Miles to Miles — an exceptional journey of Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Salopek

Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads every day, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and we dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and we dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, and sit down if you like. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy.

There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.

Taking his first steps towards his venture at one of the world’s oldest human fossil sites with 21,000 more miles to go without U-Turn, he embarked on a journey others can solely dream of, to walk on the path less traveled. A two time Pulitzer Prize winner journalist, Paul Salopek is out on a walk around the world to retrace the first steps of humanity.

Born in California and raised in Mexico, Salopek has reported for The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic, National Geography Magazine and various other publications. His entry into the field of journalism, according to him happened merely through an accidental situation which is almost like “Nothing happens without any reason”.

Since then, there has been no looking back and the greatest ever project undertaken by Paul Salopek is his ‘Out of Eden Walk’. An ardent believer in the concept of ‘slow journalism’, the ‘Out of Eden Walk’, which started in January 2013 from Ethiopia, through the vast barren stretches of the Middle East, Salopek finally, reached India.

Taking out some time from his excruciatingly busy schedule, he visited NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata to enlighten the students regarding his project and throw light on the journey covered and the upcoming thrills.

The prime focus of Salopek’s address towards the students’ fraternity was the importance of storytelling in today’s fast-paced world. For him the essence of any story elevates the longer one dwells on that. “I would tell students not to get hung up on the medium, whether it’s digital journalism or writing on stone. It’s the quality of the stories. Digital, writing with charcoal on lambskin, whatever your medium is, spend enough time to be the expert, the master in that story”.

This is the core abstract of the novel proposition of slow journalism and through his magnificent journey on foot; Salopek yearns to re-discover the home of humanity.

His journey is all about the common man and their everyday stories, a fact which he kept on emphasising throughout the session. Apart from the enchanting visual glimpses of his journey, Salopek shared some interesting stories about the people who accompanied him in different segments of his walk and also the dire situations they faced.

On being asked about his experience in India, Salopek answered with contentment that unlike most other countries, in India everyone has a story to tell, that eased his efforts for collecting content.

On hearing the number of miles remaining for the walk, students were baffled and sure enough, most of them began questioning the relevance of such a perilous project. However, their uncertainty was soon engulfed by Salopek’s positivity towards the project as he suggested not to be overwhelmed by the number of miles but to regard each day as an opportunity to gather stories ranging from technological innovations, climate change, and dominance of modern equipment over traditional tools, cultural struggles, and many others.

Answering to the quintessential question of what he would advice to budding journalists, Salopek replied most enthusiastically, “Please come, we need your heart, we need your mind.”

There could have been no other wisdom more encouraging than this for all those with a passion to create and master their own stories with intent to influence global circumstances.

(Contributors: Debanjan Banerjee is an author, leader writer and media educator. He is also HOD, Media Science, NSHM School of Media and Design, Kolkata. Rapti Mukherjee is a MSc first year student with the institute.)