Traveling around the world is a dream for many people including me. Meeting people in many countries and from many continents and being able to see different types of landscapes is a real entertaining activity. Many travel the world using planes or ships to cross large distances. But now the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Paul Salopek will start his trip around the world walking!
Next Sunday, the 13th of January his journey of around 30 million footsteps and 21,000 miles will begin in Ethiopia (Africa) and will lead him to the Southern part of Chile – South America crossing the Northern part of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, North America, Middle America to reach the Patagonia in South America. 50,000 years ago our ancestors made the journey – from Africa through Asia, over the Bering Strait and south, to the tip of the Americas. The first anatomically modern humans became foreign correspondents. They walked out of Africa, and using newly evolved language skills, they swapped tales of far horizons, and explored the unknown world. Now, Paul Salopek as a modern journalist will do the same, carrying only what fits into his backpack,. It will take him about seven years to accomplish the complete, exciting and thrilling journey. The expedition, titled “Out of Eden,” recreates a migration undertaken 60,000 years ago by prehistoric humans following their instincts into the unknown. Salopek has a better idea what he’ll encounter on his trek, but just barely.
“Anything can happen between now and next year, let alone two years from now,” Paul tells.
Salopek, who won Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting on the human genome project and extensive work covering Africa, will bring with him just a computer, satellite phone, video cameras, an audio recorder and a GPS. Every 100 miles he will “take samples” of the surroundings at his current location. His photos, videos, audio and written words will demonstrate to those who come after us what the earth is like today.
Salopek will depart from the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia this month. One year later, he expects to have made it to Israel or Oman, where he will chart a path through the volatile Middle East (crossing through Iran will make his journey considerably more direct and delicate too) and across the southern foothills of the Himalayas. Salopek estimates the only his walk across China will take at least 14 months. From there he will walk up into Siberia and after that he will cross the Bering Strait by boat from Russia to the USA into Alaska. At that point, the journey will be barely halfway done. Salopek expects to make it to Tierra del Fuego (Patagonia – Chile) before 2020. The remote Patagonia was the last continental margin of our globe to be colonized by human species about 12,000 years ago.
Why such an extreme journey?
To slow down…the current sheer volume of news being generated from professional journalists, citizen journalists, from tweets and blogs or whatever channel is being used, is nearly self-defeating. Nowadays there is a tsunami of information reaching us every moment of the day. It’s almost getting unprocessable.
“We don’t need more information, we need more meaning,” Paul says.
It takes slowing down to see how the great global stories of our day, whether they be climate change, conflict, poverty, or mass migration, are interconnected. The planet may seem flat to globetrotting pundits who look down on it from 30,000 feet or the suites of high-rise hotels. But the world isn’t flat. It’s deeply corrugated. And some of the best stories lie hidden in those corrugations.By moving at street level, inching through major policy issues so close to the ground, among ordinary people, the walk’s reporting will reveal overlooked ground truths.
One of the goals of the Out of Eden project is to make the pace of storytelling match the pace of human walking — which is a way of saying Salopek wants to be deliberate in his writing.
“I want to see in the beginning whether going down and taking a more contemplative approach to newsgathering makes the newsgathering more meaningful,” he said.
There will be countless topics to write about along the road; Salopek has a preliminary list of story ideas that includes the impact of western food aid on fighting famine, the effect of climate change in areas along the Red Sea, and what the economy of pastoral nomads looks like today. But Salopek is mindful of the fact that plans will inevitably be overtaken by events, and that the reality of the walk could be completely different from what he has planned.
“Here’s the thing: Anything can happen between now and next year, let alone two years from now,” he said. “So I’m trying to maintain my flexibility.”
“By the end of seven years, I’ll have created an enduring portrait of a storytelling transect around the world at the end of the millennium,” he said.
No one thinks the journey is going to be easy. The physical challenge of walking from Africa to South America will be arduous. But it is virtually impossible to plan ahead for a seven-year journey that will go through some of the globe’s most dangerous political hotspots – such as Iran and central America. Borders will open or close as regimes rise and fall, potentially blocking his way. But Salopek says his journey will not falter. Like the early humans in whose steps he is following, he will simply adapt by shifting routes. “I will do the same thing as our ancestors did. I will pivot around obstacles,” he said.
You can track Salopek’s journey at his website: