NAIROBI — On the eve of an unimaginably long walk — one that starts in Africa, winds through the Middle East, across Asia, hops over to Alaska, goes down the western United States, then Central and South America and ends in Chile — a question nagged journalist Paul Salopek: Should he take his house keys?
Salopek departed a small Ethiopian village Thursday for a planned 7-year, 21,000-mile walk across some 30 borders, where he will encounter dozens of languages and scores of ethnic groups. The 50-year-old’s quest is to retrace man’s first migration from Africa across the world in a go-slow journey so he can tell a global mosaic of people stories.
The Ethiopia-to-Chile walk — which took human ancestors some 50,000 years to make — is called Out of Eden and is sponsored by National Geographic, the Knight Foundation, and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, the American plans to write a major article a year with periodic updates every 100 miles or so.
“Often the places that we fly over or drive through, they aren’t just untold stories, but they are also the connective tissues between the stories of the day,” Salopek said.