Expense Retrospective, Visualized

Over nineteen months’ hiking and traveling around the world, I recorded every meal purchase, every tip, every ticket, every expense.

Today, I took my first look at the data.

My next data project involves the business and finances around a climbing training startup.

Daily Expenses Across Countries

After cleaning the data from outlier costs (e.g., plane tickets, theft), the per-day expenses by country were as follows:

  • Perhaps surprisingly, Egypt beat out all the Southeast Asian countries to be the cheapest. Amazing what a few regime changes can do to a former tourism empire.
  • Norway tops the list. Of course.
  • Despite Australia’s apparent $12.10 average daily accomodation cost, Australian hostels were on the expensive side. However, the Australian couchsurfing community is huge, and I spent much time couchsurfing.
  • The West Bank was relatively inexpensive, but Palestinian hostels did not exist. Thus, I had to stay in more expensive hotels.
  • I stayed with relatives in England, thus the $0 for accommodation. Assuming $25/day for accommodation (taken from hostel booking sites), England would rank third most expensive at $63.50/day, above Sweden and below New Zealand.

With few exceptions, I found the above trends to mirror countries’ 2015 Consumer Price Index:

A finer breakdown of the categories is here:

Overall Per Day Expense

Per-day expenses averaged across the whole trip averaged out to $39.56, not including airfare ($6463.60) and outlier events(~$2000).

Total Spending

All in all, spending totaled to approximately 30K USD.


The jumps are generally plane ticket purchases, with three exceptions (one fun, two not-so-fun):

  • 13-April-2014: Island Peak Climbing Permit in Nepal
  • 25-Sept-2014: Passport Kerfuffle in Namibia
  • 23-April-2015: Theft in Colombia

Further Directions?

I welcome any suggestions for playing with the data.

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  22 comments for “Expense Retrospective, Visualized

  1. June 10, 2015 at 02:56

    wow has it only been 18 months? are you still travelling? 30k is v. impressive! hope you’re doing well ted!

    Sher
    http://www.shershegoes.com

  2. Alan H.
    June 10, 2015 at 18:15

    Came to here through Reddit /r/DataIsBeautiful. Nice visualizations and sounds like a very exciting trip! (outside of getting robbed) One suggestion — for your “Daily Expenses Across Countries” chart with the 5 categories, one idea is to create a 2-axis chart. On the left axis, a 100% stacked bar for expenses by category. On the right axis, a $ per day line/ dot chart that shows what you spent per day. I’d be really interested to see what your spending was as a % for each country.

  3. June 10, 2015 at 19:56

    Great breakdown. Thanks for sharing. I have added you as a reference on: http://www.travelindependent.info/b4yougo.htm#cost

  4. Will
    June 10, 2015 at 20:21

    What tools did you use to make these chart visualization? They look great, and the flexibility is fantastic.

    • June 12, 2015 at 15:24

      Looks like Google Charts to me for most of them!

    • Ted Cho
      June 12, 2015 at 16:06

      Thanks, I used the Google map chart for the map, and the RCharts package in R for the rest.

      • June 12, 2015 at 23:30

        Hey,
        I did one of these articles just a few days ago for myself ( http://www.narangie.de/6-months-and-still-not-broke/ ) but only had a google sheet at my hand, which resulted in a lot of work and not a lot of usability. Now I installed R but am a bit lost with it. Do you have a good resource to get started?

  5. Matt
    June 11, 2015 at 04:06

    I would love to see vertical lines on the total expenses graph that indicate travel days. There seem to be days where expenditures deviate more from the simple moving average for however many days you were abroad. I would like to see if the spikes correlate with your “travel days”

  6. Ernie
    June 11, 2015 at 06:50

    Yo it’s a great chart but the Turkey data is way off. I live in Istanbul and there’s no way it costs more than fifty dollars a day to travel around the country. Fifty dollars buys you a bus across the entire country (from the Syrian border to Istanbul). You can feed yourself for the whole day with five dollars. That’d be a pretty lux life. Living here, if you include rent etc, I spend about thirty a day.

  7. Kristoffer
    June 11, 2015 at 07:53

    Thank you for sharing!
    Nepal surpriced me. As you can see, its the cheapest accomodation, and I have found it to be one of the least expenicive places to travel. But it is in the middle of youre score.. The tours are the expenice part i Nepal.

