- from Marco Polo
Imagine taking a trip that lasts 24 years! If you are 10 when you leave, you’ll be 34 before you see your home again. Marco Polo (1254–1324) was actually 17 when he left his hometown of Venice in 1271, and 41 when he returned.
He spent most of those years traveling throughout China, India, and Southeast Asia. He was an emissary for Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan.
If this seems incredible to you, you are not alone. Many of Marco’s contemporaries were convinced he was making up stories to impress people. Evidence suggests that some of Marco’s reports are exaggerated. In fact, English schoolboys used to greet obvious lies with the response “It’s a Marco Polo.” A few modern scholars question whether Marco Polo even made it all the way to China. Some suggest that he got his information from Persian and Arab traders he met while living in the Near East (Southwest Asia and Northeast Africa).
The full truth may never be known. And it actually doesn’t matter, because Marco Polo’s biggest achievement was to dictate the story of his travels – real or imagined – to a writer. The book of Marco’s stories, called A Description of the World, took Europe by storm. One of its inspired readers, Christopher Columbus, changed the course of history.