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Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade…

af Rolf Potts

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858245,144 (3.63)2
Marco Polo Didn't Go There is a collection of rollicking travel tales from a young writerUSA Today has called "Jack Kerouac for the Internet Age." For the past ten years, Rolf Potts has taken his keen postmodern travel sensibility into the far fringes of five continents for such prestigious publications asNational Geographic Traveler, Salon.com, andThe New York Times Magazine. This book documents his boldest, funniest, and most revealing journeys--from getting stranded without water in the Libyan desert, to crashing the set of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie in Thailand, to learning the secrets of Tantric sex in a dubious Indian ashram. Marco Polo Didn't Go There is more than just an entertaining journey into fascinating corners of the world. The book is a unique window into travel writing, with each chapter containing a "commentary track"--endnotes that reveal the ragged edges behind the experience and creation of each tale. Offbeat and insightful, this book is an engrossing read for students of travel writing as well as armchair wanderers.… (mere)
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I got this book as an ebook. I saw some chumps, sitting there in a cafe, attempting to read books in actual *book* form and I scoffed to my slightly grubby self. I'd been hunting in the outback for days for this book, cobbling together the contents from purloined internet signals while I was driving the Outback Google Maps Street View car. Chapter twelve got stuck in my dreadlocks, which had formed from all the dust and filth accumulated whilst driving around, trying to hold the street view camera and WiFi signal stealer in place.
I was being *authentic*, man. If I was going to read a book I was going to make sure I was a *reader*, not just a letter recognizer, like most of the chumps out there. But once I had my ebook I was just, like, sitting in a car, driving around the outback, careening around the odd kangaroo, sacred stone, drop bear. I was unsatisfied. I felt like a ritzy reading magazine version of a reader. Well that's not what I'm all about.
So I took the ebook on a plane. Not just on a plane, like on the *inside*, like a lot of chumps, but I taped the iPad with the ebook on it to the *outside* of the plane. Picked it off again in Egypt, where I struck out for the desert. Four days in I sat down with my iPad to read the book. But I'd been playing Angry Turtles while I was walking to get well and truly lost, so my battery had run dead. So I walked back to civilization, recharged my batteries. Then I headed back out into the wilderness. This time I played less Angry Turtles and more ASCII Art Ninjas, which is way easier on the battery.
I wound up in the White Desert, and, after a bit of a struggle, got myself perched on top of one of the white rock pillars, where I could idly throw stones at passing camel caravans and read my book, like a real reader. So I did. But then, after getting through chapter one, then chapter two I began to think I was reading it all wrong. I mean, *any*one can read a book from start to finish. But to really *read* something I would have to strike out into the woolier passages without a guide, without any idea where I really was. I started just reading every other letter on a few pages, then jumped to a random page, read the third and seventieth letter on the page. But I wanted more. So I began reading with my eyes closed for an even more authentic experience. I achieved such an amazing reading of this book that I probably levitated. I couldn't tell because I had my eyes shut, but I'm pretty sure I had. Oh, I also met a Danish girl and a Latvian skinny tall guy who plays the guitar and sings opera for a lark floating on nearby stone pillars, which was cool. Ha HA! Andorrrrrrra!

