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Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer: With Special Commentary Track
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Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer: With Special Commentary Track

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  362 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Marco Polo Didn't Go There is a collection of rollicking travel tales from a young writer USA 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 as National Geographic Traveler,, and The New York Times Ma ...more
ebook, 345 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Not Avail (first published September 1st 2008)
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Aug 11, 2012 Abby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
Potts could be a good travel writer if he stopped being so hyperconscious of the fact that he's a travel writer. This particular collection of essays and short works reads like a "how to: guide", rather than any meaningful, indepth look at a place or culture. Perhaps his longer works and books are different. Thus far, I am unimpressed.
Jun 23, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Potts' travel tales entertain while questioning the whole enterprise of travel in the shrinking twenty-first century world. Each piece finishes with lengthy endnotes that pull back the curtain and give the reader access to the mechanics of writing, the context and "off cuts" of the piece, and the business of travel writing.
Jun 20, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Rolf's first book Vagabonding, which inspired me to travel for a longer amount of time, while also re-evaluate what I'm pursuing and ultimately attempting to acquire. So, I was really interested when I found out he had written another book. Marco Polo Didn't Go There is different in that it's a collection of his more notable adventures that he's written for travel magazine over the past 10 years. Whereas Vagabonding encourages one to go, Marco Polo presents the crazy stories and ...more
Marco Polo Didn’t Go There attempts to be what Sex Lives of Cannibals is – a humorous, self-deprecating series of travel essays with smart insight and a traveler’s sense of awareness. It is not. Potts comes off as an arrogant, condescending know-it-all and I couldn’t have cared less about any one of the places he went and he goes into far too much detail in almost all of them. Really surprised that this guy is such a published travel writer. Not my thing for sure. Whole book club didn’t like it ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Matthew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 came ...more
Ian Drew Forsyth
He put a lot into this work, a lot of travel, a lot of thought. It reads very smoothly and for anyone who travels and/or writes about it, its inspiring.
"ecotourism is a response to information age yearning for uniqueness, isolation, and authenticity"
"In truth, i dont have any formal "credentials" to brandish; usually I just offer a business card, or mention my author website."
"Oh neccesity! To do waht you are supposed to do, to be always, according to the circumstances and despite the aversion o
Nov 28, 2008 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

While Rolf Potts, one of the finest chroniclers of our time, tells us to be travelers not tourists his stories are testimonies to the discomfort—if not downright terror—this can bring. These journeys take us into the heart of the backpacking culture fit for someone about 25. I enjoyed hitch hiking with him in Lithuania making friends with a band of reckless students, to a bone chilling night in a Himalayan village offset with an amusing encounter with some “blue movie” junkies. Rolf’s self-depr
John Orman
A travel author for National Geographic Traveler and the New York Times Magazine, Potts writes about his wildest adventures while seeking out stories--and he often *becomes* the story!

A unique part of the book are the "commentary tracks" at the end of each tale, detailing the creation of each tale.

In "Going Native in the Australian Outback," the author describes his quest for a "meaningful experience of Australian aboriginal culture." It was interesting to read his description of the natives' si
Lisa Findley
Mar 08, 2012 Lisa Findley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These essays range over several years of writing for various magazines, so there's some repetition of ideas (trying not to be a tourist, deciding that we're all tourists even when we try to be travelers, etc.). But taken on their own, the essays are lively, often thoughtful tales of travel in various corners of the world. I like the endnotes that draw back the curtain to see behind the scenes of a polished and published travel piece, and I'd say I was 50/50 disappointed/relieved to see just how ...more
Liz D
Sep 24, 2008 Liz D marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Karyn
Shelves: travel, essays
I haven't read this yet, but we went to a reading of his last night. There seems to be some unexamined male privilege and/or sexism going on here, but I very much appreciated Potts's awareness (present in his talk, at least) of his status as a white westerner traveling in countries whose customs, traditions, and ideas differ greatly from what he and other white westerners may be used to.

I also appreciated his explanation of the word "postmodern" in the title: it's a reflection of the fact that e
Nov 06, 2013 Mitch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I give this travel book high marks because of the author's approach.

The book is a collection of short pieces he wrote for various travel publications over the years, with notes following that gave background material on each one.

Due to those notes, the reader gets a realistic view of how nonfiction is often altered to tell a better story. The author is a writer; he has an audience to capture and hold. He also has only so much experience to draw from and a deadline to meet. Therefore, much of wha
Sep 06, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Zora O'Neill
Dec 22, 2009 Zora O'Neill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To be honest, I was expecting not to like this book much. I have a low tolerance for bravado in travel writing, and young guys' writing often displays a lot of this.

The first essay, about trying to pull of some random anti-stunt involving crashing the set of "The Beach" in Thailand, veered dangerously toward that territory. But from there on out, things got a lot better. Potts is thoughtful, funny and creative--I liked the second-person essay set in India, for instance.

