The Cost of Travelling the World for 1 year

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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How much does it cost to travel the world for 1 year? Well, ever since I revealed that our world trip only cost $40,000CAD (or $30,769 USD), we’ve been getting all sorts of comments like “How the HELL is that possible?” or “No way. Break down your numbers or it’s fake”.

Well, since you asked for it, here are the details of our travel budget in all its glory.

(Note: This post completely blew up and turned into a 3000 word monstrosity, so I’m splitting it into 2 Parts.)

Part 1: How We Travel the World on $40,000/year.

Before we left for our year-long trip, we had no idea how much it was going to cost. None. Zip. Wanderer set aside into a savings account his initial estimate of $75,000 CAD that he figured would be more than enough.

“Where did you get that number?” I asked suspiciously.

“Oh, I made it up,” he replied cheerfully. Ah, Wanderer. Painfully honest Wanderer.

“Too easy,” I replied, pounding the desk for emphasis. “We can do better than that!”

“Then what are you suggesting?”

I slammed a book down onto the table.

“This.”

Matt Kepnes was (and is) our favourite travel blogger, and we regularly consulted his site www.nomadicmatt.com while we were planning our self-indulgent victory lap around the world for tips and ideas on where to go. We’ve never met him, but if we did I’m sure we would hit it off as he thinks just like us: unwilling to accept the status quo and obsessed with value. So I knew that if HE could do it, WE could do it.

“$50 a day?” Wanderer said, wrinkling his nose. “That seems…aggressive.”

“It’s per person. So $100 a day.”

“Hmm…OK that might be doable. But isn’t Matt a backpacker? Wouldn’t that not work for us?”

“Oh believe me,” I replied confidently. “We can make this work.”

Well, one year later and adding up all our expenditures, turns out we didn’t manage to hit his $50 a day after all. We hit $42.

$42 USD/person/day ($55 CAD).

And oh BTW, $55 CAD per person is $40,150. Which is right on our 4% spending target in retirement. Which means we can keep travelling the world, forever!

Thanks Matt, you magnificent genius!

Duration: 1 year

Countries visited: 20 (USA, England, Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia)

Cost:

Region Duration Monthly Cost (CAD) Monthly Cost (USD)
North America 1 month $3174 $2441
UK 1 month $5150 $3962
Western Europe 1 month $4569 $3515
Eastern Europe 1 month $3454 $2657
Asia 2 months $4216,$3089 $3243,$2376
Southeast Asia 6 months $2640,$2675,$2649,$2387,$2176,$2214 $2031,$2057,$2038,$1836,$1674,$1703
Total 12 months $38,393CAD $29,533USD

Adding in $875/couple/year *2= $1750 for travel insurance, that gives us: $40,143 CAD/year or $30,879 USD.

By splitting the year between expensive regions (like the UK, Western Europe, and Japan) and inexpensive places (like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand), we were able to average our daily costs down to only $55 CAD/person/day.

We were also able to save at least $10,000 by staying in AirBnB instead of expensive hotels in Europe, and another $6000 by travel hacking instead of buying expensive flights.

Now, $55CAD/person might seen like a low amount to travel the world, BUT we STILL managed to sneak in these amazing splurges:

Lobsters in Boston

  • $40CAD/$30USD per person

img_20150714_153518804_hdr

img_20150714_153428292

I’m ashamed to admit how often we pigged out on this. Somehow we spent a ridiculous $1889.4 in just 1 month in Boston on food and alcohol! That’s nearly 50% MORE than our food budget in the UK! Hey what I can say? Boston is a foodie paradise! When you find a place serving a dozen fat oysters for $0.50 cents each, how could you resist? Luckily, I found a cheap sublet for $800USD in Boston, so that saved our budget from blowing up.

PADI certification in Koh Tao, Thailand

  • $324.78CAD/$249.82USD per person (4 day course, accommodations included)

p1150862

Best $650CAD I’ve ever spent! Considering that it includes accommodation and that PADI certification back in Toronto costs at least $1000CAD/couple with no accommodations, I’d actually consider this a money-saving decision!

