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Out of Eden: The Walk
December 6, 2012 1:38 PM   Subscribe

How do you pack your bag for a seven-year, 22,000 mile international reporting assignment? Pulitzer winning foreign correspondent Paul Salopek is preparing to walk from Africa to South America and document the whole journey.

Next month, Salopek will begin a seven-year reporting assignment that will take him 22,000 miles (give or take) on foot, from Africa across Asia and the United States, ultimately ending up in Patagonia at the southern tip of South America. The route Salopek is following is the one anthropologists believe was the first path humans took out of Africa to populate the rest of the world. He’s calling it Out of Eden, a narrative trek that will examine the current state of the cultures Salopek visits, while also writing about their history and connection to the greater world.

He will be will talking about his project at Harvard tonight at 7 p.m., and you can follow along with a livestream of his presentation.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit (46 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Swimming would be a lot faster.
posted by notyou at 1:40 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I'm jealous.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:44 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


You make sure to not forget your towel.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:45 PM on December 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I sent him a fan letter when I was a teenager, just before e-mail became widespread, and six months later got back a very nice letter with some very exotic stamps ... It had been forwarded to him on assignment and he'd taken the time to write back and post it from somewhere really remote.

Anyway he is cool and very nice to nerdy teenagers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:47 PM on December 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


What about his shoes? Multitool? Knife? Backpack? Flashlight? Apparel?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:47 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


That land bridge from Russia to Alaska should reappear any day now, given the falling global temperatures and thickening Arctic ice. Oh wait.
posted by mark7570 at 1:48 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is one way to get a recession-proof job.
posted by hot_monster at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having just read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" about hiking the Appalachian Trail, I wonder if he truly appreciates how far that is. The AT is only (ha!) about 2,200 miles but just a tiny fraction of people who attempt to walk the entire thing are able to finish. It's incredibly difficult to do.

Now, turn around and do it nine more times, Paul!
posted by scottatdrake at 1:52 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is amazing. Yes, I am super jealous. And really eager to read about the journey.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:56 PM on December 6, 2012


I really hope that for all the parts that require a boat, he stands at the prow triumphantly like Jack and Rose.
posted by elizardbits at 1:58 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good grief, how does one get a job like this? I suppose having a long and amazing career and winning a Pulitzer would help. But yeah...jealous.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:00 PM on December 6, 2012


Another long walk.
posted by Xurando at 2:03 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


What about his shoes? Multitool? Knife? Backpack? Flashlight? Apparel?

He'll have to post an AskMe about what to pack.

Good grief, how does one get a job like this?

You get sponsors, like long-distance stunt pilots such as Amelia Earhart and Beryl Markham used to get for flying across the Atlantic or whatever their goal was.
posted by orange swan at 2:05 PM on December 6, 2012


Tourism is a sin. Traveling on foot is a virtue. The moment people understand that you have come on foot and are trying to engage and understand them, there is an immediate change in attitude. On foot, no one chases you away or does not allow you to use their resources. They tell you stories they have not told anyone else. - Werner Herzog
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:05 PM on December 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I wish they had a twitter account already. I realize in 7 years we may all be using something else, but I'd love to be able to subscribe now while I'm reading about it.
posted by jeffkramer at 2:11 PM on December 6, 2012


"I wonder if he truly appreciates how far that is."

Probably. He's an old-school foreign correspondent; Wikipedia says "He reported for the Chicago Tribune from 1996 until April 30, 2009, writing about Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He worked for National Geographic from 1992–1995, visiting Chad, Sudan, Senegal, Niger, Mali, and Nigeria." He was detained in Sudan for several months. When he was a young reporter he used to work as a commercial fisherman between gigs.

I've been looking back through archives of his work to figure out why I wrote him a fan letter, because I have NO recollection of what the story was! Can't find it! It must have been something I was interested in, and something that was in some way moving, when I was in high school, and a big enough deal to me that I wrote a physical letter and looked up the newspaper's address and found a stamp and put it in the actual mail, but though I can remember the layout of the newspaper's front page that day, and I can remember reading many of his stories later on because I always noticed his byline after that, I have NO recollection of what the story was that was such a big deal to me! I can see where it was on the page, but I can't remember what it was.

