It is not necessary to fear being eaten by a Grue: the truth about adventures

“It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.” Zork

I think this was my first step with adventuring. Sitting in front of a TRS-80, reading about a Grue. Zork was a text based adventure game, and the Grue was just a plot device. If you came to someplace dark, they forced you to find a way to light it, rather than just blundering around in the dark until you found the goal. But the Grue is a valuable lesson in real life as well.

I think most people don’t take adventures because they fear the Grue.

It’s human nature to doubt. More often than I can count I’ve thought, in the back of my head, what happens if . . . I’m sure we all have. But there’s a trick to it.

Well, two tricks, actually.

See that sign? There’s probably a Grue waiting over there.

First, don’t just wander off in the dark. Do a little basic research. Acquire some skills that help out in need. Everyone who takes off should have a basic level of competence in things like first aid and survival. I can remember the first time I heard the term “self rescue” and wondered what idiot came up with it. If you need a rescue, how can you do it yourself? But you can do it.

Once, I did something stupid. Ok, more than once, but I’m talking about one particular time. It is customary to stop and have a bathroom break before setting out at a trail head. This particular time, the Grue was lying in wait. I slipped on a moss-covered rock and fell. Hard. I dislocated my elbow in the process. I said a few profane words. Loudly. I can remember thinking to myself “I’m in trouble.” And that was when the training kicked in. I knew how to put a dislocated joint back in to socket. The only difference was, this time, it was my joint. The principles are the same and work well no matter who’s joint it is. It did hurt. But let me tell you, when that elbow slipped back in with the characteristic “thunk” I felt a whole lot better.

The second trick is to remember what the Grue really is. It’s a plot device.

When the Grue strikes, you get a really cool story. Think about it. “I went on this trip and everything was comfy and perfect and then I came back, the end.” That’s pretty boring.

When one of the people I was with on the trip when I fell told the story to a group of first responders, they were all impressed. She said they thought I was a rock star. I can assure you, I am not a rock star. I am a clumsy middle aged guy who is prone to fits of stupid. But allowing for that made for a better outcome and story. That’s the gift the Grue gives you.

This is a digital shot. It’s one of many I wish I had taken on a real camera when travelling in Peru.

So you miss the connecting train. So what. You get to spend time in a city that’s probably new to you waiting and get to explore a bit. You pedal right in to a huge storm with rain and hail and have to spend time huddled under a tree waiting it out. Cold and wet are not my favorite combination, I’ll grant you. I can do one or the other, but I don’t like both at the same time. But it makes it a better trip and the plot was thickened by it.

And of course, the best part of not fearing the Grue is it allows you to decide that you will go see where that path goes. You can try rafting, or climbing a mountain, or freewheeling, or hiking in the Andes. Just keep the right mind set, have some skills to handle what happens, and enjoy. There’s no need to fear the Grue. Encountering one is part of the fun.

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