The thing most people don’t know about me is that I was terrified of water (because I nearly drowned as a kid) and didn’t learn to swim until I was 24 years old.

So learning how to scuba dive is a big deal for me. I was pretty nervous for the first day, but passing all the tests was a breeze after that. Plus, I got to kick a kick a jelly fish in the head while I was under there, so that’s always fun. Jellyfish are jerks.

Scuba diving in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

  • $104CAD or $80 USD/person for 2 dives

Well, now that we’re certified, we gotta put our PADI to good use, right?

Hiking the Swiss Alps

  • $112.50 CAD or $86.54USD/person for train ride and lift

img_1144

If you love nature, you HAVE to go to the Swiss Alps. It’s seriously the most beautiful place on earth. Of all the places we’ve been to, nothing else comes close.

Robot Show in Tokyo, Japan

  • $76.74CAD or $59USD/person

img_0544

THE BEST SHOW I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE! And no, I’m not exaggerating. Apparently, it cost $10 Million dollars to build the set for this show and normally I don’t think spending more money necessarily makes things better, but in this case it does. Even Cirque Du Soleil’s “O” can’t compare. I was pretty bored through most of that show, so you can see how high a bar this Robot Show had to cross.

 

Kobe Beef Restaurant in Osaka, Japan

  • $61.78 CAD or $47.51USD/person

img_0955

This meal completely ruined steak for me. I used to love steak but now even the best steak seems like a crappy replacement for Kobe beef. Thanks, Japan. Why do you have to ruin everything with your ridiculous attention to detail and kick-ass skills?

Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • $40CAD or $30.77USD/person, transportation included

thailand_elephants

Fell head over heels in love with elephants on this excursion because I discovered that they are the BEST animals ever. Move over puppies, you have been replaced.

Note: I didn’t know this at the time, but riding elephants is actually really REALLY bad for their spines. A lot them get mistreated to make money for the tourist industry and it’s horrible. If you want to go see elephants in Thailand, please don’t ride them. Go to the Elephant Sanctuary where they rescue these amazing animals and let you feed and bathe them instead.

Kayaking in Cat Ba bay, Vietnam

  • $36.50CAD or $28 USD/person/day, food included

img_1528

We almost made the mistake of going to Halong Bay like all the other tourists. As it turns out, Cat Ba is where it’s at. Located just south of Halong Bay, Cat Ba island has 3 gorgeous beaches, a small underrated town with awesome food, and lots of Kayaking day trips out to Lang Ha bay, which is exactly like Halong bay without the insane crowds.

Entry to Angkor Wat + tuk tuk hire for the day

  • $40CAD or $30USD/person/day

img_2035

Angkor Wat is the ancient temple where they filmed Tomb Raider. I originally thought it’s just 1 temple but apparently it’s an sprawling ancient city that used to house 1 Million people! Generally it takes 3 days to see all the temples, but we were sick that week, so we only had 1 day. Luckily we did get to see the major ones and I’m actually pretty glad we didn’t get the 3 days pass because I would’ve started to get “templed-out” after the 2nd day. Still, I can’t stress how amazing this place is and what you would be missing if you don’t go to Siem Reap in Cambodia to see it. A MUST DO.

Curious to see how much we spent in each place? Here’s a look at how much we spent in each category in the different regions:

North America

  • $3174.47/month

Category Cost in CAD/month/couple
Accommodation $987.65
Food/Alcohol $1889.4 ($537.63 groceries, $1351.77 eating out)
Transportation $211.32 (includes taxes for flight to Boston using points)
Activities $0 (The biggest activity? PIGGING OUT)
Clothing/Toiletries/Cell Data/Etc $86.1
Total $3174.47

travel_expenses_na

We ate A LOT of lobster, lobster rolls, and lobster bisque…or rather “LAHBSTAH” as the Bostonians like to call it.

Surprisingly, in Boston, groceries were actually not cheap…even compared to Europe. Or maybe it’s because I became obsessed with the organic food from Trader Joe’s (we don’t have them in Canada), who knows?

