Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer Paperback – Sep 1 2008
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"Potts is one of the best travel writers to emerge in the last decade. Intrepid and thoughtful, he's a Paul Theroux for the backpacker generation, and Marco Polo reflects this." --San Francisco Chronicle "This hilarious collection of stories provokes because Potts asks the serious question of how to travel in a discovered world. ...If you aspire to be a travel writer, read this book." --The Guardian (U.K.) "Potts isn't so much a travel reporter as a story teller. ...He's more about getting under the skin of a place -- detailing a cast of characters that would either enthrall or scare the hell out of most travelers, depending on where they come down on the trust-paranoia continuum." --Orange County Register "An equal mix of humor and enlightenment...Potts shows travelers and would-be travelers the joy of immersing oneself in a foreign culture." --St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Best Books of 2008" "Potts, Internet raconteur and travel-advice sage, is the kind of guy you wish the pubs had more of: well traveled, generous with funny stories, eager to listen to yours. You feel envious that you weren't with him in Cairo to share the convivial squalor of a backpacker hotel, or at an Indian ashram to study Tantric sex, or even in the Libyan Desert, in the dark, out of water and lost. And he's able to draw insights from all that without draining the fun out of the conversation -- difficult to carry off in a pub or a book." --The Washington Post "Armchair travelers will get an enormous kick out of this thoroughly entertaining book." --Booklist
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Internet via Salon, and the book is a collection of his earliest from Salon.com to his recent works from magazines and literary journals. Most of his stories are available elsewhere, so the true draw of this book is the commentaries, which add humor, insight, and occasionally share his frustrations on both the topics and people in the stories, as well as the craft of professional travel writing. The essays themselves run from the humorous ("Storming the Beach") to the painful ("Death of an Adventure Traveler"). The stories explore both sights and sounds of his wanderings and the nature of travel itself, such as the comparison of travelers versus tourists and the business of travel and people's expectations therein. Armchair wanders will love the book, and those who dream of writing about travel for a living will find the book very useful as well as entertaining.
So it was with great interest I picked up Rolf's second book, Marco Polo Didn't Go There. First, this book is different from Vagabonding -- it's not really a practical travel guide. It's a collection of stories from Rolf's career as a travel writer. I had read many of them before, as they appeared in popular travel magazines and websites in the past, but what makes this book unique is his end notes on each story. They act as a portal into the life of a travel writer, filling in the gaps between the paragraphs, and telling the stories that didn't fit into the story.
If you have any interest in travel, becoming a travel writer yourself, or maybe even just learning how a travel writer travels and writes, pick up this book. It's funny, enlightening, and highly entertaining.