To call 2023 an eventful year would be a pretty massive understatement. Over the past twelve months, I traveled a lot, worked a lot, and attempted to process (as we all did) a lot of distressing news from around the world. I also finally caught COVID — like a week ago at the time of this writing; Merry Christmas to me — so apologies if I'm not the most eloquent in my reflections on the past year.
Still, a lot happened, so let's dive right in. Here are my Top 10 things from 2023, ranging from tech and travel to music and, well, scotch whisky.
I started using the Pixel 7a
Despite my interest in sharing deals and offering buying advice to our readers, I tend to use my devices until they're completely obsolete and falling apart. While I won't say that my trusty Google Pixel 6 has reached that point just yet, it has definitely started to slow down — which led me to finally try out the Google Pixel 7a.
As my colleague, Nick Sutrich, stated in his Pixel 7a review, "There's almost no reason to buy any other phone," and I'd have to agree. The 7a (which you can buy for pretty cheap, by the way) takes everything that I loved about my Pixel 6 and makes it even better. There's a noticeable boost in performance, the display and software work beautifully, and all of the Pixel-exclusive camera software makes me feel like a professional photographer when I'm traveling. Speaking of which...
I went to Iceland (again)
This year also marked the second time that my partner and I traveled the Ring Road in Iceland. This route circles the entire country and, in our case, at least, takes about 10 days to complete if you want to take your time. You pass by endless waterfalls, canyons, black sand beaches, and glaciers, with countless hikes that let you explore the otherworldly countryside along the way.
There's nothing quite like traversing ancient lava fields behind a meandering flock of Icelandic sheep or walking next to a glacier in the footsteps of the island's first Viking settlers. Plus, there's loads of great seafood and beer, and if you go in the summer, there are almost 24 hours of daylight (more time for activities!).
The first time we took the route was in 2019, and we camped the entire time. This time, we stayed in small hotels and cabins, and we set aside some time to venture into the remote Westfjords for a few days. It was fun repeating the same journey and reflecting on how much we've changed over the past four years while the island itself remains seemingly unmoved (although the recent volcanic activity proves otherwise). A bunch of my favorite places on earth can be found in Iceland, and I'd suggest everyone make the time to visit if they ever get the chance.
I finally got some wireless headphones
I have some pretty strong opinions about music, which makes it surprising how long it took me to finally get a pair of wireless headphones. Don't get me wrong, I have all kinds of wired headphones, but it just never seemed necessary to stress about un-music-related features like active noise cancellation or hands-free calling. That is until I was cooking with headphones on, and a dangling wire sent a pile of dishes crashing to the floor.
Now I own a pair of Sony WH-1000XM4, and I'm never going back. Whether I'm cooking, reading, or sitting on a plane, my headphones come with me. The active noise cancellation blocks out unwanted noise when I need to focus, and the sound quality totally destroys whatever I liked about my Pixel Buds (where did I even put those?). My wired Audio-Technica headphones are still the go-to when I'm listening to music at my desk, but everywhere else, it's all about the XM4.
I bought a Pela case
Phones just keep getting more and more durable, so when I decided to buy a case for my new Google Pixel 7a, I focused more on style and sustainability than protectiveness alone. I eventually came across a company called Pela Case. While they may not be as rugged as your Spigen and Thinborne types, my Pela Case seems to work fine against the occasional tumble, and more importantly, it's the most sustainable phone case I've ever used.
In addition to being drop-tested for up to 6 feet, Pela cases are soft, stylish, and constructed from 100% compostable materials. The packaging is also totally plastic-free, and the company has been certified as carbon neutral and a B Corp. They may be a bit more expensive than the cheap plastic stuff you can find on Amazon, but it's a durable phone case that I feel good using, and it's one you should consider if you're looking for a Pixel 7a case.
I listened to a lot of vinyl records
Although I work for a tech news site and love my gadgets, I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to some things. Case in point: my feelings about music. I deeply treasure the full-length album as a standalone art form, and while I don't mind the occasional mixtape, I'm not too happy about the music industry's shift towards algorithm-based playlisting and vibe-based background music (let alone the fractions of a cent given out to artists in exchange for their life's work). Sorry, tangent over.
My point is that I love the experience of sitting down and listening to a full album front and back, which means I also love listening to vinyl records. My Audio-Technica ATLP120XBT turntable is one of my most prized possessions, and in 2023, I dug through a lot of bins at record stores and garage sales and found a lot of great records.
I also saw a lot of live music
As you might have noticed, pretty much every musical act has been touring over the past few years, presumably to make up for the loss of income during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means I've had plenty of opportunities to see some of my favorite bands live, from Sigur Rós at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley to Heilung at Red Rocks. It's an expensive hobby, but you only live once, so I plan to see many more live shows in 2024.
I spent a lot of time with my cat
This is Juniper.
She's 7 years old, polydactyl (so she's got some extra toes), and pretty shy to everyone but my partner and me.
Needless to say, she's one of my top things of the year (and every year, of course).
I got kinda into Scotch
When it comes to imbibing, I never found myself enjoying more than the occasional craft beer or glass of red wine with dinner. I never got into bourbon like a lot of folks I know, and making fancy cocktails at home always felt like a hassle. That being said, at some point this year, I ordered a dram of Laphroaig 10 at a bar here in town, and it blew my mind wide open.
Since then, I've been totally nerd-ing out over Scotch whisky, trying the malts from various regions, reading about the distillation process, and all that kind of stuff. My partner and I are even talking about taking a trip to Scotland in 2024. A nice pour of the right whisky feels rich, smoky, and full of history, like smelling a good old book.
My favorite whisky in 2023: Oban 14. Oban, send me free stuff, and I'll try to turn this site into Whisky & Android Central.
I read some good books
Speaking of good old books, I finally found more time to read this year. As you probably didn't know, before I started freelancing full-time and eventually writing about tech at Android Central, I spent the better part of a decade working in and managing independent bookstores.
In that industry, you get a lot of time to think, talk, and write about books, not to mention unlimited access to advance reader copies before the titles hit store shelves. As I drifted away from that business, however, I found that I had much less time to read.
Fortunately, while I'm still not reading as much as I used to, I was able to remedy that a bit in 2023. Here are some books I loved this year.
-"The Books of Jacob" by Olga Tokarczuk
-"Ka" by John Crowley
-"Matrix" by Lauren Groff
-"On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" by Ocean Vuong
-"Trust" by Hernan Diaz
-"Hild" by Nicola Griffith
-"HHhH" by Laurent Binet
-"The Hour of the Star" by Clarice Lispector
-"The Lord of the Rings trilogy" (For the first time! Finally!)
I finally got COVID
And yep, as I mentioned in the intro, I finally got COVID. I made it almost four years!
It's a bit of a bummer that I'll likely be spending the final weeks of the year stuck inside with a sore throat, but that's just how it goes sometimes. It was still an eventful year with plenty of great moments, and despite my unease about the upcoming election cycle and the endless stream of troubling news coming from every direction, I'm feeling optimistic about 2024. At the very least, it should be another interesting year.
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After almost a decade of working in the e-commerce space, Patrick Farmer (he/him) began his career at Android Central as a Deals and Commerce Writer before moving into a new role as AC's eCommerce Editor in 2023. When he's not hunting down the best deals and offering shopping advice for our readers, you'll often find him listening to music, camping out at a brewery, or treating his cat like a human child.