Anyway, the letter I got back six months later was written on onion paper, in pencil, and the envelope, which had half a dozen stamps on it, was dirty and battered and scarred from its trip out of the depths of wherever. My mom handed me the envelope when I got home from school that day and said, "Who's sending you letters from war zones in Africa?" and I said, "I have no idea ..." I had basically forgotten I had sent the letter because it had been six months earlier, and the letter began by apologizing for his slow response to my kind note, because it took some time for the Tribune to forward his mail to him in the war zone and even longer for mail to get back out so he was sure it wouldn't get to me in a timely fashion. I was so flattered he took the time to write back to me in the first place; I couldn't believe he was concerned about the slow post!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:13 PM on December 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


He really shouldn't pack a Macbook Pro unless he is anticipating a lot of Genius Bars on his route.
posted by srboisvert at 2:13 PM on December 6, 2012


This has got me thinking about what I would carry for a trip of that length. You'd have to think about both what you'd absolutely need and how much you could realistically carry. Obviously something for water. You'd want to save some space for food. A mobile phone and a charger with some sort of universal adapter. Probably a lighter or matches or some such. A toothbrush? Yes, a towel. A knife? How big a knife?

Do you bring one set of clothes and wash it as much as possible?

I read Bryson's Walk In The Woods too and feel like this very subject was addressed, but can't remember much more than the great scenes about his ill-prepared friend and traveling companion.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:18 PM on December 6, 2012


...Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods"...

Those stats on the completion of the AT may well be accurate, and if they tried to hike it as prepared as Bryson was for his small stints on it, there is a reason why the rate is so small.

I like Bryson and wholeheartedly appreciate his (semi) immersion into what he writes about, but reading that book made me cringe so often when he talked about actually hiking the trail.. and I'm not, by any stretch, the most avid of hikers.

This trek that Salopek is doing sounds amazing though, and I have high confidence he knows what the hell he is doing. It is bad ass.
posted by edgeways at 2:23 PM on December 6, 2012


This is amazing. The ultimate couch-surfing trip.
posted by zoinks at 2:27 PM on December 6, 2012


I don't think people are telling Werner Herzog stories they normally wouldn't tell outsiders because Werner Herzog has arrived on foot.

I think people are telling Werner Herzog stories they normally wouldn't tell outsiders because Werner Herzog has arrived.

Anyhow, this is bound to be quite a walk and I am looking forward to reading about it and I apologize for my noisy comment right at the top of the thread.
posted by notyou at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Old school? 1996 was the day before yesterday, sport.

Can someone explain how walking this whole way is possible? There is no land bridge anymore, right? (I did not RTFP.)
posted by DarlingBri at 2:31 PM on December 6, 2012


I happen to know a couple of successful AT thru-hikers and their preparations are obsessive and intense. They weigh things and strip all excess weight off anything they carry, i.e. if they are carrying a paperback book covers have been removed and maybe even some of the margin paper. Maps are trimmed down to just what is needed. Planning food means carrying what weighs the least for the highest number of calories. Anything that is not 100% needed is ditched.

Although the article isn't totally specific, I get the feeling that he will have support of some sort and don't envision him needing to carry all his food and water himself. Just the equipment that he is taking would be a heavy load if it was carried via backpack.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2012


You know who else arrived on foot? John Rambo. Think about that.
posted by brain_drain at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2012


A MacBook Air? I hope he has a connect who will Fedex him a new one when his MacBook Air falls on concrete, or is smashed by cargo on a bus, or gets stepped on at a bar. The MBA is many things, but awesomely sturdy isn't one of them.
posted by Gordion Knott at 2:54 PM on December 6, 2012


He's mixing up Exodus with Jubilee.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2012


"Old school? 1996 was the day before yesterday, sport."

Oh, I mean old school like long-treks-into-exotic-foreign-lands-carrying-minimal-equipment-filing-stories-by-mail-because-there's-no-telecom old school. He just happens to have been doing it in 1996.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:18 PM on December 6, 2012


"I think people are telling Werner Herzog stories they normally wouldn't tell outsiders because Werner Herzog has arrived."

Herzog was doing a lot of climbing before he was famous for climbing.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 3:22 PM on December 6, 2012


Using his video and audio equipment, Salopek said he wants to create a kind of continuous portrait of the world at this point in time. “I’m calling it a narrative transect: Every 100 miles, I’ll methodically take a series of narrative readings that do not vary along the path of the walk,” he said. The plan, as he envisions it, is to stop to take six samples: Ambient sound, photos of the earth and sky, a panorama of his current location, a minute or so of video, and an interview, all in the same method in each location. He sees it as almost a scientific approach, one that can show the changes and similarities in terrain, but also culture and people. And while these transects will make for good multimedia, Salopek said their real value will be as an archive of what the world looked like from 2013 to 2019.

