The world is getting smaller and smaller, and folk of our generation in many countries have come to take for granted the wonderful freedom we have to travel, work, have fun and fall in love all over. But while we get to know this big ol’ planet through the soles of our shoes and the glare of our WiFi-enabled devices, there is one big misconception that many of us hold, even as we explore the planet more intimately than our parents: the idea that the map we use to plan our trails is 100% accurate.

It is perhaps a symptom of our times that the standard map of the world is taken as gospel. After all, we do most of our thinking and doing in 2D, through screens and books. But before the prevalence of the former – or even the latter – the average Jo might have had more chance of forming their conception of the world from an educational or decorative globe.

The globe is, of course, the true shape of the world – so when it’s flattened out to make a rectangular map, compromises need to be made in one place or another. Some maps maintain the correct sizes of the country but skew the distances; others, like the most common ‘Mercator’ map, preserve accurate compass directions but at the expense of stretching some countries bigger, and squashing others.

It means that those of us who have grown up with the Mercator map have some pretty inaccurate ideas about the relative size of different countries in the world. Colombia and the UK, for example, look around the same size on the map; in reality, Colombia is 4.3 times bigger.

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For a greater insight into some other surprising disparities, take a look at this new infographic from Expedia. It’ll help you get a clearer idea of just what’s going on beneath your feet.

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