn’t matter how much of a curmudgeon you are, suddenly you’ll find yourself holding a rubber chicken and laughing manically.”
It is common for executives to come and feel that they must maintain a level of decorum, according to Chreist. Then they find themselves doing something that surprises them.
Chreist and his employees usually manage to get even the most reticent of players – engineers – to play.
“They are comfortable in an analytical-type world. So going off to play tag sounds horrifying to them. But if you change the game to something that relates to an aspect of engineering, it makes it irresistible.” So for one group, Chreist and his team developed a tag game where participants had to tag enough people to connect a circuit, while others in the game could freeze the circuit and stall the connection.
“If you let people play for a couple of hours, those people will remember that day for far longer than they’ll remember, say, a lecture on group dynamics,” he declares. “It gets imprinted on their brains in a different manner.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about play.
Amanda Baltazar is a freelance writer based in Anacortes. Her adventures have taken her across the globe, including six months tramping around Australia and New Zealand. These days she explores the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. Amanda writes for variety of publications including Parents and Restaurant Business.