UK

  • UK: $5150 CAD/month

Category Cost in CAD/month/couple
Accommodation $2375
Food $1227 ($559.84 groceries, $667.16 eating out)
Transportation $863.41 (includes flights on RyanAir and EasyJet)
Activities $592
Clothing/Toiletries/Data/Etc $92.59
Total $5150

travel_expenses_uk

The ridiculously priced accommodations, transportation and activities, made me clamp down on our food budget like crazy. Other than high tea and few pubs we didn’t really go out to eat. From what I hear about British food, I don’t think we’re missing much.

Europe

  • Western Europe: $4569 CAD/month

Category Cost in CAD/month/couple
Accommodation $2191
Food $1240.62 ($417.04 groceries, $823.58 eating out)
Transportation $759.84 (includes flights on RyanAir and buses to get around)
Activities $233.99
Clothing/Toiletries/Data/Etc $143.55
Total $4569

travel_expenses_we

  • Eastern Europe: $3454 CAD/month

Category Cost in CAD/month/couple
Accommodation $1583
Food $1284.14 ($480.14 groceries, $804 eating out)
Transportation $375
Activities $170
Clothing/Toiletries/Data/Etc $41.86
Total $3454

travel_expenses_ee

Japan

  • Japan: $4216/month

Category Cost in CAD/month/couple
Accommodation $1736
Food $1477.80, ($386.88 groceries, $1108.92 eating out)
Transportation $692.78 (includes taxes for flights paid with points + low cost airline tickets + local trains)
Activities $251.86
Clothing/Toiletries/Data/Etc $57.56
Total $4216

travel_expenses_jp

Southeast Asia

  • Vietnam + Malaysia +Cambodia: $2387/month
Category Cost in CAD/month/couple
Accommodation $769.51
Food $672.06 ($138.22 groceries, $533.84 eating out)
Transportation $586.67
Activities $248.47
Clothing/Toiletries/Data/Etc $109.89 (including visa entry fees)
Total $2387

se_asia

Wow! This is why we love being in Southeast Asia. Not only did our food cost drop by half even though we went out to eat 100% of the time instead of the 25-50% in Europe, our accommodation also dropped by half or two thirds!

So if you’re planning a world trip and finding it difficult to balance your budget, simply add Southeast Asia into the mix. The more time you spend in SE Asia, the less chance you’ll break your budget. They’re like the bonds of your travel portfolio in that they decrease the risk of skyrocketing your costs.

So there you have it. Travelling on the world on $40K really wasn’t that hard and we even splurged a lot. All the haters out there who say “Oh, travelling is SO expensive, you can’t travel on less than $100K/year”? KISS my tight budgeting ASS.

And again, if you want to learn more about how to travel the world on about the same amount as you’re living right now at home, check out Matt’s book…

Saved our ass. Can save yours too.

And stay tuned next Monday for “How We Travel the World on $40K/year Part 2” for how we saved big bucks on world travel.

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39 thoughts on “The Cost of Travelling the World for 1 year”

  1. I believe it, my wife will go back to Asia, we wheeled and dealed and found a direct flight, on China Airways, for less than $800 Can return.

    We have a connection to Thailand, I am told a room in Chiang Rai, is about 20.00 a day Can.

    That leaves $30 a day for food …

    cheers
    D.

    1. Oh Chiang Rai is an awesome city and definitely do-able on $50/day. We spent that much in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai is even cheaper.

      Are you going to check out the White Temple?

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! This is so inspiring. It’s igniting my wanderlust.

    Random question: what do y’all usually buy at grocery stores? With so much moving around I’m curious if you have a go to menu/grocery list to keep food waste down.

    Looking forward to part two!

    1. I tend to memorize 5 recipes and then switch between them for variety. Eg, Waterzooi (which is a popular Belgium stew/soup), which requires only 8 ingredients: chicken, leek, potatoes, carrots, chicken stock, butter, cream and eggs. Very easy to make, tasty, fast and cheap. I make a big pot and regularly end up with leftovers for the next day.

      So with those recipes in mind, I buy exactly what I need at the grocery stores. And prices for leeks, potatoes, and carrots don’t vary much from country to country so it’s easy to cost it out.

