- from Marco Polo
Imagine taking a 24-year trip! If you leave at age 10, you’ll be 34 when you come home. Marco Polo (1254–1324) was 17 when he left his hometown of Venice in 1271, and he came back at age 41.
He spent most of those years traveling in China, India, and Southeast Asia. He was an emissary for the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan.
Does that seem unbelievable to you? You’re not alone. Many people back then thought he was making up stories to impress people. There’s even proof that he exaggerated some of his reports. In fact, English schoolboys used to respond to obvious lies by saying, “It’s a Marco Polo.” Some scholars doubt Marco Polo even made it all the way to China. Some think he heard stories from Persian and Arab traders he met in the Near East (Southwest Asia and Northeast Africa).
We may never know the truth, but it doesn’t matter. Marco Polo’s biggest achievement was to share his stories – real or imagined – with a writer. That book of Marco’s stories, called A Description of the World, took Europe by storm. It may have inspired Christopher Columbus, who changed the course of history.