Sure, a lot of differences can be chalked up to matters of taste, but let’s face it, some places really do suck, while other places are worthy of weeks, months or years of investigation. Places where there’s no potable water, where flies crawl all over you and people defecate in the open are not to be sought out. Boring places, where your only choice is which shopping mall to go to and which franchise business to visit, should also be low on your list. Many, in fact I will dare say “most” places that are really great don’t have much internet presence. Their charms are too subtle to withstand photography. When you look at the image from Google Earth, there aren’t a lot of tags cluttering the image, and Trip Advisor hasn’t got a thousand amateur travel writers posting their impressions. Even more reason to check these places out.
One thing I’ve learned, don’t ever use the Internet to book a hotel room in an under-developed place. You’ll end up paying three times what you would have if you’d simply showed up and scoped out the scene. All the best places are highly affordable. That allows a variety of real people to live there.
If you expect to go to Greenwich Village to see some working artists, you’ll find that artists haven’t been able to afford to live there for quite some time, but the place is rife with retired Orthodontists who always wished they’d been a little wilder and less practical when they were younger.
The real deal is out there, all over the place, tucked into a remote mountain valley in Ecuador, or Laos. If you go there you’ll find other people like you, not many, but some, and they can be your friends. The local people will smile and say “good morning,” but a great cultural and wealth divide will separate you unless you go to great lengths to leap across.