Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451. He later lived in Lisbon where he worked as a trader. He learned how to make maps and navigate a ship.
Columbus and his brother, Bartholomew, knew that there were great riches to be had in China and East Asia. However, traveling overland by the Silk Road was dangerous and a sea route around Africa seemed much too long. Columbus thought he could sail straight to China by crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It would turn out that Columbus was wrong. The Earth was much larger than he thought and there was another land, the Americas, between Europe and Asia.
Columbus spent years trying to convince someone to pay for his voyage. He first tried to get King John II of Portugal to pay for his journey, but the King was not interested. Finally, he was able to convince Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain to pay for the trip.
Fine we will pay for your voyage
He set sail on August 3, 1492 with three ships named the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The voyage was long and difficult. At one point his men threatened to mutiny and wanted to turn back. Columbus promised them he would turn back in two days if they didn't find land. In his journal, however, he wrote that he had no intention of turning back.
On October 12, 1492 land was spotted. It was a small island in the Bahamas that Columbus would name San Salvador. He met natives there that he called Indians because he was convinced that he had landed on islands off the coast of East Asia. He also visited other islands in the Caribbean such as Cuba and Hispaniola.
After making his discovery, Columbus was eager to return home to Spain and claim his riches. Only the Pinta and the Nina were able to return to Spain, however, as the Santa Maria wrecked off the coast of Hispaniola. Columbus left 43 men behind on the island to start up an outpost. When he returned home he was treated like hero.