Most people who take a hot air balloon ride over Bath regard it as a “peak experience” that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
The concept of “peak experience” was developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow, who described the phrase as meaning:
“A rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experience that generates an advanced form of perceiving reality and are even mystic and magical in their effect.”
Stated in this way, a peak experience seems almost supernatural. Whilst your first balloon ride over Bath may not evoke feelings quite this strong, the experience can be deeply moving and elevating.
Maslow further described the characteristics of a peak experience as:
“Think of the most wonderful experience of your life: the happiest moments, ecstatic moments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in love, or from listening to music or suddenly ‘being hit’ by a book or painting, or from some creative moment.”
Peak experiences are often reported by people taking part in extreme sports such as mountain biking, rock climbing, sky diving and snowboarding. The issue with extreme sports is that you need to be fit and skilled to fully experience them.
Apart from the pilot, participants in a hot air balloon ride require no special skills and do not need to have a high level of fitness. If passengers can get into the basket, either alone or assisted, they are ready for the peak flying experience.
Flow is associated with peak experience, and is a mental state first named by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Flow can be described as being:
“…fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.”
People who are “in the flow” are focused on the present moment, not thinking about the past, or concerned with future issues.
Many people taking part in a hot air balloon ride report that they enter the flow state.
If you take a video while you are riding in a hot air balloon over Bath, playing it back to friends will let them see the sights you saw from the balloon. As the balloon rises from Victoria Park, your video shows the Crescents getting smaller. Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths appear like toy buildings a long way below. What the video does not communicate, however, is how you felt during your flight.
Before your flight can take off, the canopy of the balloon needs to be filled with hot air. This process takes a while. At this time, you are nervous yet excited in anticipation of your first flight.
As you, the pilot and your fellow passengers step into the basket, the balloon slowly rises. Looking at the ground, there is a feeling of fear, but this is soon replaced by a feeling of magic as you take in the beautiful sight of Bath from the air.
The balloon ascent is surprisingly smooth. It rises gently into the air, like a relaxing dream. You started the flight nervous but now feel at peace. As you get used to being high in the air, you can take time to look around. If flying at dawn or dusk, there is the magnificent sight of the rising or setting sun. Below you is the city of Bath. As the balloon drifts away from the city centre, you see the surrounding countryside and the small villages that surround the city.
A hot air balloon ride is unpredictable, and the direction of travel and what you will see around Bath is dependent on the wind direction. The pilot can control the balloon’s up and down direction, but cannot change direction. This can add to the excitement of the flight and can add a sense of magic and mystery.
Many people are used to flying, but on a plane where there is always thick glass between you and the outside. From a balloon, you can see directly outside. You can feel the breeze and the heat from the sun. You can touch the air, hear dogs barking, sheep bleating and cows mooing. In an aeroplane you are separated from nature, whereas in a balloon, you feel a part of nature.
Although a hot air balloon ride can be taken with a dozen or more fellow passengers, flights are often quiet. Instead of nattering, people simply want to take in the sights, sounds and feelings in silence.
Although landing can be bumpy, often, all you feel is a gentle jolt before the basket comes to a rest. If you have booked a champagne flight, now is the time for a bubbly toast to commemorate your journey.
Most people take photos or a video during their flight to help relive the experience, but even without these mementoes, you will retain vivid memories of your flight.
One characteristic of peak experiences is that they create vivid memories. Several years after your hot air balloon flight, you may spontaneously find yourself thinking about your flight, how you felt and the feelings of being above the everyday concerns of your life.
If you want to experience the peak experience again, you can always book another hot air balloon flight. It is not expensive when compared to other activities that can produce peak experiences, such as climbing Everest or an African safari.
If you took a hot air balloon flight every day, then familiarity could dilute the intensity of the experience. However, hot air balloon pilots who fly most weeks report that they still feel excited every trip they make.
If you want to share the peak experience with a loved one, then treat them to a hot air balloon flight ticket in Bath today.