About the Project
Welcome to our digital campfire.
Although you’re joining it online, this discussion was actually kindled some 60,000 years ago, when our ancestors first wandered out of the prehistoric African Eden, and migrated across the Middle East and Asia, before crossing into North America and rambling to points south.
From 2013 to 2020, writer Paul Salopek is recreating that epic journey on foot, starting at humankind’s birthplace in Ethiopia and ending at the southern tip of South America, where our forebears ran out of horizon. Along the way he is engaging with the major stories of our time — from climate change to technological innovation, from mass migration to cultural survival — by walking alongside the people who inhabit these headlines every day. Moving at the slow beat of his footsteps, Paul is also seeking the quieter, hidden stories of people who rarely make the news.
Their tales highlight a central truth of our humanity in this globalized age: The most important narratives of our time, once monopolized by the developed world, now increasingly appear at the world’s margins.
The online experience of the walk is shared through two primary venues. Supported by the Knight Foundation, www.outofedenwalk.com serves as a digital laboratory for the walk and houses the work of various partners.
A companion site at outofedenwalk.nationalgeographic.com is supported by the National Geographic Society and is the repository of Paul’s journalism, presented as Dispatches.
Every 100 miles (160 km) Paul is pausing to tend the campfire of our shared humanity by recording a narrative Milestone consisting of photographs of the ground and sky, ambient sound at that location, and a brief, standardized interview with the nearest person.
Strung together along Paul’s route, the Milestones constitute a unique transect of life on the planet at the start of a new millennium.
Partnering with Harvard’s Center for Geographical Analysis, the walk offers ways to build new online tools for enhancing storytelling through digital cartography. Keep an eye out for map updates — and share your mapping ideas in “Lab Talk.”
Paul’s walk is shared in real time with thousands of schoolchildren across the world. For details on how to bring the walk’s “slow journalism” about science, current events, and history to learners, please visit the sites of the walk’s two main educational partners, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Project Zero at Harvard.
The walk’s followers are invited to use this forum to brainstorm new ideas about journalism, cartography, social media, digital technology — and how to promote meaningful storytelling in an age of hyperactive media. Pull on your boots and join the discussion.
DISPATCHES AT OUTOFEDENWALK.NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC.COM
Paul’s Dispatches are stories told in words and pictures — mainly stills but also video — and, periodically, audio. They vary in length from “trail notes” of no more than a short paragraph to long-form reportage of several thousand words. Read the stories and share your thoughts about Paul’s long journey in the comments section of each Dispatch and keep an eye out for his responses to some of your comments. In addition to near real-time online storytelling, once a year Paul is standing back and writing a full-length print article for publication in National Geographic magazine. Look for the first of these in December 2013.
Whatever facet of the Out of Eden Walk interests you, Paul invites you to share your thoughts as he explores the frontiers of storytelling on an ancestral journey that belongs to all of us.
So sit awhile at the campfire, and warm your hands.
To learn more, download the detailed Out of Eden Walk Project Outline (pdf).