Could you walk 21,000 miles?
Salopek on Thursday departed a small Ethiopian village and took the first steps of a planned 21,000-mile walk that will cross 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 that will force him to immerse himself in a variety of cultures so he can tell a global mosaic of people stories in his Ethiopia-to-Argentina walk.
"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.
Those fly-over places explain how environment or education are connected to the economy — stories that are more nuanced and complicated "that take slowing down to explain," he said.
Though Salopek's planned walk may be among the longest in modern times, such long, investigative walks have been done before.
Rory Stewart walked across Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, and then circled back to post-Taliban Afghanistan to walk from Herat to Kabul, a journey chronicled in the 2005 book "The Places In Between." Stewart's walk took 21 months.
"The best thing about it for me was simply that it gave me access to people and communities. It forced you to stop every 20 or 25 miles. It forced you to spend nights in village homes," said Stewart, who spends six weeks every year walking through his political district. "For me the real great thing about this kind of journey is that we live in a world which is very focused on destinations, a city or a tourist site, which ignores 99 percent of the country."
Stewart's advice to Salopek is that he find people to be with at night. Long days of endless walking leave you tired, hungry and wanting solitude, but Stewart said the best hours of Salopek's journey will not be during daylight, but in the evening hours around a dinner table or fireplace.
That's what Salopek plans to do. He hopes to walk with local people throughout his journey, learning new languages or finding English speakers along the way. He says the journey will slow down his own process of writing, and he hopes he can also slow down readers who live in a world flooded with information.
Critical thinking challenge: Why will Salopek's best hours be in the evening?
Define these words: quest, solitude
- Posted on January 10, 2013