Your favorite explorer/voyage in human history?

Mine mIght be basic but Marco Polo has always stuck out to me. A 17 year old Italian kid that passed through Armenia, Georgia, and the Pamir mountain region and crossed the fearsome Takla Makan Desert. He and his father and uncle arrived at Kublai Khan’s summer palace in May 1275. They had covered 5,600 miles in three and a half years.

The now 21-year old Marco made quite the impression on Kublai, and was adopted as a favorite of the Mongol Emperor. He showed showed remarkable talents in cultural adaptation, soon learning four languages. The khan sent Marco Polo on special missions to other parts of China, Burma, and India. In the Travels, Marco claimed he was made a member of the khan’s privy council in 1277 and served as a tax collector for three years. He wrote the famous *The Travels of Marco Polo* where he writes about unfamiliar resources and technologies: coal, asbestos, and paper currency, used since the 600s in China.

He recounts in detail the local people’s unfamiliar ways of life, noting their customs as an early anthropologist might. He covers specific sexual practices, most notable (and to Marco’s delight) people who lent their wives to travelers.

On his deathbed in Venice in 1324, he was urged to confess that his stories were fabrications, Marco most famously replied, “I have not told the half of what I saw!”

Besides Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and Xuanzang are high up there as well.

Tell me about your favorites!

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What do you think?

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