Why this journalist has spent nearly 9 years walking around the globe

As he traces our ancestors’ pathways out of Africa to the tip of South America, Paul Salopek takes an unhurried view of a frenetic world.

Paul Salopek is nearly halfway through the most improbable hike imaginable: He is taking a 24,000-mile walk around the world, retracing our ancient ancestors’ journey out of Africa to the tip of South America. So far, he’s been on the road for nearly nine years, trying to see what might be learned about our frenetic world by experiencing it one step at a time.

“My aim has been simple,” the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner explains in this issue. “To foot-brake my life, to slow down my thinking, my work, my hours. Unfortunately, the world has had other ideas. Apocalyptic climate crises. Widespread extinctions. Forced human migrations. Populist revolts. A mortal coronavirus.” And earlier this year, in addition to all that, he walked into Myanmar—and straight into a coup.

The National Geographic Society has been the principal funder since the start of what Paul named the Out of Eden Walk. This issue’s essay is the 10th feature by Paul that the magazine has published during the walk, along with his hundreds of dispatches for NationalGeographic.com.

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