How much are you influenced by what other people think—even if they don’t know what they’re talking about?
Witness these examples from Seth Godin’s blog:
Texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk. It doesn’t feel that way, of course, but will you respect the data and stop, cold turkey?
The data shows that the vast majority of wine drinkers can’t tell the difference between a $20 bottle and a $100 bottle. Will that keep you from buying the fancy wine? How much is the placebo effect worth?
The data shows that famous colleges underperform many cheaper, friendlier, smaller colleges. How much is your neighbor’s envy worth?
You can easily apply this logic to where you travel (cheap places sound scarier, but usually aren’t), how you travel (ignoring the one-upmanship of visiting more places instead of really getting to know an area in depth), or where you stay (foresaking the guidebook everyone else is using).
Heck, even the act of traveling for more than a week puts you in a distinct minority, but it’s a minority that is far healthier and better adjusted. The data proves it—but most people ignore that.
Colombia is far safer than it used to be, so I’m flying down there at the end of this week to check things out for an article. People are looking at me funny when I tell them where I’m going, but I trust the data more than their old assumptions. After all, if I were worried about being robbed, I’d avoid the pickpocket-heavy places tourists cheerfully flock to in droves, like Rome and Barcelona.