By: Iris Marzolf, Venture Outdoors Photography Intern
What does being outside mean to you? Take a moment and think. Maybe it’s a sanctuary—a place to escape a high-crime neighborhood, leave the city and smell fresh air, or just be free.
For me, the outdoors means fun. As a little girl I was painfully shy, and the outdoors was one of the only places I could relax. Moving around took my mind off being self-conscious, and I could play with other kids without feeling anxiety. Most of my happy childhood memories are from playing outside with my sisters. Whether it be sliding around in mud, catching fireflies, raking leaves, or throwing snowballs, there was something fun to do no matter the season. Play and the outdoors go hand in hand.
Upon hearing “play,” the average person probably thinks of little kids with their toys or games like tag. However, play isn’t just for kids. Adults “play” by joking around, taking walks with friends, throwing a Frisbee, or virtually anything that stimulates creativity and allows a break from life’s responsibilities. Play in general is important as it relieves stress, keeps the mind and body young, and builds or improves relationships. Play outside is even more valuable. It ramps up health benefits through exercise, gives you the chance to socialize with other people, and allows you to gain appreciation and respect for the environment.
Sadly, not everyone has the ability or luxury to get outside. That’s where programs like Venture Outdoors come in. Venture Outdoors believes everyone deserves the chance to experience how fun the outdoors can be. They organize programs, provide equipment, and offer guidance and inspiration so that people are able to do so. It’s not just about getting exercise and reducing stress, it’s about experiencing new things and making connections and good memories. They offer numerous youth programs which allow kids to socialize and play games with their peers outside, or get experience trying new outdoor activities they might not normally do with their families such as snowshoeing and kayaking. It’s like a reward at the end of the school day. However, Venture Outdoors isn’t only kid-focused; it gives people of all ages the opportunity to PLAY by meeting new people, getting out of their comfort zones, experiencing new things, and taking a break from their daily obligations.
This was taken on a Beginner Snowshoeing trip at Laurel Summit in January. The woman in front told me she was used to staying indoors during the winter, but she decided to seize the opportunity to try snowshoeing on a Venture Outdoors program. During the trip, she was all smiles—chatting with the people near her, enjoying the blue sky and sun—and by the end, she proclaimed that snowshoeing was her new favorite winter activity.
This was at a youth program Kayak workshop. The little boy pictured above had never kayaked before and loved every minute of it.
In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Maybe people are afraid to put themselves out there and try something different or worry that “playing” will make them seem childish. It’s supportive having a group of people who all want to have fun and do the same activity, and Venture Outdoors gives that support.