Type 2 fun is what transforms an everyday excursion into an adventure.
If you get outdoors often enough, eventually you’ll experience what’s known as Type 2 fun. If you’re lucky (or not, depending on how you look at it), it could happen on your first adventure.
Type 2 fun, coined in 1985 by a geologist named Dr. Rainer Newberry while on a field trip, is the middle ground between Type 1—plain fun, and Type 3—not fun at all. It’s the sweet spot: wretched throughout, and a good time in retrospect. A paradox.
A horrible night’s sleep (or two or three) thanks to uncomfortable cold, an unexpectedly wet adventure, a calf-busting, lung-scorching, head-swimming bushwack... all these experiences may be miserable in the moment, but not terrifying or dangerous. When you end up feeling happy afterwards, that’s Type 2 fun. It’s equivalent to a splash of colour in the dark; evidence of sunshine after a downpour.
While Type 1 can leave you mildly satisfied, Type 3 leaves you thankful to be alive and not wanting to hike or backpack or ski again. Type 2 ends with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for running water, a soft, warm bed and other everyday miracles, plus a sense of accomplishment not easily found elsewhere in life.
Many of the worst experiences in the present, when I’m sobbing internally this isn’t fun anymore, are the trips I remember most vividly in the future. They get the longest, most detailed and fun-to-read entries in our adventure journal.
The thrill of past suffering and the accomplishment of having made it through can turn anyone into an expert storyteller.
Type 2 fun is usually achieved when you put yourself outside of your comfort zone. Often these excursions are character-building, as if nature or your inner self decided to test you under pressure. Getting through these challenges feels much more rewarding than Type 1 and never gets old like relaxing on a beach does.
Type 2 fun is addictive. The rush after completing something that, quite frankly, sucked is hard to beat. It’s a wild ride, turning muttered cuss words aimed at whoever convinced you to go on the trip into more plans to get out there. It’s the juxtaposition between I hate this and let's do that again.
Jumping into a glacial lake is a mini-Type 2 experience. The water hurts. You’re gasping and scrambling to get out before you go totally numb. Once you do get out, the freezing burn turns into a delicious tingling glow. The jump is hard to make yourself do, and the swim itself is a breath-stealing, thousand prickling pins. It’s the warm rush post-plunge that makes you think that it was exhilarating enough to do again and consider fun in hindsight.
If you’re me, it takes until the next trip to think it was fun enough to want to do it again. If you’re my husband, the turn around is quicker, and one jump can turn into two or three in the same evening.
Sometimes the only thing that will mellow the suffering is time. Sometimes the elation creeps in before the trip is over.
Eventually, after a handful of Type 2 fun experiences, you’ll start to recognize when you’re in it. You know you’ll laugh about it with the person who drug you out in the first place when it’s all over, so you manage a smile through the clouds of whining mosquitoes. You know that this story will make your family shake their heads, and your friends listen wide-eyed, so you push on.
When the rain has soaked through your rain shell and is running down your body and into your boots as you bushwack down a questionably termed trail, wet branches smacking you in the face remind you that you are alive. Grumpy and shivering, but undeniably alive.
I can see a photograph, watch a short clip or read a sentence from certain Type 2 adventures and be transported back there. I know how I felt, what I was thinking and who or what I was battling. Often, the natural elements of “suck” were merely catalysts for revelations of personal strengths, weaknesses and, less profound, a polished gear wish list.
The lessons learned from these experiences are invaluable. Whenever you push yourself—even if you are forced to turn around—these types of encounters with the classic conflicts of man versus man, man versus nature, and man versus self build on your outdoor knowledge, perseverance and endurance.
Can Type 2 really be classified under fun? In the broader scope of life, I believe so. Those intense, rich memories sweeten with time, fuelling stories that will make future you jealous of the adventures you’ve had.