Which version of yourself are you creating experiences for?
When my wife and I travel, I like to joke that there are two types of tourists. The first type of tourist is only allowed to look at the world through their camera lens or phone. The second type of tourist is only allowed to watch and complain about the people using their cameras and selfie sticks.
So, who's got it right? Well... it depends.
Designing the ultimate experience
Designing for the perfect experience isn't as straightforward as you might expect. That's because of how you perceive your experience changes drastically depending on where you are at within the experience.
For example, say you have to get a colonoscopy. However, the doctor has offered you two options. Option 1: The operation will be extremely painful, but over in 10 minutes. Option 2: The operation will still be quite painful, but not as painful as the first option, but it will take 50 minutes. Which would you choose?
Most people will select a shorter and more painful option if given a choice. However, a couple of months after the experience, people who selected the 2nd option are more likely to recommend it than people who had the first option.
Our expecting-self, experiencing-self, and remembering-self all have different perspectives. The "best" option depends completely on when the consider it.
Let's look at another example:
Expecting-self: I can't wait to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 2 months.
The expecting-self is focused on the unknown and anticipation. It can cause you to become excited or anxious depending on your disposition and the event. Know which side you tend to fall on, and purposely plan (or don't plan). Practice being okay feeling a little uncomfortable, it will help your brain fully experience the trip once you start it.
Experiencing-self: I'm can't believe I'm climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
The experiencing self is acutely aware of time. The clock moves slowly when the work is challenging, dirty, and exhausting. Feelings are vivid and amplified. You can have intense moments of clarity - like when you pause to look down on the clouds... you feel a sense of "here" that redefines your experience.
Remembering-self: I had an amazing experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The remembering-self compresses time. It focuses on peak experiences and how they ended. It looks for patterns and creates a narrative. Challenges become interwoven with success.
So, when you plan your next trip... what do you want to focus on?
Your future, your present, or your past? You can actively take steps to create the best experiences for each version of your self along the way. Here are some ideas to help you get the most out of each experience.
Enjoy your trip before you go by prescheduling and prepaying for it.
Plan a mix of structured activities and unstructured time to explore.
Schedule down-time to bond and recharge with your companions.
Schedule one or two specific events that are at or beyond what you are usually comfortable with.
During the experience, embrace the struggle.
Treat your trip like a story.
Plan time to share stories each evening discussing what you did that day and what you're looking forward to doing next.
Take time to record a few notes, and take a few pictures... but also "purposely" leave your camera in your bag at times.
Plan a specific "wind-down" event with your travel companions where you can share stories about your trip before you part ways and head home.
Create a photo album post-trip.