Type Two Fun: What a 10-Mile Hike Taught Me About Solo Travel
I've never been the outdoorsy type; just ask anyone who knows me. I'm a city girl through and through—but born into a family of outdoor enthusiasts who prefer to spend their free time camping, hiking, and otherwise taking in nature. So I've had plenty of opportunities in my life to try (and end up hating) outdoor activities.
So I'm not a big nature person. Why, then, did I spend this past Thursday hiking ten miles up a mountain, mostly in the dark? And what does that have to do with solo travel? It has to do with a German word, Erlebnisse, and the three types of fun.
The reason I accepted my brother's invitation to join him and his friends on this 10-mile summit hike was because I went camping earlier this summer—and I didn't hate it.
Why? Because before I went, my brother told me something that completely changed my experience. His words made it different from any other time I tried camping/outdoors activities. They altered my perspective and made me actually enjoy an outdoor activity for one of the first times ever, and made me open to trying more:
"Nobody likes sleeping on the ground."
This simple statement blew my mind. I always thought people who enjoy hiking, camping, etc. enjoy every minute of it. That's why I never identified with outdoors people before, because in my experience, nature activities often involve quite a bit of discomfort and even pain.
These factors made me not want to do outdoor things anymore, despite the nice views, fresh air, time with friends, and other benefits I may have gotten from them. I thought that if I didn't enjoy every single tiny aspect of an outdoor adventure that I wasn't cut out for ANY outdoor activities.
It was like this big secret had been revealed to me: Even avid hikers and campers don't always enjoy every single second of those experiences. They do it because they've decided that the rewards are worth the discomforts or inconveniences. Once this simple concept clicked with me, it changed everything.
It's more like, people put up with the sleeping-on-the-ground part, the cold, the no-bathrooms, the dirt, etc. of camping because the rewards are worth it to them—the starry skies, the quiet, drinking beers around the fire with friends, waking up with the sun.
They put up with the blisters, sore muscles, and bug bites of hiking because the rewards are worth it to them—the views, the sunsets, the wildlife, the sense of accomplishment.
It's because outdoor activities like camping and hiking are type-two fun.
It's a concept from an REI blog post, and it completely crystallized things for me. The basic concept is that:
Type One fun is easy. It's fun in the moment, and it's fun in retrospect. Think drinking a beer with friends or lounging by the pool.
Type Two fun is not always easy. In the moment, it has challenges, and can involve discomfort, frustration, or inconvenience. We still do it because: 1) Parts of it are fun in the moment, 2) It's all fun in retrospect, and 3) We get some kind of major reward from it in the end that makes the struggles worth it.
Type Three fun is, as I understand it, more like climbing Mt. Everest and dealing with frostbite and exhaustion and possibly not making it out alive. No aspect of it is fun in the moment, and even afterwards you might question why you did it, though there may still be some reward in there after the fact.
The camping trip I went on was Type Two fun, and thanks to my brother's comment, I was prepared for that—which made all the difference. I slept on the ground in a tent in 30-degree weather. But before that, I sat under a velvet sky studded with an incomprehensible number of stars, drinking beer and cracking jokes with an awesome group of people around a campfire.
Once I understood the transaction—pay the fee of one uncomfortable night of sleep for the reward of a beautiful night with friends—I was able to accept, embrace, and enjoy the experience for what it was.
Same with the ten-mile hike. The fee was a blister on my pinkie toe, a chapped nose and ice-cold hands at the mountain's summit from the freezing wind, sore muscles for two days (and counting), and general exhaustion for the last two or three miles. The reward was great conversation with friends along the way, some Olive Garden breadsticks I stashed in my pack to eat along the way too, a stunning sunset and mountain/city views, a cup of champagne at the summit, and the extra bonus of 1,894 calories burned. 😜
It all comes down to: What are you willing to put up with to get a certain reward?
That's life. Type One fun is enjoyable easy, but it's generally not as deeply rewarding as Type Two. It reminds me of this new German word I learned this week, Erlebnisse. Here's the meaning I read:
Erlebnisse (n.) The experiences, positive or negative, that we feel most deeply, and through which we truly live; not mere experiences,
These Experiences rarely come easy. Think of the most impactful, memorable, rewarding experiences of your life. Were they Type One fun, or Type Two?
Getting a university degree, building a relationship with someone, applying and interviewing for your dream job, having a child, helping a friend through a rough time. All of these things, and likely anything else you thought of, are Type Two. They all involve struggles, discomfort, frustration. It's not uncommon to think, "Why am I doing this? Can I do this? Is it worth it?" during any of these experiences. Yet we list them as the best or most rewarding of our lives.
And now, my famous catch-phrase: It's the same with solo travel.
Anyone who tells you solo travel is all sunshine and butterflies is sharing false information. If you've ever traveled at all, solo or not, you know this to be true. Travel—and solo travel–is Type Two fun.
I list my seven-month solo backpacking trip in Asia as probably the single most rewarding, life-changing, impactful experience of my life. My memories of it are all rosy. But when I go back and read my journals from the day-to-day during that trip, I'm reminded of the struggles.
I got lost. I got frustrated. I missed flights. I met people I didn't click with. I asked myself if I could complete the trip, if I was crazy for doing what I was doing. I had people tell me I was crazy for doing what I was doing.
But I also stumbled upon hidden gems. I felt elated, overjoyed, touched, and moved to tears at many different times. I met people whose souls I felt shared pieces with my own. I gained confidence, I felt empowered, I embraced the naysayers and delighted in choosing my own path.
Solo travel—like camping, hiking, and most rewarding experiences in life—comes with its struggles and its discomforts. The moral of the story is to not let that deter you. If you're deterred by the inconveniences of Type Two fun, you'll miss out on Erlebnisse, those deeply impactful Experiences life has to offer.
Nobody likes sleeping on the ground. Nobody likes blisters and bug bites. Nobody likes accidentally choosing a crappy hostel, getting on the wrong bus, or struggling with a language barrier—especially not alone.
Remember why we do it. Remember that these are the fees we pay to get the reward in return. The fresh air, the sunsets, the campfire beers, and the confidence, the new friends, the self-discovery.
Type Two fun is the most worthwhile type. Don't let a bit of discomfort keep you from your Erlebnisse.