It was 4:30 a.m. and starkly dark, when I stepped outside into the pouring rain.
The dreamlike blending of night and morning made the scene all the more surreal.
My friend Leonelle, who I met on the bus the day before, was waiting for me outside of my hostel. The timing was perfect.
I eagerly embraced her, poncho-to-poncho. Our collective warmth momentarily kept the chill, damp air at bay. We exchanged hopeful “good mornings” and wasted no time in setting off toward Machu Picchu.
The combination of darkness and downpour made it difficult to see more than a few feet ahead, even with my headlamp on. Yet we trudged through this misery, fueled by purpose and sustained by mutual support. My shoes were soaking wet within minutes, water ran over my eyes—as if my forehead was the cliff-face behind a waterfall—and my hands turned into dripping tentacles at my side.
After a mini-eternity of marching through this dreary deluge, we came upon the entrance to the park. We showed our dripping tickets and crossed a bridge with a powerful current rushing in the abyss below. The foot of the mountain greeted us in the gloom and the somber, sodden ascent began.
The conditions were not for the faint of heart, to say the least, but we eventually made it to the world-renowned Machu Picchu.
Even while exploring the sacred site, there was no break from the relentless precipitation. Sunrise was merely a slow transition from pitch black to hazy gray. Dark clouds enveloped the mystical scenery for the rest of the morning. The rain just kept steadily falling. It wasn’t exactly my idea of fun at the time, but it was totally worth it.
Looking back on it, my Machu Picchu adventure is the epitome of “fun later.”
Introducing: Fun Now and Fun Later
A few nights prior to my Machu Picchu journey, I met a cool Australian dude in Cusco named Cam. We got into some insightful conversation when he introduced me to an extraordinary concept.
Cam explained to me that he considers every experience in life either “fun now” or “fun later.”
“Fun now” is pretty self-explanatory. It’s any experience when you’re enjoying yourself in the moment.
“Fun now” is the good stuff, the moments which act as a celebration of life. Fun now can be different for everyone, but the general themes tend to be parties, holidays, dancing, traveling, sex, great meals, and playing Pokémon (okay maybe that’s just me).
Another aspect of fun now includes things that relate to your passions or life’s purpose. If you love designing vehicles that could run off of zero-point energy, then that will be “fun now” for you. I personally love writing, so just typing this is “fun now” for me.
The beautifully synergistic effect of engaging in your passions is that they’re often both “fun now” and “fun later.” For example: after I write this, I’ll be able to share it with the world and re-read it myself, which would be “fun later.”
Experiences that are “fun later” are the ones you can look back on and smile with satisfaction. These are also the experiences that build character and make you a better person.
As I mentioned before, the pursuit of your passions, along with being fun in the moment of creation, can be “fun later” as well. The artist, who draws from her heart (fun now) and lives to see her work appreciated by other people (fun later) is an excellent example of this.
Many experiences that can be considered “fun later,” however, can be difficult in the moment.
Difficult, challenging and unpleasant experiences come with a hidden benefit; they make you a better person. You need resistance to grow. You need struggles to evolve. On the other side of hard times is a stronger version of yourself. It’s hard to imagine when you’re in the midst of it, but bad experiences, mistakes and so-called failures are often the best learning experiences (and blessings in disguise).
How many times have you heard someone tell a story of immense pain or hardship, only to end it with something like, “And looking back, that was actually the best thing that has ever happened to me”?
A metaphor for the challenges in life is working out, or resistance training. You’re faced with tremendous resistance, it’s difficult and not a lot of fun in the moment. But the results of working out are a stronger and healthier you. By subjecting yourself to resistance, you can then bask in an improved version of yourself (fun later).
Life is like a video game. It’s only fun and fulfilling if you’re challenged. Overcoming obstacles is how you level up. Would you play Super Mario Bros if all you had to do was leisurely walk to the right the whole time, unopposed by anything? No, that’s far too easy and would get boring after two minutes. The same applies to life. If life didn’t have a degree of difficulty, we would never grow and it wouldn’t be worth living.
The hardships in life also make for great stories, which is another aspect of “fun later.” Think about all of the epic tales and the archetype of the hero’s journey. In almost every classic story, the main character faces seemingly insurmountable odds and perseveres in spite of enormous struggle. Heroes, like swords, are forged through trial by fire.
Bringing it Home
Life can be thought of as one big video game. And like a video game, life is defined by challenge, progression and fun. It’s just that some things are “fun now” and some things are “fun later.”
Viewing experiences in terms of “fun now” and “fun later” enables you to appreciate the gift of every moment. You can truly cherish the good times while they last, and appreciate the seed of fun residing within the not-so-good times.
So if you’re having fun now, cherish every moment of it, because it’s fleeting. If you’re in a more difficult place now, remember that it’s also fleeting. And it will turn out to be a spectacular learning experience for you, or at least a good story.
Enjoy the journey, and most importantly, have fun.
Author: Stephen Parato
Editor: Catherine Monkman