A Roadtrip Data Visualisation

roadtrip visualisation

It may be some dyslexic tendency of mine, but I find myself curiously engaged in the visualisation of data. In fact, after reading quite extensively about William Playfair, I became quite committed to trying my hand at this skill. In August 2012, I came across a challenge that called for the visualisation of some data beyond a tabular form. In order to understand the necessity for this visualisation, you must understand the context of the requirements for this data.

Occasionally, I indulge myself in a ridiculous roadtrip—my perfect kind of holiday—a condensed few days with a group of good friends driving through some countries we might never decide to visit specifically. I spend most of working hours planning, strategising, measuring and executing to something resembling precision – so when I have a chance to explore the world with friends, I like to free myself from such rigour. An absolute lack of planning would be preferable but this would probably be uneventful, so I like to employ the minimum amount of planning and let us fend for ourselves in when faced with unprepared situations.

So how do you “mildly” organise a trip for eight people from Berlin to Russia to Chernobyl and back to Berlin? First, the constraints:

  • The route is Berlin – St Petersburg – Moscow – Chernobyl – Berlin.
  • Most friends will meet in Berlin, where we’ll pick up our vehicle.
  • The last friend to arrive in Berlin arrives on Saturday at noon.
  • The final friend arrives in St Petersburg on Sunday at 7pm.
  • The first friend to leave the trip, must make her flight back to New York the following Saturday at 6am.
  • A vehicle can drive, at most, for 24 hours a day.
  • We would prefer to not drive for 24 hours a day, every day.

Secondly, the purpose: The reason I wanted this data was to be able to look at a piece of paper and figure out whether we might be falling behind schedule. Though there wasn’t much of a schedule at all, there was a very real chance that we might end up in the midst of Russia so far from Berlin that we could not possibly make it back on time for the first friend to fly out. Though these road trips seem hilariously unplanned and immature – in reality, someone has paid attention to the important details so hilariously bad things can happen but nothing truly detrimental occurs.

So how well did it work? Well, we made it.