      When we get bored of the existing recipes, we tend to check this site for new recipes: http://nomnompaleo.com/

      Since I’m big on Paleo (very good for losing weight and keeping fit) and simple recipes so this works well for me.

  3. The total cost of insurance premium for me alone is about US$206/month, which I thought is pretty damn good.

    That is my share for health + dental + vision. My employer of course also pays its own share.

    Since dental insurance doesn’t pay for everything, I also have out-of-pocket expenses each time I visit the dentist’s office. Those amount to about another $83/month–for regular cleaning, whitening, deep scaling, etc.

    I’m already at $289/month (206+83)! And it is blowing your monthly totals for the “Clothing/Toiletries/Data/Etc” category out of the water.

    Curious as to what kind of insurance you have and what exactly does it cover.

    1. We’ll be talking about the insurance details in Part 2, but basically it’s travel insurance, so it covers trip cancellation, interruption, and medical emergencies up to $1Million per person.

  4. Unless I see itemized receipts for every purchase, I call bullshit. 🙂

    This is a really fantastic breakdown. We find that in some countries, we spend less per day than we do in the states. It happens. Some places are just so cheap that you can afford housing, food, entertainment and come out ahead of what you’d spend on the same stateside. And if you can travel hack, it’s like you’re magically transported to a cheaper universe…for free.

    We’re totally going to use your tips for Tokyo eats later this month. If you have tips for Siem Reap, Bangkok, or Hong Kong, let us know!

    Also, if you happen to be in any of those places, you can meet our partners in crime over a beer. 🙂

    1. Awesome! Let me know how it goes. Curious to hear your thoughts on Ichran Ramen. I honestly think it’s the BEST ramen in the world. I know I’m biased but I found an article in Forbes saying the same thing!

      For Siem Reap, we can give you the contact for a good TukTuk driver to see Angkor Wat (he charges only $15USD per couple day and was so patient, waiting for us to visit each temple.)

      For Bangkok, highly recommend the massive city park (can’t remember the name, but it’s like being in Central Park in SE Asia) and eating in Chinatown.

      We’ll be heading back to Siem Reap early next year, so hopefully our paths cross. We should definitely get a beer..especially since they are only 0.50cents/pint! We got wasted for $2.50. Such value!

      1. A little tip for Ankor Wat. All the tuk tuk drivers have a prescribed route and you are literally following the herd. Ask your driver to do it in reverse. He’ll side eye you but you’ll be alone for the first hour our so and seeing the temples in solitude is just amazing. A hat is also a must. The sun even in the off season is killer.

  5. Reading the breakdown it looks like you actually could have done it for a lot less if you really tried. $1,350 of eating out in a month in Boston?! That’s more than we spend on eating out in a year at home! My maths says you spent almost $8,000 on eating out over the course of the year, yeesh! That being said you did get some super cheap accommodations elsewhere so that gave you room wiggle room for other luxuries.

    Either way, this seems an ideal way to see the world. Spend 6 months going basically anywhere you want, then 6 months in SE Asia. Rinse and repeat.

    I’d like to learn more about travel hacking flights. Specifically, how do you get these credit cards without a job? Usually most of the credit cards with the best sign up bonuses require a $60,000 or so salary or $100,000 household salary etc. You don’t have any income do you? Perhaps they make exceptions for high net worth. I’m just below the $60,000 threshold for this so once I cross I’m hoping to take advantage. Also, don’t the credit card companies clock on and stop accepting your applications? Surely you can’t just keep applying for the same cards over and over again?

    1. $8000 on eating out over the year…Yup, we’re HUGE piggers :P. You can clearly see where our priorities lie. I regret nothing!

      This is why I laugh when people think we ate cans of beans and chinese noodles on a $40K budget. HA! Wanderer told me “beer and lobsters” were non-negotiable for Boston, so I had to work that in. He also demanded that I only find places with swimming pools in SE Asia, so I had to work around that requirement as well. And yet we STILL came within the 40K budget. I don’t know how people end up spending so much on travel. It’s NOT that hard. When you go over in one category, just make up for it by cutting back in another (like you said, I made up for the expensive eating out in Boston with a cheap sublet and 0 cost in activities)

      As for the travel hacking, the trick is to wait at least 6 months before applying for the same credit cards. And the credit card companies already had our information from back when we were working, so they don’t ask for it again. Since we’ve had amazing credit ratings for the past 10 years, they just approve us. As long as you wait enough time between applications, you’re good.

