What are third spaces?
A third space is a place that isn’t your home or work, but somewhere else that helps you to feel connected.
They are often places that nourish us in some way, perhaps with friendship, education, giving back to the community, or simply a familiar and comforting space.
Often in these places, we feel a part of where we live, we are not defined by our workplace job or our role (or not) in the family. They can be places that we find liberating, and feel that we can truly be ourselves in. We can be who we want to be.
A decade or two before today, this space was often filled by our dedication to our faith or church. Places that traditionally elicited a sense of community and being with like-minded people. But that isn’t how we roll in 2024, so we have had to become creative with our third spaces. Libraries (keep them open!), community hubs, local cafes, shops, sporting facilities, clubs, art galleries, and even the pub can be one of your third places.
Loneliness and isolation are problems today, in a way that they weren’t before. This is especially true of older generations. We aren’t always as considerate as we could be to those who have lived a long life and may now need care. Sometimes older people may not speak to anyone else for days on end, where is their third space? Working from home, although beneficial in many ways, may limit the social interaction of those of working age. The pandemic and the cost of living crisis have taken their toll on our mental health.
These are massive subjects, and of course, are complicated and challenging obstacles to overcome. But perhaps we could all become mindful of our communities, maybe our weekly visit to an elderly neighbour who can’t get out and about could become their third space. If we all understood the importance of finding places that bring us connection in a way that suits us, we could support ourselves and others to lead a life that is a little more balanced.
There is an excellent article here by Blue Zones if you would like to find out more.
These are team huunuu’s third spaces:
‘My place to go is my rowing club at Broxbourne. When I am there, I am Clare the rower. It’s like many communities and clubs, we are there for the sense of place, activity or purpose, and the people we mix with become friends because of a sense of community.
When I’m rowing on the water with the crew I can only think of each stroke and the effort required by all of us to work in unison – together. The focus and commitment to the crew is forefront in my mind, as well as taking in and being part of the environment.
Some days it can be minus 2 degrees and the sun is shining beautifully, the wind could be howling, or the rain could be stinking different parts of your body as it hammers down. Often the sun is shining, and the water is flat, but it doesn’t really matter about the weather as it is always wonderful to be so incredibly present.
My third place gives me the privilege of chatting and really talking with our community. Young or old, competitive, or recreational, tall or short, novice or experienced, it doesn’t matter. When I am here, I am Clare, the rower and no one else.
My third place brings me serenity, strength, reflection, feedback, connection and fitness.’
‘When we were discussing third places, I was a little concerned that I didn’t have a club or belonged to any particular group. Did this mean that there was an area of my life that I wasn’t taking care of? I live in North Cornwall which is quite isolated from the rest of the world, we don’t have a train station that isn’t over an hour’s drive away, the bus service exists but takes a very long time to get anywhere. I live in a wild and remote place by the sea, and I love that! It’s a very different lifestyle from my previous one, both good and bad. It isn’t always easy to find your tribe, and I’m not really a fan of organised groups, I like to do things at my own pace.
But then I remembered the coast path and ‘our’ beach where most good things begin or end. From April to November, I am in the sea one way or another, mostly with my well-worn bodyboard. I laugh and whoop as I catch the waves and there is always someone next to me doing the same, it is a moment of joy, focus and challenge. On a wild day, I must be mindful and careful. I am very much in the elements and have to listen to something greater than me, the sea. She is demanding, unpredictable and magnificent. I watch for rip tides that can be dangerous. As I wait for the wave, I watch the birds in the sky, feel the salt water on my skin, and the sun on my face. I watch as much as I dive in. I am absorbed in this moment.
All year round I take to the coast path. It is an extraordinary environment. I get such real joy at watching the seasons change, the tides turn, the birds swooping and buffering in the wind. It’s physically challenging, with lots of steep bits that catch your breath. It’s reflective and I think of all sorts of things while walking, sometimes I cry if I need to. It is my moment for release. But it is the people that you meet that really make it. People stop and chat on the path, for some, it’s a cheery little hello and chat about the conditions of the day, but for many, it’s a very long and sometimes quite profound chat. There is something about it that encourages strangers to share their hidden secrets or worries. There is a beautiful understanding that this is a place of stories. Nature is my third place and I hope that I can always have it near me in some form or another.’
‘When the concept of third spaces was shared with me, I didn’t automatically feel there is a third space where I have my own community of people.
However, I realised the gym I attend is more than likely my third space. It is more than just a gym, it has clubs for my daughter, a social lounge, a swimming pool, a hot tub etc. And, I have started to spend more and more time here relaxing and eating as well as swimming.
I have realised, I feel more and more comfortable here. I now recognise the receptionist with whom I have a little chat, the swimming teachers stop and say hi, and the other adults in the lounge will strike up little conversations too.
When I am here, I am so much more than just a ‘mum’ so I think for now this is my third space.’