Christopher Columbus can be considered a man of his times in several ways. He was from Genoa, Italy, and was born and raised during the burgeoning Renaissance. As such, he was exposed to humanist ideas and increased literacy, as well as growing trade and cultural diffusion.
Humanist ideas were running rampant through Italy during the Renaissance. The Catholic Church was losing ground to inquiring minds that were questioning church doctrine and exploring humanist subjects and life outside of the Pope's authority. Columbus was the son of a weaver, and he was literate—a clear sign of the changing times since prior to this, very few urban workers would have been literate. His literacy enabled him to read new scientific literature regarding the solar system, charting the stars, and new technology like the astrolabe and caravel—all of which he would take advantage of in his journeys west.
Columbus grew up in an Italy that was the hub of international trade and commerce. Located on the Mediterranean with easy access to the Middle East, Northern Africa, and the rest of Europe, Columbus saw goods and ideas travel through on a regular basis. As such, he was gripped by a desire to reach the Indies in a more efficient way in order to be able to increase the global market that was spreading through Europe. Because of the growing economic competition throughout Europe, Columbus found a sponsor in Spain who was eager to compete with both Italy and Portugal.