Orbitz recently published a map showing the most popular international travel destination for each of the 50 US states. It was an interesting map ... but of course, me being the Graph Guy, I had to pick it apart and create my own version. Follow along, and explore this interesting data, while also learning some data-mapping tips!
Before we get started, here's a photo from my friend Joy to put you into the mood for some world traveling. Can you guess what country this is? (Here's a hint - it's one of the "most popular" destinations mentioned in the maps below!)
Here's the original map that caught my eye.
I found the map very interesting, but I had to work really hard to understand the information in the map. Here is a list of the problems that jumped out at me:
- The map was prominently colored by US region ... but region had nothing to do with the travel data that the map was trying to convey.
- It wasn't easy for me to recognize the country maps, and it was difficult to read the small country labels beside each map.
- It was difficult to know exactly what this data represented, because the titles and explanatory text were a bit wordy, and split into different sections above the map.
- The region colors on the map competed with the country flags, for my visual attention.
- And although I'm pretty good with world geography, I'm embarrassed to admit, I wasn't sure exactly where some of these destination countries were located.
So I set about creating a SAS dataset of the information in their map, so I could create my own map. In doing that, I found one additional problem - some of their labels didn't align properly with the states (see the ones circled in red below). For example, the label for Massachusetts is pointing to New Hampshire.
In my version of the map, instead of using the flags I color the states based on the destination country. This way you can look at the map and quickly see which states have the same destination. I labeled each state with the destination country, and used a text size & color that is easy to read. You can also click the image below to see the interactive version with HTML mouse-over text:
I liked my new version of the map, but it still didn't help me know where these destination countries were located. I know that Guatemala & Colombia are "somewhere south of Mexico", but I wasn't exactly sure where. And where exactly is Thailand again? ... So I decided to create an additional map to augment my first one (remember - I always recommend looking at the same data in several different ways). This time I show the data on the world map, and color-code the destination countries the same as they're colored in the US state map. I had to resize the image below a bit small to squeeze it into the blog, but you can click it to see the full-size version:
If you click the image above, and then mouse-over the destination countries, you'll see a list of all the US states for which the country is the favorite destination. Here's the mouse-over text for the Philippines, for example:
And now the big (fun) question ... Why?!? Why are certain countries the most popular destination from certain states? Feel free to leave comments with your theories on this topic!