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By Brian R. Hecht

It is difficult to imagine an itinerary which would take an enterprising traveler from the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, through the strange pleasures of Arkansas and down east to the beaches and small towns of southern Maine...and then to Tahiti, no less. It is a trip that no package deal could ever offer.

But then, the glimpses of travel offered in this magazine comprise an itinerary no less coherent or sensible than those undertaken by more conventional pleasure-seekers. And in many ways, these are the places to which real people travel, whether searching for the perfect vacation spot, returning home for a brief visit with family or just passing through.

Modern travel, it seems, is nothing more than the relentless pursuit of the unique. Or perhaps more accurately, the escape from the familiar. But more and more, unique places are beginning to resemble each other, if not in substance then in style. Back-to-the-land yuppies escape to Vermont en masse looking for that perfect crafts fair only to discover that their upper-East Side neighbors are sitting in the BMW in front of them in the interminable traffic jam on the way. Local eateries on country roads in Louisiana are replaced by Wendy's, while diners in Boston are being replaced by fast-food cajun chicken joints.

Two of the locations discussed in this magazine were visited by students on vacation; the other two are the authors' hometowns. But a common thread runs through them all-a sincere, and often humorous, disdain for tourist hotspots, accompanied by a healthy reverence for the unique. Three of the authors cannot help but mention the presence of Polo outlets in their respective vacation-spots, while the cliched myth of local authenticity is even debunked by a humorous look at a disastrous trip to Tahiti.

The diverse experiences conveyed by these brief dispatches all suggest that the search for the unique is becoming increasingly difficult. And if there is any hope for those seeking authentic pleasure spots, all signs indicate that such a search may just begin at home.

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