    1. Thanks, Mr. Tako! And yes, SE Asia is a huge win in affordability. High quality of life for a low cost. This is why we met SO many expats.

  6. What a small price to pay for a profound life experience. Great investment on the PADI certification! My first dive was in Palau, speechless, words can’t describe, can’t ever visit aquariums again.

    If in a alternate universe where there was no mr wanderer, how would you adjust your budget. No adjustments to accommodations and slash everything else in half to roughly 26k cad a year?

  7. Here is my question: As a 65 year old VERY fit yogini, I also love travel and am FI. But I am anguished about the continuing degradation of Gaia and ALL of her creatures. I am struggling to keep my plane usage to once per year. I can tell from your writing that you share some of these concerns. Do you have a practical (and authentic) way to reduce the carbon footprint that results from your commercial flight travel? Or do any of your readers? I am trying not to DO just because I CAN when it comes to these decisions. But I love travel. Thank you.

    1. When you do long term travel, you end up staying in one place longer, rather than when you’re on vacation and need to see everything at once, so that helps. Other options include biking around cities instead of taking cabs, or using public transit.

      The way I see it, I’m actually reducing my carbon footprint, compared to when I was working. Because unlike my ex co-workers I’m not driving to work everyday. And there is also the option of taking long haul buses or trains instead of flying, or just staying in one place longer, which we will do going forward, now that we’ve seen so many countries already.

      1. What is it those kids say? “Math that shit up”? It’s actually kind of hard. But, the Internet suggests that Toronto – San Francisco roundtrip in an airplane is about 1 ton of CO2 emissions, according to the ICAO. A year of driving a Subaru Outback 20,000km is 4.6 tonnes, according to offsetters.ca. I think that if you do four long-haul trips, it may be about the same as driving for a year.

        Cars vs planes is difficult because cars are often single-occupant while planes have hundreds of seats (but it’s hard to know exactly how many). http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2015/09/evolving-climate-math-of-flying-vs-driving/

        Taking a cargo ship is probably a quite low-emissions form of transport, but there are still emissions involved with living and eating. So I’m not sure how much it comes out ahead, really.

        1. YAY! It’s catching on. Go math!

          And yeah, the math for this isn’t straight forward. It depends on the distance you drive per day, the type of car, and the number of travellers on the plane. Though if we use the numbers you stated above (good researching btw!), flying still wins, because, as you said, cars are single-occupant while planes have hundreds of seats (generally more than 200 for the flights we were on). So in that case, for one-way of the long haul flight in 1 day, you get 0.5 ton of CO2 emissions. But that’s for 200 people. Driving the Subaru Outback is 0.013 ton/day (4.6/365 days a year). So if everyone of the 200 occupants were driving to work instead, you’re getting 2.5 tons for 1 day of driving. So per person, driving is at least 5X more damaging to the environment in this scenario.

  8. Love seeing these numbers. One of the things I like about you and Wanderer are how you guys share real numbers, not just abstract things. Really makes you see what’s possible when you can put actual numbers together.

    1. Thanks! It helps that I love tracking the crap out of everything. 🙂 It’s really amazing how much you can accomplish when you track and correct. This gives you a guaranteed path to victory!

  9. Market Basket was probably one of the cheapest sources of food in the Boston suburbs. Haymarket was not my favourite market. I think it just had grocery store rejects.

    Angkor Wat: I think we did 5 days there. We rented bicycles, I think. Great way to get around.

    Although I speak the language, I do find it more tiring to be in Vietnam than, say, Greece or Turkey. Part of it is the more obvious inequity. Also, the food hygiene standards are probably not quite as strong. My parents are from there but had a really hard time with the food now.

