Did you know there are actually three types of fun? That’s right, we’re rating our adventures on a fun scale now, and Type 2 Fun seems to be the sweet spot.
My mates Scott, Lachie and I left Australia armed with backpacks, a one-way flight to Patagonia, and 20 hours of Spanish podcasts. We had heaps of fun, but sometimes that fun hurt a bit. What’s going on? I think I’ve got it worked out – there are actually three types of fun on the fun scale, and I’ve got a Type 2 Fun problem…
Argentina, Not Australia
This year, we’ve put our Australian antics on hold and taken our shenanigans to the land of cheap beers and abundant mountains, South America. Diving straight into the deep end, the first stop on a year of goosing about, was Patagonia.
Coming to the end of summer over here, we got a taste of the unpredictable mountain weather. As we walked out of the idyllic town of Bariloche we had no idea of what was in store for us. With eight days of food, we were planning to link a few trails up in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi and make our way to Volcan Tronador, a 3,500m volcano on the border of Argentina and Chile.
Clear Skies Were Lies
We trotted out of town with blue skies and forecasts for a week of sunshine. What we got was 100+km and hour winds on exposed ridges and not a wink of sleep. The flapping of our tent sounded like a bush-doof at full bore…
Snow covered the path on mountain passes and scree slides turned into mud slips with the rain.
Three days later, with a mate’s tent broken, saturated gear, and no signs of the weather improving in the coming days, we high-tailed it back to Bariloche to reset and plan a second attempt.
But we were buzzing.
We were bloody glad it was over, but we were psyched. We didn’t necessarily enjoy it or have ‘fun’, but if we got the chance to go do it again, we wouldn’t change a thing. There was an energy in the air, in us, that you wouldn’t find if everything went to plan and we waltzed out of there squeaky clean.
It got us thinking. While not being ‘fun’ by any normal standard, or enjoyable at the time, we’d do it again in a heartbeat. We look back on it with dreamy, half-focused stares and slack-jawed smiles. If it wasn’t fun then what was it?
‘The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.’
– Yvon Chouinard, 180º South
Turns out it was fun, we just didn’t know it. It was Type 2 Fun, one of the three ‘Types of Fun’.
Ok, I’ll be the first to admit that on the face of it a scale for fun seems ridiculous. It’s an oxymoron, right? Making a scale and quantifying fun is like having an excel spreadsheet that tracks how carefree and spontaneous you are. It sounds even sillier when you find out that the third type of fun on the scale isn’t even fun at all. It sucks.
But bear with me, because ‘The Fun Scale’ and more importantly, Type 2 Fun, is awesome.
Type 1 Fun
Type 1 Fun is fun. It’s your blue bird day on the slopes, peeling barrels, sunsets, beers, and skinny dipping. It’s fun to think about, fun at the time, and sure as hell fun to remember afterwards. The only thing is that you don’t always remember it afterwards.
Type 1 Fun is great at the time, but except for a couple of moments here and there, they don’t make a lasting impact. They fade in the haze of happy holiday memories and that giant collective called ‘The Good Times’.
Type 2 Fun
Type 2 Fun sucks while you’re doing it, but rocks in retrospect. It’s the hike where you got caught in a storm, lost for three hours and the sole fell off your boots for the last six kilometres.
It’s that first marathon you didn’t fully prepare for or that time you got lost whilst caving and it took two long and terrifying hours of searching through the dark to eventually get out.
It’s not life-threatening, but it certainly takes you out of your comfort zone. It builds character and the further in the past the memory becomes, the more fondly you’ll recount it.
Rach found some quality Type 2 Fun in New Zealand. Read Soggy, Snowbound and Stoked
Type 3 Fun
Type 3 Fun is not fun. It’s your own personal reenactment of 127 Hours or anything that resembles Touching the Void. It sometimes ends in a helicopter evacuation and might feature you in the evening news. Type 3 Fun ain’t fun in anticipation, it ain’t fun at the time, and it ain’t fun afterwards. You sure as hell don’t forget it, but you wish you could.
