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November 18, 2021
Today's Wrap is about the man, Paul Salopek, who *checks notes* is trying to walk around the world. Eight years after starting, he still has thousands of miles to go.
In 2013, journalist Paul Salopek set off from Ethiopia on what he believed would be a 7-year mission to walk around the world. 8 years later and with thousands of miles left, he underestimated.
Salopek’s goal was to trace the pathway of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. The walk spans 30+ countries: It started in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, passed through the Middle East and South Asia, will cross Siberia, and travel down the Americas to end at the tip of South America.
Through it all, he has written stories and taken photos that he posts on a National Geographic-sponsored blog and an Instagram account. He has said his goal is to “create a global record of human life at the start of a new millennium.”
He calls the model “walked storytelling,” and it follows a long career as a war correspondent, during which he was imprisoned, received a Pulitzer Prize, and reported from some of the world’s most dangerous places. Salopek said he saw “the speed of the information age killing complexity and nuance in storytelling,” so he conceived of this walk as an experiment in slow and immersive journalism.
In the last 8 years, he has walked more than 7,000 miles (11.2k kms), from Africa, over the Red Sea Crossing, through the Middle East and the Silk Road, to China, where he is now. His writing recounts the stories of the many local guides, villagers, nomads, traders, farmers, soldiers, and artists he has met along the way.
“By slowing down, by walking, I’m forced to spend time in communities that I would normally have flown over in a plane,” he said. He hopes the project will offer a “more sophisticated narrative about the world” instead of “a scattering of little stories that fit into neat categories or boxes.”
But not everything has gone as planned. “Geopolitics and war have intervened,” he said in an interview. He had to bypass Syria because of war, and neither Iran nor Turkmenistan would issue him a visa. He walked through a war in Ethiopia and was shot at in the West Bank. Kurdish guerrillas ambushed him in Turkey, and a Taliban offense delayed him in Afghanistan.
And then the pandemic happened, imposing a 1.5-year delay to the journey. Because of lockdown restrictions, Salopek spent the time in Myanmar, until a government coup caused him to leave.
This last month, he announced plans to begin his next phase: A 1.5-year journey over more than 3,000 miles, taking him from Myanmar, through China, to Russia. "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving,” he said.
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