22 Apr 2018

Nerd Time: Data Crunching from Our Time in Asia

We are now over two-thirds of the way through our trip around the world and we just finished almost exactly 4 months (124 days) traveling around Asia. For those of you who missed the first Nerd Time post and our midpoint review, we have been collecting data every day to be able to analyze how the trip is going with input from how we felt at the time and not just how we feel looking back on it.

Our travel through Asia took us to some very different places. We started in Myanmar before working our way through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Laos. Then it was on to almost a month in India before we wrapped up in Japan and China. We spent time on beaches, in small towns, and in huge cities. We saw multiple wonders of the world and we ate so many wonderful things.

Happiest Places

My perfect 10 days were in Siem Reap and at the Kuang Si waterfalls. .

Using a scale from 1-10 with 10 being that the day couldn’t have been any better, I had only 2 days that were perfect 10s during our time in Asia and Nate had none. My perfect 10s were the first day we spent exploring the temples of Angkor Wat and the day we visited the Kuang Si waterfalls in Luang Prabang. Having only two total “perfect” days is a lot less than we had during the first three months of the trip, when I had six and Nate had four. We’re not sure why, but we feel one reason may be that the novelty of full-time travel has worn off a bit and we have fewer how can this be our life? days.

Highest Scoring Places:
Amy Nate
Siem Reap, Cambodia Osaka, Japan
Koh Pu, Thailand Koh Adang, Thailand
Osaka, Japan Bagan, Myanmar
Lowest Scoring Places:
Amy Nate
Varanasi, India Langkawi, Malaysia
Mandalay, Myanmar Jaisalmer, India
Phnom Pehn, Cambodia Varanasi, India

Asia was also home to what felt like some of my worst days. One was the low point of my silent meditation retreat (a four) and the others were in India (also 4s). It’s interesting because I would have said I had a lot more bad days in India then my scores show. For me, it was the hardest place to explore but in the end my average happiness was a 6.6, compared to a 7.3 average for the whole time we were in Asia and compared to an overall average of 7.5 for our time in South America and Australia. We also continue to be very lucky and haven’t had anything truly terrible happen to us that would drive our scores below a four, fingers crossed it stays that way.

Nate, on the other hand, didn’t have a single score of four while in Asia. In general, he has had less variation in happiness than I’ve had. His overall average was 7.5, compared to 7.4 for our time in South America and Australia.

Contributing Factors

The strongest correlation among our happiness scores and the variables we track daily remains the happiness of the other of us. Though, this dropped pretty significantly from our time in South America (r=0.70) to our time in Asia (r=0.55), or a 22% drop. The trend we saw in South America that either the same types of things make us happy or having a happy partner makes it easier to be happy seems to have continued, and I think the overall drop can be explained by Nate not letting me being miserable through most of India ruin his own enjoyment of it 🙃 .

Another moderately strong correlation for me was the amount of money we spent (r=0.23), though it wasn’t as strong as it was for our time ins South America (r=0.30). For Nate, spending didn’t cause as much variation in his happiness(r=0.13). For him the distance we walked in a given day had a stronger correlation with his happiness score (r=0.27). I’m sure it didn’t hurt that we really enjoyed Japan and averaged around 10 miles a day of walking while we were there.

For our time in Asia, Nate and I ended up rarely getting sick, which was pretty different from our expectation going in(!). Each of us was only sick twice. We both got sick in Myanmar, right after arriving in Asia, and then I got sick in Phenom Penh and Nate got sick in Jaisalmer. I still don’t know how I managed to escape India without getting Dehli Belly but I will forever be thankful. We’re still happy that we built time into our Asia itinerary to be sick and recover, even though we didn’t end up needing most of it, since it meant we got to take everything a bit slower and really enjoy some of our stops more than we otherwise would have. Plus, moving around a lot more than we did in South America and spending a lot more time in hotels than in apartments made travel feel more stressful, so a slightly slower pace really helped.

In Asia we visited 30 different cities/places compared to only 18 cities/places in South America and Australia. We did spend an extra month traveling in Asia but I definitely felt the difference from adding so many more stops.

Since we first started thinking about taking this trip, a lot of our route planning focused on skipping winter this year and following good weather around the globe as much as we could. We have succeeded in that so far and have been extremely lucky with very few days of bad weather. We had 11 days where it rained, though it was rarely for the whole day. That’s less than 8% of our time traveling in Asia.

