About this project
Friends and fellow Walkers,
AMOUNT MATCHED SO FAR: $18,562.23
REMAINING MATCHING FUNDS: $6,437.77
Help us close the gap. Double your impact. Every donation brings us two times closer to this goal! We'll update this figure daily.
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It’s been four years since Paul Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, set out on foot from a campsite in Ethiopia on the Out of Eden Walk—a 21,000-mile, decade-long experiment in slow journalism.
Through words and pictures, audio and video, Paul is creating an unprecedented record of human life on a global scale at the start of a new millennium, through the eyes of the villagers, nomads, traders, farmers, soldiers, and artists who rarely show up in headlines but whose lives illuminate the contours of the modern world.
On the Out of Eden Walk’s fourth anniversary, we remember: If we slow down and walk along, we too can rediscover our world.
As of today, Paul has logged 10 million footsteps—more than 5,000 miles—from Ethiopia to Djibouti, up the Arabian Peninsula, through the Middle East to Cyprus, across Turkey and the Caucasus, and finally, to the steppes of Central Asia, where he’ll spend the cold winter months before starting out again this spring toward China.
"Hello Paul, are you aware that the rest of the world is following you and your companions in your incredible idea? It makes me feel a member of the rest of the world, now I have friends that teach me how es [sic] the life outside my home. Thanks Paul. Stay safe!" —Reader, Trail Gallery.
Using innovative technology to share the journey in new ways is one of the Walk's highest-priority missions.
Every 100 miles, Paul pauses to record a Milestone like the one below, documenting the location in photos, audio, and video. He also asks the nearest human being three questions: "Who are you?" "Where do you come from?" and "Where are you going?" By the end of Paul's journey, there will be more than 200 of these Milestones, a cross-section of geography, and humanity, that truly spans the globe.
Check out all 47 of the journey's Milestones here.
Milestone 45, “Beekeepers:"
"We saw them from a distance: linked carts piled high with hives. They were traveling beekeepers from Jizak. They spoke a dialect of Persian, and they said the season was finished. They were putting up the hives for winter. They spoke vehemently, passionately, about honey. They said the best honey came from Jizak but that the red honey of Termez was good too. When Aziz the guide informed them of his ulcer, they gave him a small bottle filled with a concoction of bee prosopolis—a mixture of bee saliva and plant resins—diluted in alcohol.
Aziz took a sip.
“Wow” he said. “Wow wow wow.”
They gave us tea. They gave us bread and salami. They gave us a jar of their hives’ crystallized honey dregs, apologizing for its low quality, for the sugar ants embedded in the whiteness. They said there was no better life than this one. Nomads are like this."
Paul often responds to reader comments made on outofedenwalk.com, so be sure to comment and check back:
"Hope you don’t mind, but I print out your dispatches and read them at work. It is so great to take in your view of our world." —Searag, commenting on "To Walk This Wilderness, Carry a Shovel." "Glad to hear the information revolution includes some counter-revolution—digital back to print. You made my day." —Paul.
Paul meets a 1.8-million year old fossil evidencing empathy and altruism in "The Natural History of Compassion:"
"I am walking the world," he writes. "I knock on unfamiliar doors. I call out to the tents of unknown people. I slog onwards from Dmanisi, out of Georgia, into a vast and rumpled topography of human want and compassion.
Tonight, I sleep in the dilapidated farmhouse of a woman named Sveta. Her boy sits at a small oil-clothed table watching Hindi soap operas. A wood burning stove. Mice padding the rafters. Sveta displays, laughing, the iron bar she keeps by her bed. Her club. We sip a tea of wild herbs.
Do not be afraid."
In an age when rapid globalization clashes with political fear mongering, our mission to build deeper human connections through storytelling is more vital than ever before.
On Year Five of the Walk, with your support, Paul will journey through western China and across the Himalayas en route to India—traversing an immense region that is home to 36% of the world population, and marked by sand deserts, cold steppes, and the world's highest mountains.
These stories, and many more, lie on the horizon:
- Globalization: Like it or not, our individual and collective fates are more tightly bound across horizons than ever before. The largest infrastructure project on Earth today may be China's "One Belt, One Road" program: a multi-billion-dollar plan to link together Asia, the Middle East and Europe with a colossal road, railway, port and telecommunications network that could transform planetary trade. It is a massive, 21st century Silk Road. From the deserts of Xinjiang onward, I'll be walking its sprawling on-ramps, living among the ordinary people whose lives are being changed by such corridors of trade.
