Marco Polo travelling, a Miniature from the book "The Travels of Marco Polo" ("Il milione"), originally published during Polo's lifetime (c. 1254 - January 8, 1324).
Marco Polo travelling, a Miniature from the book “The Travels of Marco Polo” (“Il milione”), originally published during Polo’s lifetime (c. 1254 – January 8, 1324).

I am a travel blogger/writer, and have been such for over a year now. I take great joy in documenting the places I’ve seen, foods I have tried, and the people I came into contact with. I write in part as a reminder to myself of all the wonderful things I have experienced and learned, but also to inspire the love and importance of travel in others.

There are many people who have inspired me to pick up my passion of traveling and focus on it as my path in life; many of them are fellow travel writers themselves. However, there is one that came long before us, who I like to think of as the original travel blogger – Marco Polo.

Marco Polo is assumed to have been born in Venice around the middle of the 13th century. His father Niccolò was a merchant who traded with the Middle East, and Marco grew up wealthy and with a great education and followed in his father’s footsteps. In 1271, Marco Polo who was only 17 years old, took off on a trip to Asia with his father and uncle that would last 24 years and span almost 15,000 miles (24,000 km).

Marco Polo is famous for the book of his travel tales of that great Asian adventure, written by Rustichello da Pisa, from stories Marco Polo described to him during a prison stint they suffered through together in Genoa. The book describes Marco Polo’s travels through Asia, Persia, China, and Indonesia between 1276 and 1291, most notably his time at the court of the Mongol leader Kublai Khan. The book had many names, such as: Livre des merveilles du monde (Book of the Marvels of the World {from French}), Divisament dou monde (Description of the World {from French}), Il Milione (The Million {from Italian}), Oriente Poliano, and more. In English it is commonly called The Travels of Marco Polo.

As the book today consists of hundreds of manuscripts which have been translated differently, there is no definite and accurate version of the book. However, it collectively portrays many of his observations of the life and times of the people and places which he visited. Christopher Columbus even consulted a copy during his own voyages. Since Rustichello was a writer of fiction, many over the centuries have shot down the accuracy of Marco Polo’s tales, saying it was filled with lies and embellishments.

On his deathbed, Marco Polo was asked to recant his lies and tell some truth, and Marco is said to have replied,

“I have not told half of what I saw.”

This is a fitting statement for travel writing, and traveling in general, because though I try to document every single observation I make, I, too, cannot tell even half of the things I’ve experienced. The best thing to do is to experience these things for ourselves. Travel!