Marco Polo was born in Venice, Italy, in 1254 to a family of jewel merchants.
When Marco was 17, his father and uncle took him on a journey that would last 24 years and cover much of the western and eastern worlds. His later accounts of his travels in the Middle East and China would spread through Europe, inspiring the imaginations of kings and explorers and helping to launch the Age of Exploration centuries later.
Marco, his father, and his uncle left Venice in 1271. For the next three years, they traveled the spice route through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, the Pamir Mountains, and the searing sands of the Gobi desert.
Marco wrote down notes of his observations, black oil burned for light, blinding sandstorms that seemed to sing, and horse-riding bandits who attacked and captured much of their caravan. The
Polos barely escaped with their lives. After traveling 8,000 miles, the Polos arrived in Cathay, or China, ruled by the powerful Kublai Khan.