And the "postmodern commen
Jan 06, 2013 Tonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Within the context of being a post-modern traveller and writer, Potts takes the reader through chapters of stories, each dedicated to an individual experience he has had after having vagabonded about the globe for a decade. This book provides an interesting and didactic structure through which Potts uses current academic research to affirm his narrative choices, as he shares his experiences about travel. Most of this writing has been published elsewhere and this book is a collection of assorted ...more
While in Turkey I had the chance to spend some time with a travel writer. Having never thought seriously about the genre, though of course having enjoyed it, we talked quite a bit and he recommended I read some Rolf Potts. I liked this book because it was full of short travel stories that were never boring. But what I liked even more was that at the end of each story, he went through and explained his though process, what really happened and didn't happen, why he left out certain details or embe ...more
Erin Bean
Sep 30, 2012 Erin Bean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
I really enjoy Rolf Potts. His writing is just so smart and interesting; he really is a master travel writer. I loved how he added endnotes to the end of each (previously published in some form or another) story to provide the reader with background and interesting facts, as well as to show how he shaped the story the way he did to fit the purpose of the assignment. It was an interesting glimpse behind the scenes of a travel writer. However he does sort of have that it's-not-really-travel-unless ...more
Nov 07, 2009 Shannan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
An enjoyable collection of traveling stories from around the world. The endnotes talking about the art of travel writing were interesting and added another dimension to the overall experience. I was interested in his ongoing struggle to find an "authentic" experience in the midst of his travels and how difficult that is to do in the modern age when you can gather so much information about a place before you get there. Even when he tried to fly blind and just wing it, he still sometimes had the f ...more
Jan 26, 2014 Art rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, adventure
I first heard this author on Rick Steve's travel podcast. I was hoping for a hair more from this book but it's pretty much a stand book of travel accounts and strange situations from around the world. Great if you like these kind of stories.
Apr 01, 2009 Gina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I hate picking a number of stars. Maybe this is a 4 star book. It's good. I like the chapter on the Egyptian pyramids. The author spends most of his time in Cairo avoiding the pyramids out of fear that they won't live up to the hype, that he'll be disappointed. What happens when he finally goes is just mind-boggling. This is in some ways about the tension between wanting to see the world, and not wanting to be a "tourist." Also the tension between wanting to discover the world, and knowing that ...more
Jeff Chappell
Jul 01, 2009 Jeff Chappell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
An excellent collection of travel writing. Potts may not be the best author in the world when it comes to actual writing, but he manages to tread little known territory both literally and figuratively. He managed to get beyond the "logue" part of travelogue and seemingly gleen some keen insight into a culture, as well as why we travel, more often than not -- we being those of us that prefer to actually set beyond the hotel and shopping complex; those of us that prefer local street stall food (ba ...more
Forty Something
I enormously enjoyed the travel stories. Never a dull moment, as the author knows how to spin a good story.

Second benefit: The vivid descriptions of places that made me feel like I've been there, without the hassle or inherent risk associated with a trip in the Libyan desert or the Himalayan outback. When I think back on certain stories, I have to remind myself that I read them, not *seen* them in some documentary.

Third benefit: The behind-the-scenes notes, which were engrossing and very telli
Shyam Parekh
Rolf Potts is a good writer, but it is hard to like somebody so self-centered and pompous that he is constantly willing to be disruptive to make a story interesting. He's like a more worldly, well-traveled Tom Green. Not quite the shock humor on MTV, though he makes a scene and then writes about all those poor suckers around him. He admits to making up elements of stories to make then more interesting. Maybe he should be commended for admitting that fact. Anyway, it's hard to like the book when ...more
Dec 02, 2008 Evie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Potts is a talented travel writer, so while I wanted to give this a three star as an overall book, I just couldn't do it. His stories bring up some great observations about tourists vs. travelers, the nature of backpacking, and "authentic" travel experiences. I think I would have enjoyed these articles more had I read them as individual stories when they were originally published in Salon or World Hum. As a book, the stories lack the same charm. The "commentary track" is a great addition, though ...more
Aug 14, 2011 Clare rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a traveler, writer, and admirer of Rolf Potts, I really enjoyed this book. If you're not at least one of those things, you might not like it quite as much. Although if you're not already an admirer of Rolf Potts, I'd be willing to bet you will be by the end of this book--his stories are engaging, humorous, and thought-provoking. He's definitely one of my favorite travel writers--by around the middle of the book, I was trying to figure out how I could copy his lifestyle.
Aug 02, 2014 Gurvan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Très sympas ces conseils de rédaction de courts récits de voyage... Chaudement recommandé !
Feb 26, 2009 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is full of great travel stories, and the "commentary track' is very helpful. I'm travling now, and this book has inspired me to take a lot better notes and think about my writing differently. I like the mix of stories - funny, scary, and reflective, and I like the points he brings up about tourists versus travelers, and his commentary on backpacker culture. A great vacation read.
Dec 23, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, essays
Solid read, Potts is a great writer. I really enjoyed the footnotes at the end of every chapter.

Oct 10, 2011 Wendy rated it liked it
This is a book of short stories by travel author Rolf Potts. I saw him speak in Seattle during his book tour and got a mini-crush on him (he's a cutie). hee hee. He's so incredibly adventurous during his travels, it makes his stories fun to read, but not necessarily relatable. For example, I won't be doing a multi-day trek in the Laotian wilderness any time soon.
Apr 09, 2009 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
Although he traveled to some fascinating places, I found myself actively disliking Rolf Potts as the book went on. He came across as someone curious but too eager to cause a scene for the sake of a good story. The "commentary" at the end of each chapter also seemed somewhat pompous, especially when he admits to making up details to enhance the story.
Jul 14, 2013 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of well written travel stories which were published by a variety of magazines and e-zines. After each story, the author gives the story behind the story adding details that were cut, tips for writing travel stories or admitting to some fictionalizing of the story. Really interesting perspective on travel writing.
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Rolf Potts has reported from more than sixty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Magazine,, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, The Believer, The Guardian (U.K.), National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel. A veteran travel columnist for the likes of and World Hum, his adventures have taken him across six continents, and include piloting a f ...more
More about Rolf Potts...

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