  8. Corey
    June 11, 2015 at 18:02

    I was wondering if you had an excel export of the raw data. I’m planning a similar trip and would like to use some of the data in budgeting.

  9. June 12, 2015 at 14:22

    I’d do a bar plot stack with the type of expense like you did, but instead of giving it with the height relative to the expense, to put them all in 100%, so showing the difference in percentaje between countries.

    and actually… then i’d do the other way around: For each type of expense, which percentage was spent on each country :).

    Cheers and good data (and I’m sure it was actually better when you ‘produced’ it ;))

  10. Traveller
    June 12, 2015 at 15:50

    Thanks for sharing your data, we need more of this.

    You have to normalise the data in some way for it to be useful to a traveller who wants to know more about compared costs. Nepal can never be at par with Singapore, and many other countries seem odd also. As it is, the graph only reflects your personal experience. Tours should be removed and placed as as extraordinary expenses (Nepal would be the cheapest then, which makes sense). And you should find a way to minimize any other peculiar expense.

    YOUR average accommodation price in Australia was 12$, but THE average accommodation price in Austrialia, based on your data, should be calculated by getting the average expense of the nights you DID pay for accommodation. I know this will not reflect your personal expenses, but it would be really helpful for others to have this data. If THE READER wanted to backpack for a month in Australia in hostels, eating 3 meals a day, transport, etc, how much would it cost approx?

    It would also be great to, for example, see comparative prices for items such as a beer, a roll of toilet paper, a coffee, a 10min taxi ride, a breakfast in the street, and the like.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share this on the net. Many times I have researched the subject and there seems to be very little good data available on the net. In days where everyone is hyped up about “Big Data” it is strange that straighforward, quantitative values cannot be easily accessed to be able to compare cost of travel in a better way. There is one guy that made a site but his lists are a little dubious. Good effort though.

  11. Jon
    June 13, 2015 at 08:51

    Nice work. I’m on a 3-month through Central Asia right now and been collecting data to do something similar. But you’ve covered a lengthier period and more countries. We need more data like this.

  12. June 16, 2015 at 14:43

    Great data man! And good job w/ your life choices in taking this trip and being such a nerd to keep track of costs! Quick question: Your trip was 18 months? But from ur sentence “Per-day expenses averaged across the whole trip averaged out to $39.56, not including airfare (totaled $6463.60) and outlier events.” If I divide 6.4k/40 I get bout 160 days … so 5 months. Maybe clarify a bit?

    And a suggestion: Plot a scatterplot of your expenses by country vs the Consumer Price Index with a 1:1 line… that way we can tell graphically that Food in Peru is cheaper than the Index, but Transportation is more expensive.

    Suggestion 2: Put your data and analysis on github. I understand if it’s too personal tho.

    Nice job man!

    • Ted Cho
      June 16, 2015 at 20:59

      Hey thanks for the suggestions, I do plan on releasing my code on GitHub soon.

      As for the calculation, the $6.4K refers just to my airfare.
      Daily spending was $40, not including airfare and outlier costs.
      Total spending was actually $30K.
      Therefore, $30K = ($40 per day) (30 days per month) (18 months) + ($6.4K airfare) + (outlier costs).
      Outlier costs were about $2K.

      Thanks for pointing out the confusion, I updated the post!

  13. June 16, 2015 at 16:57

    Wow. People really have opinions about how you should present your data, don’t they? Regardless, thanks for sharing. Obviously, it’s going to differ person to person, but I for one really appreciate haven’t SOME idea of what I’m in for. Thanks. This took TIME, and it’s appreciated.

  14. July 21, 2015 at 00:44

    Great visualisation of the data, I’ve got an excel spreadsheet that I used to keep my expenses from my trip around Europe last year (9 months), so hopefully I can try and put something together like you have – this is great!

  15. Bradley
    October 8, 2015 at 01:18

    Hey Ted!
    I bumped into you at a Whole Foods store, I was working/selling Raw foods. I checked out your website and videos…it’s brilliant!

    Is there a better way to connect? I have a few questions regarding your travels.

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