Type 2 Fun in the Patagonian Andes
Our brief foray into the Andes falls into the category of Type 2 Fun. From the moment that the sun set and the wind started blowing on the first evening, I don’t think we experienced ‘comfort’.
However, this is when Type 2 Fun begins. It retrospectively creates great memories that stick in your mind for the long run. It’s the epicentre of personal growth. It’s that clichéd line of ‘living life on the edge’. Getting close to the line but not quite crossing it.
We were wet, tired, cold and at times, desperate. Type 2 Fun is generally achieved when you are outside your comfort zone. Somewhere in this space between comfort and agony, learning is accelerated. You don’t just learn skills, you’re forced to grow and push your boundaries. You might not enjoy it at the time, it’s challenging and goes beyond your regular routine, but ultimately, it extends you as a person.
The morning of our second day in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi didn’t bring reprieve. After a sleepless night wondering if the tent was going to collapse, we packed up and ate breakfast in a flurry. From there, the day consisted of false summits, ever-thickening snowfalls, and increasing exposure.
At some point during one of these false summits, my mindset changed from grumblings about the cold and daydreams about being warm and dry, to thankfulness that despite the conditions, I knew that I was stronger than this and had the ability to push through it.
I was in one of the most surreal landscapes I’ve experienced, isolated but free, feeling Mother Nature’s force and power. I wasn’t going to let a nagging internal monologue of complaints take a spiritual moment like this away from me.
Since then, we’ve continued our trend of dodgy hikes and questionable decisions. Applying this mentality has brought more enjoyment to every single one of them. The personal growth far outweighs any temporary discomfort I felt at the time.
Generally, you’re capable of a lot more than you think. We live within our comfort zone most of the time. Not because we’re lazy or don’t want to push our limits, but because it’s natural, it’s instinct and it’s our default. Adopt an attitude of just giving things a go, even if they may be a bit intimidating, and you’ll be impressed with just what you can achieve.
If you’re a bit queasy but not terrified of heights, go rock climbing. If the ocean is daunting, get some surf lessons. It’s time to check if you’re still uncomfortable in these situations, if you’ve outgrown the discomfort, or if you think it’s a fear you can conquer. There’s no greater satisfaction than that. You may even stumble across a new pursuit that takes hold of you like a vice and blossoms into a lifelong passion.
Appreciating the Little Things
If Type 2 Fun has one more thing to offer, it’s an appreciation of the small things. Embracing Type 2 Fun allows us to move past the momentary discomforts and find pleasure in the little moments of joy.
Two-minute noodles have never tasted better than when you can’t feel your hands and warmth is a mere distant memory. Lying down on a thin sleeping mat after a day scrambling up peaks feels better than that full body massage you had in Thailand and the cosiness of your sleeping bag rivals a hug from Mum.
When all the other joys are taken away, the little things in life suddenly become much more important. It’s a feeling that follows you home and you start feeling grateful for all those little comforts in life that usually slip by, taken for granted.
Chasing Type 2 Fun
Type 2 experiences aren’t explicitly sought out. They generally happen when you extend yourself and things don’t quite pan out. You don’t have to go climb a mountain half-naked and in a blizzard to achieve Type 2 Fun and personal growth. The experience is unique for everyone. It’s a competition with yourself, and no one else can decide what that is. It could be hitting the trails solo for a night or walking a tightrope between cliffs with mates.
Know your limits. You don’t want to level up to Type 3 Fun, this is the one exception where a high score will actually set you back.
It can be hard to get the balance between Type 1, 2, and 3 Fun right. Sometimes we get it wrong, pushing it too far or not far enough, but when we nail it, we discover the secret of living. I’ll continue to be seduced by the sense of adventure and the unknown.
Arriving back in Bariloche, hot showers and cold beers awaited us. As the grime washed off and the experiences of the previous days began their slow march into memories, I was struck with one final thought, ‘We’ve spent years getting comfortable in the wild, and now the natural progression is to seek discomfort in it’.