The other day I was strolling through a local shopping center when I noticed a colorfully ragtag quartet of young travelers camped out in the little plaza outside a chain coffee store.They were presumably hitchhiking across the country, their entourage complete with two friendly mutts and a couple of beat-up guitars. The whole bunch was in high spirits, although judging by their looks, they'd been on the road for a long, long time. At first I was reminded of my own teenage travel adventures, when my friends and I had cheerfully slept on sidewalks or railway station floors, immune to the disapproving frowns of the locals. But then I began to wonder how similar our experiences really were. The plaza these travelers occupied so happily was ringed by 100 percent corporate chain outlets, from the ubiquitous coffee bar to the familiar purveyor of ersatz tacos, to the giant home-improvement outlet, with its inevitable parade of customers driving off with screen doors tied to their...
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