So I'll be heading to Ecuador at the end of January, making a three week run to check out a new place. My brother Dan is going for the first part of the trip--he has the idea that Ecuador might be a good place to retire in a couple of years. So he's doing the right thing by getting his butt down there to see if it's anything like he thinks it is. (If it isn't, no harm done.)
You never really know about a place until you have boots on the ground. No amount of research will substitute for being there, getting the feel of a place, smelling the air. No travel guide can do it for you. What you want and need at that precise time in your life is unique. Only you can know if you are going meld with a place. Even a trip or two gives a superficial sense of place. That's why wise folks like Andy Graham over on hobo traveler recommend that you do not even consider buying a place until you've lived in the new place at least a year, preferably more. The way things work in your new home will not be like it was at home, not matter where home was. Even the meaning of property rights is different where there are no (or limited) zoning or noise ordinances. In some places they liked to party--loud. Even in pretty, idyllic locales that in your (or my) opinion should be tranquil and relaxed.
Another problem with research is that it can make you overthink a place. For instance, much of the time the US State Department is trigger happy in issuing travel warnings. If you are traveling to the major cities wearing suits and staying in five star hotels they can apply when hanging around with locals at a guest hour is perfectly safe. All places have safe and unsafe areas and times, and trying to guess what those are from a thousand miles or more away is a sucker's game.
Besides, information changes rapidly. When we went to Koh Kong Cambodia, at least half the places in The Lonely Planet Guide (which is a good guide) were out of date. The turnover is high there and many businesses were gone or had changed completely. The guide was still useful, but getting your expectations set too firmly wasn't going to make for a happy trip.
At any rate, I love exploring, and Dan and I will be ranging from Quito to the coast to see what there is to see,
And in the meantime, I have a novel that takes place in Cambodia in the works. I'm intending to get it out next year... I need a fantastic cover for this one.