"The Travels" - Marco Polo
by Karen Warren
The country produces a diversity of beasts different from those of all the rest of the world... What more need I say? Everything there is different from what it is with us and excels both in size and beauty. They have no fruit the same as ours, no beast, no bird. "The Travels" by Marco Polo
“Everything is different” was Marco Polo’s constant refrain as he travelled through Asia. His work teems with variety, not just the animals and plants but food, clothes and, above all, the people he met. Seven centuries later I too look for the differences: travel is a quest for the diversity that stimulates the imagination and puts the familiar into perspective.
It is easy today to be nostalgic about the past, to complain that we have lost the difference that once made travel so compelling. It is true that tourist resorts and major cities can seem to resemble one another, and that the English language is all pervasive, but scratch beneath the surface and you will find age-old variations in language, food, and customs. Move beyond the hotel blocks and shopping centres and note the differences in the buildings, from the medieval churches of Europe, to the cave temples of Thailand, and the soaring towers of Dubai.
Then there is history, a journey through time as well as space. The history of China will always be different from that of Venice, and exploring ancient Athens is different from contemplating the mysteries of Stonehenge. Travel continues to be a voyage of discovery.