PART I: EXPLORING EUROPE, SLEEPING WITH ORPHANS, AND GETTING CRAZY IDEAS
Our story starts in 1473 when Christopher was 22, mostly because the stuff that happened before that was boring. That year, Chrissy took an internship as a "business agent" for several important Genoese families. The job of "trader" was essentially that era's business consultant, and so, for a decade, he traveled all over Europe, doing important stuff like learning languages other than Ligurian, and doing less important stuff like marrying the daughter of a Portuguese nobleman, whom he produced a child with, then ditched for a 20-year old Spanish orphan mistress named Beatriz.
Fast forward to the 1480s: Europeans can no longer travel safely over land to Asia because the Mongol Empire lost part of their Risk board to the Ottoman Turks. But Asia has silk boxers. And drugs. Afraid of going back to wearing woolen undergarments and not being high, the Euros are desperate for a new solution. Enter Columbus and his cartographer brother with the best name ever, Bartolomeo. They're all, "we can reach the Indies (aka Southeast Asia) by sailing west across the Ocean Sea, which is what we hilariously call the Atlantic." The Columbi thought that A) Eurasia was even more giant than it is, B) Japan was also gigantic, and waaay east of China, and C) there were tons of islands even further east of Japan that would sell them opium, silk boxers, and black market DVDs of Panic Room. They estimated that they needed to travel 3,000 "Italian miles" (don't ask), when in fact the correct figure was closer to 12,000 "Italian miles" (19,600k). How does one make such a huge, crazy error? Well, as historian Edmund Morgan put it, "Columbus was not a scholarly man."