    1. Yeah, I agree with you that Vietnam was more challenging than other parts of Asia. But re-aligned our expectations and researched the heck out of everything (I only picked restaurants with good traveller reviews), so that helped a lot. We didn’t actually get sick at all from the food, so maybe we got lucky? I think the trick is to eat at places with a big line up of locals. That way the food doesn’t have a chance to go bad since they use it up so quickly.

      1. Volume is key. We’d heard tales of pho noodles being preserved in formaldehyde. Not so good. Usually I hate waiting in line but this is probably a good occasion to do so!

        I think we were there before smartphones were popular and it was hard to find reviews online. Once upon a time you actually had to look at the Lonely Planet for accommodation reviews.

        (I do like doing everything when it’s not high season. High season sucks. Made the mistake of booking a trip for this Christmas. Should not have.)

  10. Oh my God!!! What a great experience! You actually created a luxurious trip on a small budget. It just shows, smart people can figure out ways to have great lives on a fraction of the money that most people think is needed. I’m ready to quit the job and hop a plane! You’re inspiring!

    1. Thanks! It was actually surprisingly not hard. I think the trick was to a) track everything and b) prioritize what’s important. Because we tracked as we went, anytime we went over budget we could correct it right away. And because we prioritized the things that were important to us and cut back in other categories, it helped the budget stay on track.

      Happy travels!

  11. Great post. I totally believe your numbers. Round the world for under $50 a day! That’s a title for your new book right there. What saved your butts was Southeast Asia for 6 months, which paid for your European and American indulgences. That goes to show again that’s where the value is and why many budget retirements are planned in Asia.

    1. Yup, Southeast Asia rocks! And I think Matt might kill me if I wrote a book called “Round the world for UNDER $50/day”. So yeah, maybe I’ll stick to writing an FI book for now ;P

  12. Hi guys,

    Great post again. Question about exchange rates: Is there a strategy you guys use to get the lowest rates to visit these countries?

    Let me know.

    Thanks!

    1. Good question! This is actually something I’ll go into detail in part 2, but generally we use the Chase Marriott rewards card which gives us free hotel stays, as well as a good exchange rate (it doesn’t add 2% overhead fee like the other credit cards).

  13. This must have been a great experience; are you planning to repeat it? Are you guys actually based in Canada nowadays, or wherever the wind blows you?
    Southeast Asia is the bond of your travel portfolio. I love it 🙂

    1. We go home every now and then to visit family, but right now we’re bouncing around Asia. We’re thinking of going back to Europe next summer and possibly visiting Portugal. So probably not going to repeat the exact same trip, but would like to spend the summer in Europe and winter in Southeast Asia. That way we never have to bring any winter clothes. YAY!

  14. Loved this post! Helps me to see I’m spending way more than I need to on travel. Gonna try to reduce expenses for our month in Australia. Never attempted travel hacking. But looking into it now. Thanks!

  15. Awesome post. We are FIRE nomads as well (though not as young as you – we are in our 40s) and have similar numbers to you guys for traveling . My friends don’t believe that this can be done and have asked me to blog about how we are doing it. I tried. I hate writing. Blogging, to me, felt like a job. So finding your blog is perfect. Anyone that asks me how they could possibly travel on $40K a year or less, will be promptly referred to your blog. I am so glad I found your blog (thanks JL Collins). The only bit of criticism I have is the name. Why just millennials? Why not Gen X? Your blog applies to everyone, regardless of age. A better name would be “Freedom-Revolution.” But, the name aside, you guys ROCK!

  16. Hey,

    Great post, as usual! Keep up the good work.

    One question: if you’re out of the county so often and for such long stretches, how do you maintain Canadian heathcare (Ontario in your case) coverage? Travel health insurance requires provoncal coverage.

    Thank you!

  17. Cool! And you guys aren’t exactly slumming it either. 🙂

    We somehow manage to come out close to $100-150 USD per day even with a family of 5. We’ll see how 2 months in Europe treats us. Might have to sneak pastries across the border into more expensive countries.

  18. I just checked “How to Travel the World on$50/day” out from the library and signed up for Nomadic Matt’s newsletters. One step closer to world travel :). Thank you so much again for the inspiration and detailed numbers.

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