Yes. Yes yes yes.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, I run Nieman Lab, the site that piece is on. The livestream's about to start in a couple minutes, so be sure to check in. To answer a question from above, yes, Paul's tentatively planning on taking a ship or a plane across the Bering. (Although that could change — it's still several years away.) He'll also probably have to take a boat around the Darien Gap in Panama, where there is no road. But otherwise, walking pretty much the whole way. And he'll be doing it solo, with the exception of some stretches where another journalist (like a National Geographic photographer, for instance) will be accompanying him.

Also, for the person asking about a Twitter account to follow, it's @outofedenwalk. And Paul's full site launched today at OutofEdenWalk.com. Paul's a great guy — you should check it out.
posted by crabwalk at 3:54 PM on December 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


The livestream is beginning now.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 3:55 PM on December 6, 2012


DarlingBri: “Can someone explain how walking this whole way is possible? There is no land bridge anymore, right? (I did not RTFP.)”

It's actually pretty simple – worth clicking through and looking at the map, but in case you don't, he's going from Africa through Egypt into Iran, through Mongola, to Kamchatka, where he'll fly from there to Anchorage and go from Alaska down the continent to Chile.
posted by koeselitz at 3:56 PM on December 6, 2012


Werner Herzog always arrives on foot. Nobody knows how he leaves.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:59 PM on December 6, 2012


Werner Herzog leaves calmly after finishing his business despite being shot.
posted by edgeways at 4:13 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Crabwalk, will the video of the livestream be posted anywhere afterwards? I've been battling a janky internet connection all day and I can't watch the livestream. I am full of sad.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 4:39 PM on December 6, 2012


I'm 95% sure video of the entire event will be posted at that same link. If it's not (not under my control), email me at joshua_benton@harvard.edu and I'll hook you up (and post it here).
posted by crabwalk at 4:42 PM on December 6, 2012


"Paul Salopek is preparing to walk from Africa to South America and document the whole journey."

"Wow, the water and waves are getting really high... I'm not sure howbb mubbb bbbblub hellbplub blub blub blub..."
posted by markkraft at 4:43 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been battling a janky internet connection all day and I can't watch the livestream. I am full of sad.

You have seven years to get it working right, SweetTea. I wouldn't worry much.
posted by Blue Meanie at 5:36 PM on December 6, 2012


I'm jealous. I daydream about walking from here to Argentina, but as a practical endeavor I'd worry most about getting run over by a truck. It sounds like an amazing trip and I hope the amazing parts get posted as FPPs here or otherwise get wide attention.
posted by Forktine at 5:46 PM on December 6, 2012


Yeah, I'm salivating over this whole project, and, in particular, the narrative transects.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:52 PM on December 6, 2012


I think people are telling Werner Herzog stories they normally wouldn't tell outsiders because Werner Herzog has arrived.
posted by notyou


Not sure how serious you are about this, notyou, but the set of people who have absolutely no clue who Werner Herzog is far outnumbers the set of those who do. This is especially true in places such as South American jungles and the Arctic tundra.

Here is the rest of the quote ...

If I opened a film school, I would make everyone earn their tuition themselves by working. Not in an office -- out where there is real life. Earn it as a bouncer in a sex club or as a warden in a lunatic asylum. And travel on foot for three months. And do physical, combative sports, like boxing. That makes you more of a filmmaker than three years of film school. Pura vida, as the Mexicans say.

It strikes me that this is precisely the approach that Paul Salopek is employing here; and reading a bit about him, he seems to embrace what is perhaps a more balanced and authentic way of engaging with the subjects of his reporting.

My own truly insignificant experience when traveling by bicycle certainly confirms that self-powered travelers are afforded far more hospitality than more conventional tourists. I have never really been hesitant to ask a farmer or land-owner for permission to set up my tent when travel ling by bike, and I know for certain that I have received invitations when pedaling along that I wouldn't have, had I been in the Jeep.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:55 PM on December 6, 2012


PareidoliaticBoy, I'm fairly sure notyou was telling a Chuck Norris joke about Werner Herzog.

I hope he makes it through his walk in one piece. Kids dream of adventures like these.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2012


He'd better get busy if he hopes to exchange his car keys with this guy.
posted by perspicio at 7:23 PM on December 6, 2012


Hmph. I was really looking forward to the shoe recommendation. And is that a firearm in his belt, in the accompanying photo?
posted by katya.lysander at 10:09 PM on December 6, 2012


Was expecting an Every Day Carry style breakdown. Still, cool project, I've subscribed to his blog.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:00 AM on December 7, 2012


This man from Montreal has done something like it. In the pictures, you can see he's pushing a wheeled pack of some kind, although I don't know what's in it. It's said in 11 years he went through 54 pairs of shoes.
posted by zadcat at 2:39 PM on December 7, 2012


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