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Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer NULL Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1932361612
ISBN-10: 1932361618
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  • Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This could be the first travel book ever to open with a discussion of the word postmodern, which Potts uses to mean placelessness, or dislocation as a result of travel. Many of these stories first appeared online, too, while Potts was “in the midst of a two-year vagabonding journey across Asia and Europe.” In fact, this could be the essence of postmodern travel writing: stories written in the field, filed electronically, and instantly available to readers anywhere. But even if you’re coming to these stories for the first time in the comfort of your own living room, you get a very vivid sense of what Potts experienced in such locales as Thailand (where he tried to infiltrate a Leonardo DiCaprio movie set), Vietnam, Turkey, and Cambodia. Potts is an enthusiastic traveler, eager to try new things and meet new people, and he’s an energetic writer, making sure he describes not only the sights of the places he visits but also the sounds, the smells, and the tastes. Armchair travelers will get an enormous kick out of this thoroughly entertaining book. --David Pitt

Review

"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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Product Details

  • Series: Travelers' Tales Guides
  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Travelers' Tales; NULL edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932361618
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932361612
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rolf Potts is one of the many travel writers to begin his career via the
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.
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Format: Paperback
Rolf's other book, Vagabonding, is a must-have guide for anyone interested in travel, regardless of age, intended destination, length of trip, or particular travel philosophy. It's been like a travel bible to me, passing it on to friends and family young and old to help explain why it is I enjoy travel so much, and hoping they catch the bug too.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't recall enjoying a book more in a long time. Detractors could point out that this book is just a bunch of his short stories, previously published in travel magazines, thrown together with a few comments. My response would be that this makes it a great book. The original stories were very good, and the commentary pulls away the veil to reveal how things really worked out, the rest of the story, if you will. The short story format makes this a great travel companion, because you can read a chapter during a flight, and put the book down for a day or two without losing a plot thread. When you put all the stories together, you realize that the book is actually about the art of travel and finding joy in life, making it much more than a group of unrelated travel tales.

There's been a rash of so-called memoirs lately being revealed as partially if not fully fiction. One of the hallmarks of the genre is that the author writes himself in as a hero. Rolf, however, exposes himself as just an ordinary guy who likes to travel and see the world. He tells us how the facts would get mangled or trimmed down in order to fit the travel magazine format. He admits to being the victim of thieves, or that several versions of Shangri-La were not as nice in reality as they were in anticipation.

People don't get halos and places don't get gold-plated in this book. Rolf hates to write negatives, but if he didn't enjoy a country or a place, he is straight up about it and explains why. Whether writing about the good, bad, or ugly, it's all told with a dry sense of humor and self-deprecation.

You can't go wrong with this book or his other titles.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book makes me want to travel. TODAY! I just interviewed Rolf Potts for our Inspire Nation Show, his stories are amazing, he makes you want to get out and see the world. He's right, it's often the challenging moments we look back on (and laugh about) the most.

If you have a travel itch, I think you'll love this book. And I'd recommend getting his Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel book as well. I found it incredibly helpful for figuring out how to travel on a dime, and how to build the life you desire. I love it!

Thank you Rolf for your amazing books and sharing your uber-fun adventures! Keep up the great work, and thanks for inspiring us!!!
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By Gsp on October 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Already one of my favourite books! The stories are great in and of themselves, but the unique commentary feature really makes this book standout! Well done again Rolf!!!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Rolf writes a travel story well and has a gift for telling the parts that matter. I liked the notes at the end of each story that showed what he left out and sometimes how he "massaged" the facts a little to make a better story but never really strayed from telling the truth. He also has a gift for taking sometimes mundane details and making them interesting simply because it is a mundane detail in a far-off place most people will never visit. A cup of coffee might be a cup of coffee , but if you are drinking it in a place most English speaking people have never been to, or maybe even heard of it can seem very exotic. Potts also has a gift for self deprecation and showing his failures in a positive way that never sounds like pandering. He also seems to be a nice guy. I exchanged a couple of emails with him about travel writing several years ago and he gave good advice and actually responded to my mail. My only complaint about the book is that he left out some of his best stories that are on his web site.
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