Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

The world at 3 miles an hour

A journalist will spend the next seven years retracing, on foot, one of the possible paths humanity's ancestors took as they spread from Africa to the rest of the world.

Paul Salopek, a writer and biologist with funding and help from National Geographic, will leave the Rift Valley in Ethiopia, and travel across the Arabian Peninsula, central Asia, China, southeast Asia, eastern Russia, the Bering Strait (by boat) and then the west coasts of North and South America before reaching Tierra del Fuego. He will write, and ponder, along the way. He will work with guides as he meets people who live along his path. And he'll think about how, at some point in time, humanity reached each area along his route for the first time. Think about an Earth with no people. For an extraordinarily long time, that was true of a lot of the world. Well, obviously, we're here now: what's best to do here, there and everywhere we are? With all our evolution, all our progress, we're still figuring that out. And it's a big world, with a lot of possible solutions to that; we haven't figured it all out. He'll see firsthand how people have found solutions for wherever they are. And see far, far more of the world than most of us ever will.

I appreciate Salopek's quote about his journey --

There is an actual neurological basis to what I am talking about. You can make a pretty good evolutionary argument that this was how we were designed to absorb information, at about 5 km an hour (3 mph)."

-- because I've seen this before, on a far smaller but also impressive scale. I once met Mark Hamilton, a poet and professor who was retracing the route Meriwether Lewis and William Clark took from the eastern U.S. to the Oregon Coast. Here is a Seattle Times article about Hamilton's journey. Whether by small boat or by foot -- by himself or walking with a pack mule named Joe -- he reached the end, wintered in Astoria, Oregon and headed back. He watched. He thought. He wrote poems. He eventually made Discovering Home: A Sojourn on the Lewis & Clark Trail by Paddle and Pack Mule (An Adventure With Mark Hamilton), a video about his three years of travels, from 1997 to 2000. He was often tired -- he certainly seemed tired when I visited with him -- but soothed and inspired by the landscape he experienced, and the people he met.

May this walk sooth and inspire you, Mr. Salopek. I'll be watching, and hoping.

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