Personal Stuff

Please Stop Calling 2016 The Worst Year Ever: Travels and Trials


This post was supposed to be a rant. I was gearing up to be all indignant about the current barrage of memes and cartoons declaring 2016 to be The Worst Year Ever. And I wanted to be like:


You know. Because one should always respond to a meme with a meme.

Also: rest in peace, Gene Wilder. Jesus, 2016 did really suck, huh?

Anyway. I was all like: bitch, please. I assure you, I actually did have a horrific 2016. As did many other thousands of people suffering with personal loss or illness. Or, you know–poverty, hunger, or civil war. But then I realized three things.

  1. My pain does not negate the pain of others, even if I perceive my pain to be greater (because of course I do–it’s MY pain.)
  2. I have a saying. It’s a saying I created. And that saying is: just because it could be worse doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be better. I feel that saying applies here.
  3. It’s actually kind of nice to know that I’m not alone in hating this year. Some of those memes and cartoons are actually reassuring. I’m like YES, let 2016 BURN!

So instead of ranting, I stopped and thought about 2016. I looked back over the year and tried to determine if it really was the worst year ever. And I thought about all of the good things that happened. In keeping with the theme of my life, most of those good things were travel related. Because of course they were.

And I wondered: did the good outweigh the bad? I wasn’t sure. So I did what any sane person would do. I assigned numerical values to everything that happened in 2016 to determine if it really was the worst year ever. You know–using math.

For me, 2016 was a year which I began unemployed and diagnosed with really scary cancer. Here’s how that worked out for me mathematically (and because I realize this is a lot of words, don’t worry–there’s a TL;DR synopsis at the end).

All numerical values are between -100 and 100, -100 being the worst thing ever, zero being joy-neutral, and 100 being something akin to ‘lying on the floor covered in puppies while being fed oysters and handed piles of hundred dollar bills’.


Went to Disney World with my mom. +50

Cancelled a solo trip to Stockholm. -10


Ended up in the ER due to pain. Had gallbladder and appendix removed. -10

Drove over a snowy mountain to a little valley in West Virginia on my first-ever fully sponsored and paid travel writing gig. +10*

*only +10 because this was the week after my surgery so I was still in pain and also the snowy mountain drive was scary.

Diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer. -50


Cried. A lot. -10

Mom gave me the funds* to take one final trip; I chose to visit friends in a nearby state over doing something exotic because I thought I was going to die and thus wanted to say goodbye. No points awarded; this kind of zeros out, positive and negative as it was.

*Recall that I’ve been unemployed for an entire year at this point. So like, I’m broke.

Had what is often referred to as The Mother of All Surgeries. -100 (Note if you read that article: that’s actually exactly the procedure I had. Exactly that.)


Recovered from surgery. -100

Missed the first week of training for my new job because it was only 23 days after surgery. -10


Made it to the second week of training for my new job, which involved staying at generic mid-range business class hotel and which made me feel like a human again for the first time in a really long time. +50

Took my first post-surgery road trip, which involved a stop at a lobster roll shack and a brewery; was able to eat lobster roll and drink beer. +50

Had my first real day of work in over a year, at a travel-requiring job. +50

Spent a work-travel-adjacent morning at Watkins Glen State Park and was able to make it halfway down the gorge even in my physically-compromised state. +50


My husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on a Florida Keys road trip and in Key West with friends. +50

Stopped in Disney World on my way to a conference north of Orlando. +10

Snuck out of said conference for one evening and returned to Disney World for dinner and fireworks with a friend. +10


Fourth of July trip to Cape May with my mom. +50

Worked in the Hudson Valley; did Hudson Valley things. +10

Worked in Tennessee; visited Jack Daniels Distillery, Country Music Hall of Fame, one honky tonk, and a great restaurant where I befriended a pilot. +50


Worked in Florida, during which I also managed to spend an afternoon at a Palm Beach beach, spend a day in Disney with my Disney friend, and meet up with friends in Tallahassee for drinks and dinner. +100

Worked outside of Chicago; took an early flight and spent the day in the city I missed most of all. Ate a hotdog. Saw an old friend. +50


Worked a lot, mainly in the northeast. Made enough money to, like, pay my mortgage and stuff. +50


Spent yet another week in Disney World, this time with my husband and mother. +50


Crossed the Hudson one million times (because work). Neutral, as yay work but boo George Washington Bridge.

Watched Trump win the election with friends from a hotel room in Paramus, New Jersey. -80


More crossing of the Hudson. Neutral.

Christmas at home with my family. +10

A note on 2016: every photo in the header collage was from this year, beginning with me being in the hospital the second time (second out of three times.) Joy is possible always. 


Ok. That was a lot. And I didn’t do math as I went, so I’m hoping this is going to turn out like I thought it would. Fingers are crossed as I add and subtract.

The total score for 2016 is…a positive integer! 340 to be specific, with a margin of error of maybe 20 because math is hard. Still, definitely on the right side of zero.

And here’s something else I want to point out: I assigned ‘being diagnosed with cancer’ -50 points and I assigned ‘first day of work’ +50 points. I really deeply thought about this. Because as shitty as shitty things can be, wonderful things can be wonderful. And you should never allow the bad to carry more weight.

In fact, the bad only exists to make the good shine more brightly.


TL;DR version: at least in my life, more good than bad happened in 2016. And this is coming from me. The ever pessimistic one. The one who just made a crappy meme about being disemboweled.

Let that sink in for a minute.

And then I urge you–make your own list. What did you do this year that was positive? Tell me about all of the good things that happened in your life in 2016. They don’t even need to be travel related. Heck, I got a puppy, which was definitely a +100 event but which is also the opposite of travel related, as his existence makes travel more difficult and frankly less desirable, as a puppy on a couch is pretty much the best thing ever.

I’d like to end this with some kind of positive statement about 2017. But this was a lot of positivity for me at one time. So for now: here’s hoping your 2017 is moderately bearable.

Happy New Year.

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