We think it started in 2016. Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, and David Bowie had all passed away. The deadliest shooting (at the time) in American history had occurred at the Pulse nightclub. Britain had voted to leave the European Union. The U.S. Presidential election had, well, happened. And as the year neared its conclusion, people started describing its evil through memes, personifying it like a video game boss we needed to clear before coming out clean in 2017. Hey, 2016 — stay away from Carrie Fisher, we all said when she collapsed on December 23. Four days later, she would be gone as well.
Of course, 2017 didn’t bring salvation, only more tragedies, more bad news. As the year progressed, people continued to lament how awful things had gotten, and 2018 seemed to be no different… At least, that’s the impression you get if you spend too much time online.
Social media can often act as an echo chamber for negativity, and as the bad news has proliferated over the past few years, so has the glass-half-empty reaction to it. By now, the movement has escalated from tongue-in-cheek despair to all-out nihilism. Everything is shitty, people are saying. And if you’re constantly scrolling through Twitter, it’s hard to disagree.
At Passion Passport, we’ve been trying to take a different look at things. We’re not here to say that everything is perfect; that’s never been the case. But to act as if the world has devolved into a terrible place is a gross misjudgment. There are countless reasons to remain hopeful about humanity — you just have to know where to look.
To help you out, we’ve collected 30 of our stories from this past year that will remind you that there’s still an endless amount of good in the world. This isn’t every positive story we’ve ever published (in fact, we’re happy to say that we had to cut a good deal just to narrow it down to 30), and these aren’t meant to be scanned through in one sitting. Rather, we hope you bookmark this page so that you can return and read through it, a story or two at a time. The next time you feel like you could use a reminder of the help and hope that people are spreading, a tale of resilience or inspiration, or just a reason to smile, this is a great place to start.
What It’s Like To Travel With Type 1 Diabetes — Traveling solo with a disease like Type 1 diabetes is not easy. In fact, it can be pretty scary. But when Rachel Heckerman received her diagnosis, she told herself she wouldn’t let it stop her from seeing the world.
Crossing The Fence of Gibraltar — In a world of Brexit and “the Wall,” separation and tribalism often seem to be the norm. When photographer Iggy Smalls visited the oft-disputed territory of Gibraltar, however, she entered an atmosphere of welcoming celebration.
Meeting The Yellow-Eyed Penguin: An Encounter With The World’s Rarest Penguin — Mark Eden’s first-person look at the Penguin Place, a New Zealand conservation sanctuary protecting the extremely rare yellow-eyed penguin, is both informative and inspiring — oh yeah, and incredibly cute.
Something Old: An Obsession With Prague’s Astronomical Clock — Even when we visit the most famous landmarks, travel is personal. Britton Perelman’s exploration of her obsession with one of Prague’s most recognizable faces provides a glimpse into the beauty of an adventurer’s particular experience.
Flying High For Kids: A Conversation With Andrew Parker — Andrew Parker’s hot air balloon boasts the words “Dream Big” — and that seems pretty fitting. A pilot from New Zealand, Andrew is flying to 100 countries with the goal of helping kids realize their dreams.
Get To Know The World’s Longest Honeymooners — Like many happy couples, Mike and Anne Howard decided to get married and then take a vacation to celebrate. That was six years ago — and they’re still on the road today.
Meet The 9-Year-Old Boy Who Completed Thru-Hiking’s Triple Crown — Completing the thru-hiking triple crown (the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail) is an insane feat, one that fewer than 350 people have accomplished. Christian just joined their ranks. He’s nine.
16 Countries In 16 Months: Helping 12 Communities And 1,000 Kids — Following the loss of a loved one, Hester Jones and her husband quit their jobs, sold their possessions, and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. Along the way, they worked with volunteer organizations to teach kids English, filmmaking, photography, meditation, and eco-conversation.
How Kate Gazaway Is Changing Lives, One Picture At A Time — Kate Gazaway always understood the universal language of photography, but through her charity work, she struggled with her identity as an “American hero.” That all changed when she launched Picture Change, giving individuals around the world the power to tell their own story.
The Truth About Solo Traveling As An Introvert — Introverts often feel, as Nick Carraway from “the Great Gatsby” puts it, both “within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” While traveling solo, that can actually be a spectacular combination.
Finding New Life In Hong Kong — Mental illness afflicts many of the often overworked residents of Hong Kong, but very few are talking about it. New Life Farm, both an urban farm and a rehabilitation center, is aiming to reverse that stigma, and the Hong Kong government is taking note.
The Healing Power Of The Wilderness — The summits of many prominent mountains sit atop the bucket lists of adventurers around the world. Ruth Allen wants us to rethink how we look at our climbing journeys. The greatest pleasure is found not at the peak, but along the journey we take to get there.
