Over the course of his career, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Salopek has covered numerous stories in some of the most dangerous places on the planet. His assignments have taken him to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan and beyond. The 50-year old writer has seen and done things that most of us can only dream of, but he is about to embark on his most ambitious project to date.
In January, Salopek plans to set out on a seven-year journey that will see him travel the globe almost entirely on foot. Dubbed the Out of Eden Walk, the goal of Salopek’s journey is to trace the migration of man out of Africa as we dispersed as a species across the globe. That migration began more than 50,000 years ago and covered over 22,000 miles. Salopek intends to walk the entire length of that path, reporting from the field as he goes. His stories will be written in such a way as to connect the present with the past, by sharing cultural and historical experiences from the trek.
The expedition will begin deep in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, which is the place in which it is believed that our earliest ancestors first evolved. From there, he’ll walk out of East Africa, into the Middle East and then on to the steppes of Central Asia. The route will take Salopek into China and eventually further northward into Siberia, where he’ll take a ship across the Bering Sea to Alaska. The journey will hardly end there however, as the journalist will then begin traveling south across the U.S. and Mexico, through Central America and down the entire length of South America, eventually ending at its southernmost tip in Patagonia. Researchers believe that this is the same path that man used when we first spread out across the planet thousands of years ago.
While the journey will indeed be a long one, Salopek will hit the road with little more than a laptop, camera, GPS device and a satellite phone. Most of the journey will be a solo affair, but he’ll hire local guides and translators along the way. They will help him to become immersed in the customs and cultures of the various countries he’ll be passing through over the next seven years of his life, and connect him with important stories to be told in those locations. Salopek’s hope is that this embedded style of reporting will allow him to tell some of the big stories of our time in a new and interesting way. We’ll all be able to follow along with his journey and read his dispatches from the field on his blog, which he’ll begin updating in just a few weeks time.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo Credits: Paul Salopek]