Over tens of thousands of years, our ancestors spread out by foot (for the most part) across the entire globe.
Over about seven years, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent @PaulSalopek is making the same journey, the same way.
Paul started in Ethiopia and in the past two years has covered 4,000 miles, getting himself up to the Republic of Georgia. Difficulties with visas and permission to enter certain lands have rerouted and delayed him, but now, after waiting out the worst of the Central Asian summer, he’s ready to set off once again.
What’s it been like to be stuck in one place while on a project all about walking onward?
What’s in store for him on the next leg of the journey?
What else do you want to know?
Finding a nice space longer than his tweets and shorter than his full dispatches, he answered a few questions for us, to whet our appetite and plant the seeds for more of your questions which you can ask during his Twitter chat, October 7.
How welcome was the break from moving?
PS: Very welcome. The walk isn’t a race—just as our dispersal out of Africa wasn’t a race back in the Pleistocene. The truth is, the real work of the walk starts mostly when I stop: when I pause to talk to people en route, or stay at a farm along the way, or take breaks in towns and villages and cities to do my reporting. The adagio passage in the Caucasus was longer than I thought, [but] I have learned a lot, and I hope shared something, about this complex region with readers.
Are you itching to get going again?
PS: Departures always come with mixed feelings. I am restless by nature—a roving sort. But saying goodbye to new friends will be tough.
I have been shown extraordinary kindness in Georgia. I have been using the National Museum as a base, and the staff there have been extremely generous with sharing their knowledge. I will miss them, along with a motley band of fellow nomads, filmmakers, painters, flaneurs, photographers, barflies, and philosophers I have encountered in Tbilisi and Yerevan—the uncommon grace of friends.
How long do you expect the next stretch to be?
PS: I was expecting to walk through Central Asia’s hot deserts this winter, but Turkmenistan declined my visa application, so I’m probably veering north into unexpected cold—in mid-winter.
I have no idea how far I’ll get or how long I’ll be able to walk before I get snowed in until spring. Regardless, it’ll be an interesting stretch—the old Silk Road, and beautiful steppes.
Hardy people. Delicate colors. Every day of this foot journey offers problem-solving opportunities. It keeps life supple, limber.