Documenting The World With The Most Humble Of Tools: A Q&A With Disposable Magazine — As society grows increasingly digital, we’re losing our grasp on the tactile world. Disposable is one of the countless magazines reminding us of the glory of print — and it’s doing so through images taken with disposable cameras shipped to artists around the globe.
Finding Wally: A Q&A With Rui Souza Neto — If you enjoyed the “Where’s Waldo” books as a kid, you’re in luck. @wallyfound sees photographer Rui Souza Neto exploring the globe while dressed up as the striped-shirt-wearing trickster. His images are phenomenal on their own, but Wally’s presence gives them that extra dose of nostalgia.
Run Your Very Own Bookshop By The Sea At The Open Book — A genius initiative that allows creatives to run the Open Book bookstore for two weeks at a time saved the charming Wigtown, Scotland, institution. And if that sounds intriguing, they’re currently taking reservations.
Missy Dunaway And The Worldwide Travel Sketchbook — Not only are the sketches in Missy Dunaway’s travel journal gorgeous, but they seem to capture her particular perspective, placing us in her mind’s eye at specific magical moments throughout her travels.
With Birds I’ll Share This Lonely View — With majestic prose, Nicola Ranson takes us through the exhilarating experience and conflicting emotions of paragliding above the alpine village of Mürren.
Documenting The Refugee Crisis With Alice Aedy — The term “refugees” is ubiquitous across news headlines today, but they’re seen as a group, an other, not as individuals. Alice Aedy’s photography aims to combat that, to tell the particular stories of those at the center of the crisis.
From Venezuela To New York: Linked By Language — Rebecca Trachtenberg’s English was too limited to allow her to follow her dreams in America. When she took the TOEFL test, she was able to fill in the gaps and open herself up to a world of opportunity. Today, she has two degrees, lives in New York City, and works as an editor for a lifestyle magazine.
Q&A With Mural Artist Timothy Goodman — From “Build Kindness Not Walls,” to “Love Is Undefeated,” the messages behind Timothy Goodman’s murals are exactly the reminders many of us need. Luckily, they’re plastered across buildings in some of the world’s major cities.
10 Pride Celebrations From Around The World — Is there a more moving festivity than Pride? It’s a celebration of not only equality, but love, humanity, freedom, and acceptance. In a world in which the fight for LGBTQ rights and respect is very much alive, seeing these events reminds us of the goodness and resiliency of the human spirit.
ENOUGH Is Enough: A Q&A With Director Brent Foster — The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have inspired one of the greatest societal revolutions in history, but Americans aren’t the only ones saying, “Enough is enough.” In his latest film, director Brent Foster travels to Nairobi’s most dangerous slum to tell the story of Beatrice, an elderly woman who decided to take a stand against sexual assault.
Making New Trails Among Famous Trails In Torres Del Paine — Overtourism and unsustainable travel practices are threatening some of the world’s most beautiful natural landmarks. Organizations like the Torres Del Paine Legacy Fund are fighting back, working to preserve these areas for generations to come.
The Last Man On Earth — There’s a quietness hovering over this profile of Rock Novak, the lone resident of Ballarat, California. It’s not eerie, though, more tranquil — a thoughtful meditation on what it means to live off the grid.
This Passion Project Is Challenging The Impersonal Cycle Of Documentary Photography — The French photographer Réhahn produces portraiture that’s truly one-of-a-kind. Eschewing the “one photo equals one dollar” approach, he always returns to the subjects of his photographs to make a meaningful contribution to their lives.
Painting Public Murals Across America With Dripped On The Road — “The road is an endless source of inspiration,” says Dripped On The Road co-director Jonathan Neville. His traveling artist residency packs six artists into an RV as they hit the road to paint public murals across America.
Baseball And Beyond With Daniel Norris — We tend to consider major-league athletes among society’s elite, living in sparkling mansions and rolling up to red carpets in sports cars with butterfly doors. Not Daniel Norris. The Detroit Lions pitcher spends the offseason with his journal, his camera, his Bible, his surfboard, and his 1978 Volkswagen van.
A Photographer’s Journey To Capture The Wonder of America’s National Parks — Under the threat of both climate change and an administration that doesn’t value public lands, Rob Decker’s beautiful National Parks Poster Project aims to inspire the next generation of parks supporters.
A Magical Christmas In Québec City — Children tend to see the wonder hiding behind every corner, but as we grow up, we learn to paint our surroundings in a more practical light. In this essay, Devon Shuman explores how the right travel experience can unlock that old way of seeing the world.
Empowering Edmonton Through Spoken Word: A Conversation With @Knowmadic — Edmonton’s poet laureate, Ahmed “Knowmadic” Ali, radiates positivity. And as a spoken word artist, he can give a pretty darn good interview. The result is a Q&A that’s as entertaining as it is informative. His story and his message are equally inspiring, so don’t be surprised if you walk away from this one feeling extra refreshed.
Have a favorite story from 2018? Let us know in the comments below!
Header image by Daniel Durazo