If you think about your experiences from the past, what can you remember?
The peak-end rule tells us that:
According to this rule, our memory of past experience, pleasant or unpleasant, does not correspond to an average level of positive or negative feelings but to the most extreme point and the end of the episode.
(Kahneman & Tversky, 1999)
At the beginning I was a little reluctant to accept this theory, but then I tried it. And indeed, regarding all of my travel experiences, for example, the first thing that pops into my head is the moment in which I lived a feeling or several feelings simultaneously and to their full intensity. This happens only very rarely, most of the time when we don’t expect it.
But let me be more specific and personal, and use my travel experiences as examples:
The first travel experience, and definitely the one that had a huge impact on the person I am today, was my volunteer experience in the USA and Brazil.
Journey 1: The USA
I spent three months in the USA on a training course for the voluntary work which I was going to do in Brazil. We also had to do some fundraising in order to raise money to cover our travel and accommodation expenses for our planned stay in Brazil. Spending ten hours per day, in front of a supermarket in winter, asking people if they would like to donate to your cause, overcoming the feeling of humility and learning how to accept rude answers, was definitely the peak of my stay in the USA.
When I was leaving New York, I was so excited about what was going to happen, about Brazil, and so proud that I had managed not to quit, not letting the fact that I was the youngest in my team influence me. I can relive that feeling again and it’s pretty great.
Journey 2: Brazil
Becoming integrated in the community and being able to communicate in Portuguese. Only after six weeks of my four-month period did I finally manage to feel integrated into the community, and it was a huge struggle. I ended up feeling as if I had found another home.
I was soon going to take my flight from Sao Paolo. I had just returned from a trip in the Amazon, where I felt even more in love with Brazil and its beauty. While I was packing, I began to feel sad, to feel a kind of fear, that this experience was so amazing and that I would never have the chance to be 18 and relive it again, that I would never have either the opportunity or time to return to Brazil.
Journey 3: Norway
Climbing on Kjeragbolten, for sure. I remember my friend telling me casually that we were going to spend the next four days in the Norweigian mountains. I said ok. Little did I know that I would be going to a place that I had thought for so long was unreal.
I was sad that I was going to say goodbye to my friend again. But I was ready to go home, to reintegrate myself into society, because I felt so fresh from my experience in Brazil, and to start my studies at university. I finally felt ready for “real” life. I guess the combination of mountains and good company can heal anything.
Journey 4: Portugal, Spain, England and Austria
This trip was truly special. I loved its spontaneity.
I can remember being in Braga, having this amazing view in front of me, watching the sunset, thinking about my mom when she had taken a picture one year before, in the exact same place. I felt her close to me. That was definitely my peak.
My last destination was Vienna. Even though I was a little scared to go home and not to find my mom there anymore, I knew that she would have wanted me to continue my life in the same way. I made it a priority to live for her, to make the choices that she would want for me, and simply to make her proud. With these thoughts in my mind, I was ready to take charge of my life. So the next day I went back home.
Journey 5: Delta Danube
From a very young age, I had dreamed of going to the Danube Delta. To discover my country’s beauty. I went there with my friend and her family. Having a typical Romanian holiday was a blast. I was so happy that traditions were still well-preserved and I could never get enough of how amazing the nature was.
We ended our trip visiting my grandparents for three days. Reliving childhood memories and the love of my grandparents was all I needed.
Journey 6: Morroco
The Sahara desert, for sure. We spent one night in the Sahara under the desert sky. A storm was coming so we could see the lightning and the stars at the same time. It felt like magic was happening. We felt young and wild and free.
Usually after such a fun and wild experience, I wish that it would never end. But this time it was different and I was simply feeling grateful for everything.
If you think about the experience that you’ve gained through different relationships, adventures or trips, what are your peaks and ends?