Paul Salopek is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, most recently of the Chicago Tribune and National Geographic. Back in 2006, Salopek entered Sudan as part of an investigation for a story on Darfur when he was promptly arrested for espionage. The ordeal made national news, and eventually Salopek was released.
Today, Salopek is back in Africa, though he doesn’t plan on staying for too long. That’s because he has decided to take a walk to Chile, and he expects to arrive in 2020 – as in 7 years from now. The journey (sponsored by National Geographic) began yesterday in a small Ethiopian village and spans 21,000 miles to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Chile.
So why is he doing this, exactly? To retrace the steps of humanity, our ancient ancestors. And just like those ancient ancestors, he’ll walk around with an Apple laptop, a satellite phone, and camping gear. And access to Twitter! Those Mesopotamians were big tweeters.
After he leaves Africa, he will navigate his way through the Middle East and onto Asia moving east until he reaches Alaska. He will then slide down the western United States to his final destination of Chile, at which time he will be 57 years old. Now you might have some other logistical questions, such as where will he be staying? Well Salopek is just kind of planning on making some friends to serve him dinner and lodge him at night. But wait: how will he just, you know, cross borders? “Adaptation and serendipity,” like the ancients. You know, just like when our ancestors encountered armed guards, fences and border patrol and tensions in the Middle East.
We’re also not sure how the conversation proposing this journey came about with his wife – “Oh, by the way, I’m walking around the world, see you in 7 years!” But she did go along with it, and is planning on walking with him for some of the way.
For what it’s worth, we hope he has fun. But if he does run into a spot of trouble, he better adapt, serendipitously.