Turns out 2016 wasn’t that bad after all

A simple exercise to discover how great your year actually was.

What a year, huh?

I’m sure you’ve heard someone complaining about how bad 2016 has been. They definitely have good reasons. War, catastrophes, political nonsense… not to mention the loss of those who helped shape who we are today.

This wasn’t an especially great year for me either. Don’t get me wrong, in retrospect nothing really bad happened to me, but I didn’t meet some of my personal goals, and that general ‘what-a-shit-of-2016’ feeling was starting to affect me, so I began asking myself why I was feeling that way. I decided to open up my phone’s camera roll and looked at the photos I took over the past year.

As I was going through all those pictures, videos, places and notes, I traveled back to all the little moments that made me feel good during the past year. All the people that made me smile. All the jokes that made me laugh. All the learnings that made me grow.

Why was I focusing on the bad things instead of on those great memories? Well, because Bad is stronger than Good.

Our brain is designed to remember the negative events over the positive ones, and that’s precisely why it’s important to look back and rescue all the good things we do so we don’t ever forget them. Happiness needs to be celebrated.

Social Psychology professor Roy F. Baumeister keeps a ‘kudos’ file in which he saves all the praise he receives that made him feel particularly good. I might not have that file, but as a good millennial, I have tons of Instagram pictures, Swarm check-ins and Twitter comments, so I decided to take a look at them and make a timeline with some of the moments for which I’d rather to remember 2016.

And turns out it wasn’t that bad after all.
Sailing around Ko Hong, Thailand.
Wandering in Manhattan, New York.
Views near a ski jumping hill in Holmenkollbakken, Oslo.
Chasing cliffs at Es Vedrà, Ibiza.
  • Built a functional Bot with my friend Javier.
  • Had a taco for the first time ever. Thank you, Chelsea.
  • Sotto Mare’s seafood risotto in San Francisco.
  • Failed trying to teach my friend Derek how to surf in Santa Cruz.
  • Ran yelling under the rain across the Golden Gate bridge while listening to ‘Heroes’ like a teenager with a sugar high.
  • Rode a bike around 12th South with my friend David, ending with beers in a park at sunset. It’s the little things.
  • Got an iPad. Returned it a week later.
  • Terrible hangover in Nashville.
  • Lived the launch of a new iPhone at an Apple Store. Ended up buying a Watch instead. #fanboy
People, mostly teenagers and retired old men, waiting for the Apple Store to open at 6:30am.
Volcanic mountains at Haleakalā National Park, Maui.
  • Swam in open water without a wetsuit at the Dolphin Club. Turns out hypothermia is a real thing.
  • Experienced ‘2001: Space Odyssey’ performed live by the San Francisco Symphony. Epic.
  • Ate Joylent for a whole week. Ugh.
  • Finally met Casey in person.
  • Paid 32£ for a 5-minute Uber ride in London.
  • Spent time learning about what and how I eat.
  • Started to understand coffee.
  • Shot a Snapchat story viewed by thousands of people around the globe.
  • Worked my ass off to ship dozens of new features for Guides, which reached a +4.5/5 average rate in both the Apple & Play Stores, and has been featured in publications like Mashable, The Washington Post, The Guardian or Forbes most recently. Sebastian Lindemann made a great analysis of the app, too. This is just the beginning.
  • Spent quality time with family and friends. I’m really grateful for them.
  • Met amazing people.
  • Missed amazing people.
  • Published my first post on Medium.

Doing this simple exercise made it impossible for me not to be grateful and positive about so much of what’s happened. Now it’s your turn. Open your camera roll, dump your twitter feed, ask your friends and check out all the amazing things you did over the past year. I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.

Oh, and follow me on Instagram & Twitter for new adventures in 2017!

Psst. If you’re passionate about travel and want to build amazing products to help people discover the world, join my team at Lonely Planet!