- Environment: I will trek through the research camps of Chinese and Indian scientists who are studying the melting glaciers of the Himalayas with more than academic concern: More than 1,000 Himalayan glaciers are in retreat due to climate change, and the water—and agricultural food supply—of more than 1.4 billion people is threatened.
- Cultural endurance: One of the invisible casualties of Nepal's devastating 2015 earthquake, which killed thousands, is a fraying cultural diversity. In an impoverished country with more than 100 languages and tiny pockets of remnant minority populations, the quake has further eroded cultural survival by wiping out local economies and triggering forced migrations to cities. I'll walk through the overgrown rubble of the worst tragedy in Nepal's history to measure its blow against the fading lifeways of some of the world's most isolated mountain peoples.
Reaching our Kickstarter goal helps cover costs intrinsic to maintaining such a large-scale endeavor, including fair payment for guides, travel logisticians, back-end office support and staff, and the on-ground purchase of equipment, supplies, and pack animals. This enables Paul to focus completely on the storytelling and bring you, our readers, the best possible work.
"I feel more alive reading your stories. Thank you for taking me along with you." —Megan, commenting on "Headless, Wild, and Wayward: Life Along the Old Silk Roads."
"Greetings Paul–I have been with you since the beginning of your world trek and have been amazed, enlightened, educated and delighted by your dispatches. Thank you for spending so much of your life on this wonderful project and sharing your insights in such beautiful language." —Conni, commenting on "Reclaiming Humanity's Oldest Tech—One Flint Blade at a Time."
- The education revolution is growing. 40,000 students around the world are now using Out of Eden Walk’s digital K-12 learning tools.
- 325 schools from 52 countries are registered in the online education community “Out of Eden Learn,” with a 40/60 split between US and internationally-based schools.
- University-level curriculums have been developed and introduced to dozens of U.S.-based universities in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
- For more information on our education mission, check out our partners’ online resources at www.pz.harvard.edu and www.pulitzercenter.org.
- Paul’s journalism has been translated into 17 languages and counting.
- A new digital translation tool will be debuted early spring 2017 on www.outofedenwalk.com.
Our main 2017 targets:
- Local voices: We are organizing a community of storytellers along the walk’s route—local thought leaders, walking partners, writers, innovators, educators, artists, bloggers—to diversify the voices of the Walk. These contributors to our dispatches and social media will make the Walk’s narrative richer and more inclusive in 2017.
- Curated translations: We are increasing cross-cultural dialogue through digital innovation. Translators in several major languages will be engaged to curate the launch of a groundbreaking online translation tool for the Walk’s text stories. This will dramatically expand live-engagement opportunities with our entire global readership.
- More young walkers: Expanding work with our two education partners to grow the Out of Eden Walk curriculum domestically—partly by working through the Boy and Girl Scouts—and globally. Our joint goal: Reach 150 new schools and 20,000 more students globally.
- More maps and mapping workshops: Expand our free online cartographic workshops for all ages and build new storytelling maps such as the upcoming 'Kinks map,' a Silk Road map, and a Walking Bishkek map.
- Managing local voices program: Workflow associated with organizing new social media content from our guest curators, scientific experts, walking guides, raconteurs, educators, and other local partners.
- Translation curation: Honoraria for our best linguists to curate a free and open-sourced translation tool, which will be rolled out in February.
- Cartography: Funding our map-making and training partnership with the Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis.
- Non-profit Web site launch: Covering the costs of building and maintaining our brand-new nonprofit web site.
- Diversifying one-off education opportunities: US and internationally based photo camps and student walk-alongs.
- Paul's camels: They’re expensive (about $4,500 each) in the Taklamakan desert of China.
- Non-profit operational costs for 2017: Labor and equipment costs associated with content curation, educational coordination, audience outreach, fundraising, financial management, international communications, and back-end logistical support for Paul.
"I have seen my students awaken as they join you, Paul, on your journey. In this difficult time here in the U.S., especially in a community of immigrants, Out of Eden has been an incredible oasis! I'm so happy to donate what I can to sustain it. Thank you." — Educator.
If we've learned anything from 2016, it's this: division is exhausting. So today the converse is worth emphasizing: In unity, there is hope, and in hope there is strength and energy.
The Out of Eden Walk steps into its fifth year at a moment of turbulent shifts in national and global affairs. And in a smaller way, this anniversary marks a turning point in the history of the project as well. Braiding more diverse voices into the strands of our storytelling has become essential. And making this voyage a truly collective effort—after all, each of our ancestors walked these trails—makes Kickstarter the perfect platform for cooperation. In the Pleistocene as today, this journey belongs to us all.
