Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Numbers and Money

My favorite saying is "a statistician drowned in a river with the average depth of 2 cm." Many people don't get it, but I use this in different situations, asking somebody to look at things from a different angle, or just not to take numbers or statistics too seriously. Anyhow, for reference, here are some numbers.

We visited 33 countries. One might argue rightly that I artificially inflated the number by including Tibet, Hong Kong and Macau, who some might consider part of China; Lesotho, which we visited on a day trip; France, where we spent a night in a motel across the Swiss border; Vatican, a tiny republic inside Rome; Saudi Arabia, where we only stayed 10 hours in the airport and it even includes Romania and United States (our home bases). I added all these places because they have different histories, cultures, currencies and/or borders and passport stamps. Even briefly, each experience was a special lesson for us. I think that the country model is way overrated, but unfortunately this is what we have in today's world.
North Camp of Mount Everest. China or Tibet?

Even by the most conservative count we went to Japan, China, Nepal, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Madagascar, United Arab Emirates, Great Britain, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Egypt, Turkey. We touched down on three continents for the first time in this life. We even went to the eighth continent and to what (some say) is left of Atlantis...
Airports - does anybody love them more?

We flew a lot. Many times because it was the only available option, sometimes for convenience, like in Madagascar, sometimes because it was the cheapest option, like in Greece, Italy or some places in Asia. We forfeited five flights with AirAsia, lost $630, but we didn't see it like that. We adjusted our schedule prolonging the vacations at Bottle Beach and in Bali. Overall we flew 48 times (50 for the girls), covering 123,549 km/76,770 mi (136,278 km/84,679mi for the girls, since they went for 10 days to the States in August). We payed $35,316 for plane tickets. I came a little over my initial budget, but a couple hundreds less than what Airtrecks, a round-the-world ticket consolidator, asked from us for one third of the flights mentioned above! This was the make or brake part of our budget. Interesting, if someone is flexible about her destinations, she can tour the world for much much less. For the distance that we covered and the number of flights we took nobody can do better than we did. I did the math, we payed 5.5 cents/km/per person (8.8 cents per mile). Double this figure if you plan your own trip, triple the figures if you buy tickets from some travel agency.
Renting a car can be cost effective for a traveling family

We used other means of transportation of course. I kept track of the meaningful day trips or travel between different areas by train, boat, bus, van or car. What we learned is that one meter, the international measure of distance, feels different on a road in Nepal or Madagascar compared to a highway in South Africa or Australia. And traveling by high speed train with 300 km/hour in China or in Italy is way different than going in zig-zag by boat on the Tsiribihina river. It is not fair to lump it all together, but anyhow the total number is 81 road trips. Some were two hours long, some were weeks in a row, like the car we rented for South Africa. Excluding the distance travelled by bus, taxi or subway within particular cities we still reached 40,000 km (25,000 miles) on the ground matching the circumference of the Earth at the Equator! I did the math, we payed 11 cents/km/per person (18 cents per mile).

We slept in 130 different beds. Most in hotels, a lot in rented apartments and at the end in Europe and especially in Romania we stayed for free with friends and family. Except for a handful of occasions we had 5 beds, and especially that 5th one added a lot to the total cost. Overall we payed $15.5 per night per person. That is not bad at all, is it? I did a little accounting trick though. Whenever we payed for something, a boat, a train or a plane, I counted that for transportation with the cost of the night at zero. We payed a lot for the cruise on the Nile or a boat on Tsiribihina river but I didn't include any of that for accommodation. In one way or another I marked 78 nights at zero and that changes the cost of a bed for us at $18.65 per person per night. We spent 7 nights in tents and 12 in chairs. That was not funny, believe me.
We rented apartments by the day in South Africa and so the food cost was negligible

The cost of food was partially affected by our accommodations. We payed very little or nothing in Romania where our families fed us. In many hotels we had free breakfast, where we had apartments we bought our food and cooked for ourselves. A more expensive apartment decreased the cost of food and a very cheap hotel meant eating at restaurants and spending more. The total came to $5.80 per person per day. How much do you spend at home? So many of my friends in the States who could "never" afford such a trip spend more than that for a latte and a panini, everyday! There is no bottle of wine that you could buy for this amount. Can you get a Big Mac meal in your country for less than $6? (In Switzerland it costs $14!)

This amount is not entirely true. If I subtract the days when we stayed with friends or family and assume that they also fed us for free, and also account for some of the free hotel breakfasts then we probably spent $7 per person per day for food. Is it a deal breaker?

This trip included a lot of additional expenses, and some of them were mandatory. We had to pay visas, several other fees and I included the immunizations that we had in Nepal and Thailand. The total of $4,235, could have been easily erased by going only to countries with no fees or visas like Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand or all of Europe. Yes, it was an optional expense...
One year ago, on my birthday, at the end of Africa. Visas were expensive but it didn't matter in the end.

We spend just a little more than that for all the miscellaneous occasional things that one could imagine. All the shopping, mail, Internet, replacement of broken iPods or stollen shoes, donations to beggars or charities or hair cuts came all to a little over $4,000 - that is not bad for five people on the road for 15 months, is it?
Included expense - trip preparation - a few books

And that brings me to the big chunk of "optional" expense that a trip like this entails. Amusements including all the museum or temple tickets, the fun rides, the guides, the cruises and so on. We spent a lot here, a little more than what we spent for food for our stomachs, this was the food for our souls. Examples include the Vienna or Sydney Operas, the helicopter ride in Hawaii, the scuba diving school, a trip to Lesotho, whale watching, and at least a hundred more things. We saved sometimes by skipping something outrageously expensive, like most activities in New Zealand, a National Park in Madagascar and the mummy rooms in Cairo. Generally speaking, we don't regret what we missed and don't regret most of what we did. Going over every blogpost from our trip you'd find where the money went.
Spending her 17th birthday at Taj Mahal, cheaper than the typical birthday party, still memorable.

You now have all the information you need to find out the cost of our trip. It was cheaper than I expected and we did it in the more expensive way. If you want to travel for a year with your partner and circle the world you should be able to do it for $40,000. Some young people do it for much less. If you have two little children you should add another $10,000. If you live in the first world and have a little more than primary education you probably can afford this. So why are you still home?

The Golden Pagoda in Kyoto, the first week of our trip.  Let's start over...


  1. Wonderful family, congratulation to the father and mother who are growing like this.

  2. How do you manage to get 1 year off from work/school? Congratulations for your inspiring trip!

    1. I explained pretty well on the FAQ page and throughout the blog but especially at the beginning, check the posts from September 2011. Thank you for your words.

  3. Hi,

    I think your trip was really amazing! :) you are awesome you have managed to go on this trip with the whole family. And you managed to survive! This is a great blog and it's a great inspiration for everybody. I enjoyed all the pics and your comments. Thanks for that!

    Jana (from the Czech Republic)

    P.S. Glad to see you have also visited Prague! Hope you enjoyed it your stay, mostly our beer Plzeň and zmrzlina :)

    1. Jana, thank you for your nice words. We shared our trip hoping that it would give ideas, inspiration and solutions to other families. As far as Prague, I visited 30 and 20 years ago so I lived all these years thinking that it is the most beautiful city in the world. With these very high expectations it is no surprise that this time I was a little disappointed, I found it too crowded, too touristic and too expensive but it remains one of the most fantastic cities. And also the beer and the ice cream were not as good as I remembered when I was 14, not to mention that they were 100 times more expensive. We'll see how I find it next time. Did you read the posts about Prague?
      Let us know if you come to America.


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