Most and Least Expensive Cities

Tokyo was our most expensive city and Jaisalmer was our least expensive by average cost per day.

The difference in the cost of living between the different countries we visited in Asia is pretty staggering. The difference in our most expensive cities and least expensive is huge and played a large role in how long we stayed in each country.

Most Expensive Cities

  1. Tokyo (~$165/day)
  2. Osaka (~$152/day)
  3. Beijing (~$147/day)

Least Expensive Cities

  1. Jaisalmer (~$40/day)
  2. Shimla (~$40/day
  3. Phnom Penh (~$55/day)

Part of the expense was the cost of accommodations in each place but it also was that in the three least expensive cities, we mostly just walked around and ate. We didn’t visit a lot of tourist attractions, take buses or trains, or splurge on any nicer dinners.

We also had a few big entertainment costs like our motorbike food tour in Saigon, our Grasshopper bike tour in Mandalay, hiring a guide and driver to see the sights in Agra, and our full day kayaking trip around Lan Ha Bay in Vietnam. Each of these was over $100. The food tour and driver in Agra were definitely worth it. I think if we could go back and do it again we probably would skip the bike tour in Mandalay and would have just done a half day of kayaking in Vietnam to save some money and my arms, which were devastated afterwards.


Nate's Favorite Foods.

Asia, more specifically South East Asia, had so much delicious and inexpensive food. We had dozens of meals for under $5 for the two of us. Some of our cheapest meals were noodles in Luang Prabang, Laos at Xieng Thong Noodle for about $3 for both of us to eat a huge and delicious bowl of noodle soup and Nate’s favorite roasted duck soup shop in Thailand.

On the other end of the spectrum, we also treated ourselves to some a few nicer dinners, including at Dali Courtyard in Beijing, a tasting menu in Luang Prabang at Tamarind, and a Christmas dinner at a German restaurant in Mandalay. Each of these was totally worth the splurge but it’s good that we are pretty happy with cheap food generally.

Still, I think my favorite country for eating in Asia was Vietnam. I miss the spring rolls, bahn mi, bun cha, pho, and avocado smoothies regularly. The food at my silent meditation retreat in Thailand was honestly a close second though. I may have been fasting part of the time but the food the rest of the food was amazing.

Nate couldn’t decide between the ramen in Japan, the thalis in India, and the whole fish in Myanmar and Thailand. We had a lot of all of them. Though he also would love to have a branch of 995 Roasted Duck from Koh Tao move into our neighborhood when we get back to DC.

Amy's Favorite Foods.


In Asia, we traveled a lot. To be exact, we:

  • Flew 15,961 miles
  • Took trains 6,226 miles
  • Drove/rode 1,665 miles
  • Boated 561 miles
  • Walked 753 miles

Most striking of those numbers is our train travel: that is 85% of all of the train travel we’ve taken on our whole trip to date. We spent a lot of time on trains in both north India and throughout Japan, and it was some of our most memorable travel, for better (Japan) or worse (India).

The 753 miles we walked works out to an average of 6.07 miles per day, which is a bit above our average for South America, but is almost entirely due to the nearly 10 miles a day we average during our two weeks in Japan. For our time in Asia before arriving to Japan we averaged only 5.32 miles per day, mostly because a lot of the places we were (especially in India) were not very explorable by foot.

Boats, Bikes, and Trains - oh my!

Take Aways

For this portion of the trip I had a lot more ups and downs than Nate did but both of us had fewer perfect days. Maybe after nearly eight months of traveling, it takes a lot more for us to feel like a day is perfect. Maybe we’ve gotten to used to our travel routine, so it doesn’t feel as special and amazing anymore. Asia was also the first time that I tried to convince Nate to end our time somewhere early (looking at you India) and the first time we started feeling homesick when it was around Christmas time and then we watched the new Star Wars movie and felt temporarily transported back to our local theater in DC.

Not much changed in the data for what was most strongly correlated with our happiness, so it turns out that it doesn’t matter as much where you do the things that make you have as much as that you do the things that make you happy.

In hindsight, I also wish I had included a measure for whether or not I actively felt homesick. Without data to back this up, I think I felt it a lot more during this portion of the trip. It might have been that we couldn’t say more than “hello” and “thank you” in any of the languages spoken in the countries we were visiting or that the internet was generally not good enough for me to call friends and family as regularly as I had been, or it may just be that 8 months is a long time to be away. Regardless, while I’m excited for spending the summer in Europe, I’m really looking forward to all the reunions that will be happening come August.