By Peter Landsiedel
I have a good friend named Jared, who once made the argument that there are only two types of fun in the world. Jared is a seasoned world traveler, a bona fide woodsman, a skilled marksman, and a wonderful friend. He always has a well thought out and interesting perspective on any topic at hand. He has been very supportive of our trip, and has also let us pick his brain on a number of travel topics. My favorite view of his though relates to the “Two Types of Fun.” While on a backpacking trip with our significant others he laid this theory out for us:
Type I fun: The activity is fun while you’re doing it. Examples include laying on a beach, or eating dessert, or going to a concert of your favorite band. You do the thing because it is fun in and of itself.
Type II fun: The activity is not fun while you’re doing it, but it is fun to talk about later. My good friend Kaiser likes to call it “elective adversity.” Jared and I, along with Kaiser, take an annual “Winter backpacking trip” in northwestern Montana every year. It is not fun. It is cold, and snowy, and miserable. One year it rained on us- in February! We had standing water on top of snow and ice. Another year, I slipped and fell and landed square on the small of my back. I could barely make the hike out and spent the majority of the trip on my back, resting. This past year, my stove broke the first night and I had to do all of my cooking over the campfire. Despite these tribulations, when we get back to civilization, we always have fantastic stories. Viewing the trip through the lense of hindsight always makes thing seem better than they actually were. Additionally, and most importantly, we always come back with more knowledge and better skills to make next year’s trip, if not more comfortable, at least less miserable.
Another benefit of Type II fun is that you often have a great story. Nobody wants to hear about your perfect day at the beach. People love hearing stories about terrible events. A few summers ago, I attended a beautiful wedding for some close friends of mine. Unbeknownst to me, I had recently been exposed to a nasty stomach virus, and the symptoms of said virus reared their ugly head at the reception. I’ll spare the reader the gory details, but I spent the reception, as well as the next 24 hours, with both ends glued to a toilet. If you’ve ever seen that episode of Parks and Rec where Ron, Chris, and Ben get food poisoning, you can imagine my experience. This scene in particular is a good representation. Emily caught the bug too, but she was fortunate enough to make it home before the effects fully kicked in. My energetic vomiting was horrible at the time. But now, years later, people like this story, and I like telling it. Type II fun can be had even if you choose not to have it!
Those of you who’ve taken an Intro to Ethics course likely see the parallel between this characterization of fun and Plato’s distinction between Instrumental and Non-Instrumental goods. Car camping in the summer is fun in and of itself. It is intrinsically fun. Winter backpacking is not fun while it’s happening, but it makes me, Jared, and Kaiser stronger, more skilled, and it brings us closer together as friends. Shared suffering always strengthens bonds between people.
Emily and I are under no delusion that a good chunk of this trip is going to be Type II fun. The 8+ hour days of driving in the car, the frustration of being lost or missing a flight is going to suck, while it’s happening. But, I know that my wife and I will have amazing stories after the fact, and we can look back and be proud of the obstacles we overcame. More importantly, I know that these future struggles will serve to make us closer and stronger, as a couple and individually.
We’d love to hear some of your Type II fun stories in the comments below!