24 June 2017

Reddit Travel Rants, No. 8: Mining for Hidden Gems

One thing I find quite ironic with the travelers of Reddit is that they seem to be always looking for "hidden gems". Every time I check the boards, I see a post from someone going to a highly-visited location like London or Paris, and they are looking for hidden gems. It reminds me of a gold miner, looking for that rare thing to see or do. But logically speaking, I think this whole situation just doesn't make sense.

The thing is, most of these people asking these questions tend to have the mentality where they think that it is "cooler" to eschew the use of a traditional guide book, and rather it is better to ask the Internet about things to do. These people love crowdsourcing their trips, whether it is for information on what to do at a certain location, to sometimes even funding their trips. But yes, we'll reserve that for later.

Anyway, asking for hidden gems in cyberspace doesn't quite work. After all, many people will read these pieces of advice, and soon enough, that hidden gem won't be hidden anymore. Ever heard of the banana pancake trail? It is this well-traveled route in Southeast Asia where creature comforts for Western travelers are easily available. One recommends a good guesthouse, a good cafe, and soon enough, there are plenty of people there going. The gem becomes fully exposed in the process.

I don't understand why people are asking the Internet about things to see and do in well-visited places, asking people for recommendations about not-too-touristy sights and activities. After all, if you're going to a place that is quite visited, then the things you'll see and do are to some extent, touristy.

I also don't understand why people think that they are going for something hidden, by not using a guidebook, and instead using the Internet forums, because after all, the principle behind it is the same.

I think this mentality stems from the desire to have bragging rights: you want to go to somewhere that not many other people have been to, and broadcast it. Whether it is in your Facebook feed, or in your Instagram account. After all, everyone goes to London right? But if you went to London and did a totally awesome time-traveling teleporting tour of underground London, something that is available but no one else has heard about, then that would make you way cooler than your other friends and followers who have also been to London.

I think people are doing it wrong. I have nothing against bragging rights. But really, if you are looking for hidden gems, don't go looking for it in well-visited places like in London or Berlin (my apartment balcony is a hidden gem but I am not going to tell you about it). Instead, look for it in Tuvalu, in Comoros, or in Sao Tome and Principe.


  1. I agree with you. I understand the psychology behind the "I was there first!" mentality, but realistically, I ain't gonna happen. Some places are popular and famous for a reason and it wouldn't make sense to skip them just because they are in the guidebook. On the other hand, some places aren't mentioned also for a reason... because there isn't much to do or see!

    1. Zhu,

      Yeah, what most people are forgetting is that there actually is a lot of effort poured into making guidebooks. The people who wrote it actually did their research, way more than the travelers who went to a place and blogged about it, or wrote about it in TripAdvisor or Reddit!