When Barb Owen re-located to Seattle for work almost 10 years ago, she wanted to meet new people and go on dates, but she didn’t want the pressure she often felt from online dating. So she turned to group adventure dating, and found more than just a few new friends. She met her husband.
While rock climbing or hiking in Machu Picchu don’t exactly sound like “old-fashioned” dates, that’s exactly how the Seattle-based public relations representative describes the group outings.
“There’s no expectation or pressure,” she says. “It’s unlike online dating where the only reason you are there is to date. This is the complete opposite, most times dating is not even the reason people join the group, although dating and marriages happen constantly. It’s the closest thing to meeting your spouse through family, work or school, where people used to meet in the old days.”
She signed up for group dates organized by the Seattle-based chapter of Events& Adventures, a company that offers group activity dates in 19 locations across the country.
She met her husband through a friend in the group in 2005, and he proposed to her on an Events and Adventures snowboarding trip in Whistler, British Columbia. They married in October 2009.
“It’s a place to find friendships and connections, I wanted to explore and see my new town and do things with other people,” she says. “It was a happy accident that it led me to my husband. It’s almost like old-fashioned dating.”
Despite the popularity of online dating, apps, social media and even traditional dates, Mark Owen (no relation to Barb), founder of Events and Adventures, says the company has sustain its popularity for 27 years. Mark says the group adventure date model is organic and natural for those who attend.
“You know everyone is single and there to have a good time; it’s not rushed, like a speed date” he says. “If you are kayaking with them, they like kayaking too. When you relax and have fun, you are most attractive to other people.”
The company runs between 30 and 40 events per location each month, ranging from moonlight cruises to game nights to even house parties. They limit attendance to between 20 and 40 people per event, and memberships range from $100 to $200 a month, although some events and trips require additional fees.
Adventure Dating in California offers similar adrenaline-filled outings at Moaning Cavern, California Cavern and other locations across the state. Heather Ginn, vice president of marketing for the company, says the dates offer perspective on a person that’s hard to pick up at a dinner table.
“You can get a better window of who that person is. It’s a whole new light of how people deal with adventures and adrenaline-filled situations.”
The cost of outings range from $44-$200 per person, and Ginn says the dates are often used as proposals between established couples.
“It’s something beyond the normal, dinner-and-a-movie thing,” she says. “You can get a better idea of compatibility.”
The group-activity date model is a mainstay on popular TV shows like ABC’s “The Bachelor.” And even if individuals aren’t necessarily athletic or coordinated, that doesn’t mean they should rule these dates out, says New York City-based dating coach Donna Barnes. The advantage of these action-packed dates is that the pressure and focus becomes on the activity, rather than chemistry. The rest comes naturally, she says.
“You have something else to focus on in an adventure date situation,” Barnes says. “You see if they are competitive, if they are a good sport. Those commonalities are what make relationships work.”
Ginn says people tend to get real and really let loose on these dates and often bond if there is real chemistry.
“When you are walking through hip-deep mud, you really have to rely on your partner to help you out,” she says.
As for Barb, she’s glad she met her husband in a non-traditional way.
“How amazing, to meet someone on a hike? Wouldn’t you rather tell that story, than say, ‘I met on a date at Match.com?’”