The endnotes in the ebook version were interesting, in that you expected just yet more navel-gazing, and so weren't disappointed or looking for much more. And a few of the notes provided some small insight into a travel writer's process and the business. But the main articles, all stuck in one concentrated, Rolf-y blob, were a bit too much to stomach. I suppose it's the danger of travel writing -- you tend to travel with yourself, and some part of you becomes the story, because you're telling about your travels in your voice. I don't know if I just didn't get on with Rolf or what, I didn't enjoy his projects, his desperate need to be more than tourist. I've enjoyed plenty of travelogues, from Bill Bryson to Douglas Adams to Laurence Sterne. Just not this one. ( )
  mhanlon | Apr 23, 2014 |
This collection of travel essays (post-modern travel writing according to the author) grapples with travel in the modern day with the competing forces of commercialism and authentic experience. A lot of people try to make a distinction between the tourist and the traveler, but Potts contends that there really is no difference, and that’s okay. Potts does a great job a bringing an interesting angle to his travel experience whether he’s hiking alone in the Egyptian desert or on a posh package tour sponsored by a glossy travel magazine. Each essay ends with a series of footnotes which offer insights on the process of writing about travel with some tips for how to do it. It all gets very meta but I think it’s well balanced enough to avoid being pretentious. Potts is one of the more interesting, insightful, and refreshing travel writers I’ve read in some time and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Favorite Passages:
p. xv - I use the word "tourism" intentionally, since it defines how people travel in the twenty-first century. Sure, we all try to convince ourselves that we we're "travelers" instead of "tourists," but this distinction is merely a self-conscious parlor game within the tourism milieu. Regardless of how far we try to wander off the tourist trail (and no matter how long we try and stay off it) we are still outsiders and dilettantes, itinerant consumers in distant lands. This is often judged to be a bad thing, but in truth that's just the way things are. Platonic ideals aside, the world remains a fascinating place for anyone with the awareness to appreciate the nuances."

p. 173 - In truth, backpacker culture is far more dynamic than reporters assume when they visit Goa or Panajachel to shake down stoners for usable quotes. Outside of predictable traveler ghettos (which themselves are not as insipid as these articles let on), independent travelers distinguish themselves by their willingness to travel solo, to go slowly, to embrace the unexpected and break out from the comfort-economy that isolates more well-heeled vacationers and expats. Sure, backpackers are themselves a manifestation of mass tourism - and they have their own self-satisfied cliches - but they are generally going through a more life-affecting process than one would find on a standard travel holiday. ( )
  Othemts | Sep 2, 2012 |
As an avid reader of travel narrative, I am a bit surprised that I had never heard of this author before stumbling across this book. I will make a point of seeking him out now. The entries in this book are both thought provoking and hilarious. Potts talks a lot about what it means to be tourist and the struggle tourists have when trying to have an "authentic" experience while travelling. Rarely do travel writers raise the issues in their books and I found this book richer for having discussed. Potts also spends time discussing how he edits and embellishes each entry in the book, freely admitting that all nonfiction is to some extent the author's creation, not just a transcript of his experience. I found this approach made reading the entries a richer experience. ( )
  markfinl | Oct 16, 2011 |
Con Potts ingrese al genero de travel writting. Muy buen libro de historias cortas, donde se pintan las situaciones y los personajes insuales que depara la impredecibilidad de todo viaje. Tambien recomiendo Vagabonding del mismo autor. ( )
  lucianotourn | Apr 19, 2010 |
A light, fun read. I'd read some of Potts' stories in other collections as well as his own books and online, but I hadn't read the majority of these. I like how he chose to include the end notes to make readers aware of other sub plots, challenges, etc. I loved Mr. Beenny, and his story of navigating Central Laos. I found myself looking up the tour company that he worked with - and pleasantly surprised that accommodation is still at the Headman's.

Great, light read. Really awakened travel itch again. ( )
  skinglist | Feb 15, 2010 |
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Marco Polo Didn't Go There is a collection of rollicking travel tales from a young writerUSA Today has called "Jack Kerouac for the Internet Age." For the past ten years, Rolf Potts has taken his keen postmodern travel sensibility into the far fringes of five continents for such prestigious publications asNational Geographic Traveler, Salon.com, andThe New York Times Magazine. This book documents his boldest, funniest, and most revealing journeys--from getting stranded without water in the Libyan desert, to crashing the set of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie in Thailand, to learning the secrets of Tantric sex in a dubious Indian ashram. Marco Polo Didn't Go There is more than just an entertaining journey into fascinating corners of the world. The book is a unique window into travel writing, with each chapter containing a "commentary track"--endnotes that reveal the ragged edges behind the experience and creation of each tale. Offbeat and insightful, this book is an engrossing read for students of travel writing as well as armchair wanderers.

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