Marvelous Travels

I really enjoyed Thursday’s discussion and thought we made significant progress towards formulating an account of how Marco Polo describes, shapes and perhaps even reinvents “the known world.”

Something that we didn’t talk about at any great length, however, was the marvel of travel, something that was clearly important to all of you during Tuesday’s discussion.

So as a supplementary blog post for this week, I want to invite you to share personal reflections on how travel can cast the light of the marvelous onto the world, onto foreign cultures, and perhaps even our own everyday environment.  What experiences have you had that took your breath away and somehow made you see things in a different light?  How and when did you suddenly become estranged from your past life, in the way that Marco Polo did when he first set foot into the further reaches of Asia?  And how can we even describe something that, by definition, resists expression in a previously existing vocabulary?

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2 responses to “Marvelous Travels

  1. I’ve only traveled outside of the country once, but it was amazing. Last Christmas break I went to Italy and I went through quite the culture shock. Never having left the country for the first 17 years of my life, I found it so cool to be in a different country. I loved all the little nuiansces. Walking through the streets of Rome and having different vendors come up to me trying to sell me something, and seeing all the shops lining the road was something I was not use to seeing. The roads of Rome were nothing like the streets of Chicago or New York or any big city. Something as little as being asked if I wanted natual or gas water with my meal helped me open my eyes and really get a sense of the Italian culture. Mass at the Vatican and all the magnificent buildings in Rome took my breath away as well as climbing to the top of the Vatican, which was pretty scary let me tell you.

    My luggage was lost at the beginning of the trip and I had to try to communicate with the worker at the airport in Italian, which again put me through a culture shock. After a couple of days I started to feel more comfortable with the culture. I was use to eating pasta and/or pizza at every meal and having men constantly come up to me trying to sell some fake goods.

    I find it amazing that Marco Polo was able to become estranged from his past life when he first set foot in Asia because it was completely different back then. Today, I had some idea of what to expect when I went to Italy because of things I have seen on TV and in movies. In Marco Polo’s time, he had no media resources. The only things he would have known about Asia would have been things he would have heard. However, that could not have been much information as it is speculated that many people from Italy had not traveled to Asia and back at that time. Therefore I find it incredible that Marco Polo was able to adapt himself to the Asian culture so quickly.

  2. I’ve never been anywhere outside of the United States, but the first time I traveled to Maine, I felt completely out of my element. When I was younger, most vacations I took with my family were in the Midwest, except for the few trips to Florida or California. Between sophomore and junior year of high school, I went with a friend and her family to Maine.

    We flew into Boston and drove up to Maine, and the entire drive, we saw the ocean, which was a major shock to me. Just the entire idea of nature and peace was not something I was used to growing up near Chicago. When wandering around town, I noticed that cars stopped regardless for you to cross the street and everyone was extremely friendly and laid back. Obviously, this was a major improvement from the constant moving of Chicago and the people who never stop for anything. When I asked for directions, people actually answered me instead of blowing me off and hustling on toward their next important event.

    Though this wasn’t a major culture shock, after staying in Maine for three weeks, I became so accustomed to this way of life that returning to Chicago was one of the more upsetting experiences of my life. Our drive back from the airport was filled with highways and office buildings, rather than forests and little towns. Even that small amount of time made me forget what home was like and had me completely immersed in a new culture for me, someone who had never been in New England before.

    I can’t even imagine what Marco Polo went through not only relocating to the East, but coming back home to Italy. Of course the transition was hard at 17, to find his way in a new culture with few people his age (I’m guessing). But returned home in his forties, more than twenty years after he had left was probably more of a culture shock that his original relocation. He spent more time in the East than he did at home, so to come back to a place where everyone was set in their ideals and ways must have been difficult to say the least. I’m surprised he did not pack up and move back East, rather than staying at “home”.

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