Mink Machine

Review: Marco Polo Didn’t Go There

Marco Polo Didn't Go There

Rolf Potts is perhaps best known for his classic book “Vagabonding”, detailing how to get ready for long-term travel. But “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There” from 2008 is a fine collection of travel stories with an unusual twist, since each chapter has ending notes which describes the circumstances surrounding that particular story. This is a great concept and feels like the director’s commentary track on DVDs.

Among other tales, Potts describes with vivid detail how he got drugged and robbed in Istanbul and how he tried to crash the set of movie The Beach. In one of my favorite episodes he follows in the footsteps of the book “The Songlines” by Bruce Chatwin and actually stumbles upon one of the characters from the book. The ninety-year old woman casually points to the place where Chatwin sat and tells a few anecdotes from his visit. I love this kind of meta-writing, where a wannabe travel writer (me) reads the works of an experienced travel writer (Potts) who in turn writes about a legendary travel writer (Chatwin).

Rolf Potts was called “Jack Kerouac for the Internet Age” by USA Today, and it makes sense. I really like his witty prose which clearly conveys his adventurous spirit. The title itself comes from an encounter he had in a Bangkok prison, where an inmate questioned his desire to follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo while going to Chiang Mai, as the Venetian merchant never passed through Thailand on his journey to China.

As mentioned earlier, I also recommend “Vagabonding”. This classic book written in 2002 is probably well-known to most travel readers. While it’s is over a decade old, most parts still holds up great. Some chapters may seem a bit outdated, especially those concerning the use of internet. But keep in mind that this was written many years before anyone had ever heard of smartphones, pads and similar devices. After all, such is the curse of most paper-bound media in the internet age. In comparison with Marco Polo, this title is more of a philosophical book. So be careful, after reading “Vagabonding”, the allure of long-term world travel can never be cured.

If you want to learn more about what Potts is up to these days, check out the interview by Tim Ferris from last year and his blog.

Comments

No comments yet.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured stories

Having champagne in Champagne

"We roamed the damp and chilly tunnels and stumbled upon a large barrel delivered by Napoleon himself."

Visions of Singapore

"By extensive use of landfill with sand bought from Indonesia and Cambodia, the bay area has expanded greatly in the last few years and tall buildings pop up everywhere."

Memories of Skye

"The countryside is charming and some places even have coffee."

The urban maze of Tangier

"There are exciting things waiting around every corner and my bucket list is long, but the Medina has a mindset of its own regarding time and space."

Greetings from Moldova

"But Chisinau is an unexpected gem in the wilderness. Even though Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, the capital has its fair share of impressive buildings and post-Soviet architecture."

Eating my way through Basque country

"Not too bad to wash it all down with a local Txakoli, the young white wine typical of the Basque country."

Instagram