“In the great cities we see so little of the world, we drift into our minority. In the little towns and villages there are no minorities; people are not numerous enough. You must see the world there, perforce. Every man is himself a class; every hour carries its new challenge. When you pass the inn at the end of the village you leave your favorite whimsy behind you; for you will meet no one who can share it.”
– W.B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore
Why you should visit smaller cities
Although I advocate living in a major city, visiting smaller towns can be fun too.
Right now I’m traveling around the Peruvian countryside and am spending the night in a place with less than 200,000 citizens.
Here are a few of my observations from being a foreigner in this tiny community.
1. Everything is dirt cheap.
Once you get outside of a big city everything gets insanely cheap. Here in Peru you can rent a standard private hotel room with WiFi and cable for $10 a night. A half liter yogurt parfait and ham sandwich cost me $3.
When people talk about living abroad on $12,000 a year its because they stay in places like this.
Outside the main tourist destinations and major cities your dollar will go incredibly far.
2. Girls are naturally curious about you.
I’m no male model, but all day I’ve had girls checking me out. Women will stare at you making it really easy to go up and talk to them. If you’re off the beaten path you’ll have an “exotic” look. It’s pretty cool.
However, there is a downside. Street peddlers and beggars will bombard you all the time.
If you can deal with all the attention you might want to visit someplace smaller.
3. Traffic is crazy.
A lot of littler places are behind the times. This means that there are all kinds of unsafe vehicles speeding around town. Traffic lights and stops are almost non-existent. And the few I’ve seen have been treated like suggestions. Also, drivers love to lay on the horn.
Bring earplugs for the constant beeping and honking.
4. Your options are very limited.
There are about three restaurants that look safe enough to eat at. And there’s no gym. Oh, and you aren’t going to find an Apple store or Radio Shack.
If you choose to hit up a smaller city you will run into problems. Unlike the United States, where every town with more than 2,000 has a Wal-Mart, foreign cities are pretty basic. There’s no mega mall or Amazon. If you need something specific you’re probably out of luck.
5. There are still plenty of things to do.
I wouldn’t want to live in a small third world city, but they can be fun to visit. If you’re looking for a different experience and are willing to sacrifice a few luxuries, going someplace out-of-the-way is enjoyable.
Spending a week sampling their restaurants, visiting their museums, and going to their bars can be a cool diversion. If you have some extra time I’d recommend checking out a few of the more obscure places in whatever nation you’re traveling through.