Seven-years and 22,000 miles

The strength it takes to let go of everything – and in this case, by “everything” I mean comfort, normalcy and predictability – must be staggering. To say, “Sure, I’m going to leave home and wander around forever, searching for a greater meaning, losing myself in a project so deeply that I could be losing myself completely.”

Pulitzer-winning journalist Paul Salopek is doing just that. He’s leaving on a seven-year reporting assignment, where he’ll walk the path anthropologists believe was the path humans first followed out of Africa on their evolutionary quest to populate the earth.

From the article on Nieman Journalism Lab:

The plan is to embark from the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia in January, tracing the horn of Africa into Israel in 2013. In 2014, he’ll head into central Asia, but not before dealing with one of his bigger obstacles: Iran. If you’re on foot, the best, most direct, route into Asia is through northern Iran on the edges of the Caspian Sea. That, of course, means actually getting through Iran safely.

This is a story of discovery, but it’s also a story of the future. No one knows what life will be like in seven years – if the tools he’s using are going to be viable, or if the borders he’ll cross will even be real. What seems like a journey filled with history is most certainly also going to be a seven-year look into the inevitable shift of journalism. More from the article:

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.

From Africa to Russia, with a break to get across the now sunk land bridge, and from Anchorage to the southern tip of South America. To think all I’ve planned on doing next year is drive to Idaho.

This was lovingly handwritten on December 6th, 2012