"Paul, I read your posts regularly and I cannot help but think that one day in the near future after all your travels have been complete a new generation will be able to understand their origins and humanity thanks to your noble efforts. Truly thankful for what you are doing." —Anubis, commenting on "1 Bucket of Wheat = 1 Candy Bar."
We recognize that so much of what we’ve been able to accomplish and achieve is a direct result of our two previous campaigns on Kickstarter. With your help, we can keep the Out of Eden Walk moving forward, one eye-opening step at a time.
WALKING PARTNER - $10 - Thank you for joining Paul on the trail. Your backing helps Paul find and report the global stories of our time that are missed by conventional journalists. Your name will appear on Out of Eden Walk's Digital Donor Wall, a feature that will remain a permanent legacy of the 7-year journey.
MILE SPONSOR - $25 - Fund a mile of the journey with a pledge of $25 or more, and your name and mile will appear on a Digital Donor Map, custom-made by Jeff Blossom, our chief cartographer at the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard. The donor map will be displayed online as a permanent legacy of the 7-year journey.
GALLERIST - $50 - We'll email you a link to 10 previously unpublished, high-resolution and easy-to-print photos. Taken by Paul, the photos will offer you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into daily life on the Out of Eden Walk trail.
CORRESPONDENT - $100 - Back by popular demand from last year's campaign! Mail from a human snail. Paul will send you an old-fashioned handwritten postcard from the Out of Eden Walk trail in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. All postcards are written by Paul. *Early bird special: The first 5 will also receive a refrigerator magnet from the world-famous Osh Bazaar and Market in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan!* *Limited to 100.* Part of Kickstarter’s Make 100 campaign.
NAVIGATOR - $250 - Every 100 miles across the Earth, Paul pauses to record a narrative Milestone consisting of a panorama photograph, an audio recording of ambient sound, a video clip and an interview with the nearest human being asking three existential questions. ("Who are you?" "Where do you come from?" and "Where are you going?") Become a Milestone Sponsor and we'll email you a link to your high-resolution panorama Milestone photo with GPS coordinates. Your name will appear on the Milestone on our digital donor map, a permanent online legacy of the journey. *Limited to 40.*
MYSTERY PHOTO - $350 - We’ll mail you a fourth-year anniversary gift: A handpicked framed photo taken during at some point of the Out of Eden Walk journey thus far. We’ll include a printed slip on the back that describes your photo. *Early bird special, limited to first 12 backers*: We’ll add an Expedition-edition Field Notes notebook with a customized Out of Eden Walk logo stamped on the inner cover. Bulletproof, waterproof, fireproof, with acid, wind, and electrical resistance, the notebook can accompany you anywhere your feet will carry you.
CHIEF CARTOGRAPHER - $650 - We'll mail you an 8"X10" version of the custom-designed "Greatest Walk" map, created originally for the journey by Jeff Blossom at Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis. A must-have for any geographers in your life, this is a color print on high-quality matte paper, best suited to be framed and hung on the wall. Additionally, Jeff is customizing these maps to feature Paul's up-to-date journey route (thank you, Jeff)! *Early bird special: The first 4 will also receive a refrigerator magnet from the world-famous Osh Bazaar and Market in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan!* *Limited to 60.*
SILK ROAD TRAVELER - $1,500 - TUSH KIYIZ—Kyrgyz dowry textiles.
We offer our Silk Road donors a genuine thread connecting them to the old Silk Road—a hand-stitched textile from Kyrgyzstan called "tush kiyiz," dowry wall hangings suitable for any home or yurt. These vintage embroideries, made by women in the 1950s and 1960s before the final triumph of industrial fabrics, contain thousands of stitches representing symbols of flowers (fecundity), circles (protection), and moons (eternity) from Central Asian nomad cosmologies. Each embroidery is about four feet by twenty inches, and is unique. The textiles in the photographs are samples and may not be the actual pieces shipped.
Risks and challenges
Reporting overseas is an intrinsically risky endeavor, with dangers both natural and man-made. For his own safety and that of his guides, most of Paul’s written material is published after a time lag.
Because Paul is walking in conjunction with reporting and interacting with schools, he has had to make longer stops than anticipated in “wired” urban centers. So the Walk’s pacing has to be flexible, as does the routing.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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