Most of us are content to spend our free time in the life-sapping world of television or social media and a bag of chips on our lap—with our yearly trip to Disney World the only thought of escape from the hum-drum of everyday life.
Sure, we want to do something big – something that would change the world and our place in it, but c’mon, who has the time?
Well, one man is devoting his life to something we would never dream of doing (literally never) and seeking a human connection that social media will never bring.
Paul Salopek has always been a journalist. And journalists, by nature, are typically curious and adventuresome souls.
He’s worked for the Chicago Tribune as a foreign war correspondent, is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and a National Geographic Fellow.
This guy loves to explore the world and the inner-workings of his own mind.
He’s a self-described nomad, something seasoned travelers can relate to – but Salopek’s sense of wanderlust exceeds that of even travel veterans.
And it’s especially amazing to those of us who think “traveling” means spending three or four days in the Magic Kingdom every year.
What?! Are you nuts?!
So what is Salopek doing that is so beyond comprehension?
Well, he’s walking across the world.
Did you get that?
He’s walking. Across. The. World.
Just him and his probably sore feet, a few supplies, and a guide. And he is more connected to humanity on this isolated journey than the rest of us will ever be.
Paul Salopek decided that the best way to be a journalist was to avoid the rat-race of this digital age of chasing after people and their stories. Instead, he’d simply go out there and meet people – people who actually have time to talk. It’s an idea he calls “slow journalism.”
Several years ago, Salopek made the decision to walk the roads taken by our ancestors as they migrated from the birthplace of humanity. It is from our beginnings that Salopek dubbed his journey the “Out of Eden Walk”.
He started in Ethiopia, walking in the footsteps of the first travelers, through the Holy Lands of the Middle East, on the Silk Road to South Asia… and across Russia to the Bering Straight that led human beings to North America.
His walk will end after trekking across North and Central America, all the way to the very tip of South America.
In following the historic roads of human migration, he hopes to understand who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.
When he first started out in 2013, he estimated it would take five years. After five years, he said it would take at least six more. Maybe he walks particularly slowly because he’s enjoying the journey that much.
Well, by his own account, he is.
“I’m way behind schedule… and thankful for it. I’m having the time of my life,” Salopek says, according to The Current.
He’s gone through seven pairs of shoes so far, and raises support through Kickstarter and writing for National Geographic and other outlets about his journey.
He writes about our history, our climate, our relationships – how we eat and sleep and express love all around the world.
And he’s making an impact one step at a time.
We’re all missing something.
Salopek has some inspiring words for those of us who can’t imagine ever doing something so drastic.
He’s living the dream – by slowing down and really talking to his fellow man.
Think about it. We all wake up in the morning, hit the snooze five or six times, stumble down the stairs and think, “ugh, not another day.”
We do this even when we love our jobs and our homes. But are we really looking at the big picture? Probably not like Salopek is.
You see, we’re trapped in a bubble of our own making.
His home and work are out there somewhere, they’re just wherever he happens to be at the time.
He says it’s not hard to do – it just requires thinking a little differently than the Average Joe. (That’s you and me.)
“[This walk has] taught me that … I may never be truly at home anywhere, I’ll feel at home everywhere to some degree, and that home is where my boots are,” he says.
And no, he’s never lonely. He still maintains relationships with his family and friends (there are these cool things called satellite phones) and talks to someone new and interesting every day.
He also believes that the way we are living now – constantly stressed and in a hurry and communicating with someone at every moment on our smart devices – is actually not normal.
“Moving with people who you’re connected with emotionally is actually the norm. It’s been the way we’ve been relating to each other for 90 percent of our history when we were hunter-gatherers,” Salopek says.
When you think about it, he’s right. Do we always feel content, connected, and completely sure of ourselves and our purpose? Have we ever felt that way?
If you said yes, you’re lying. Be honest!
Salopek says his walk is not about him – it’s about all of us.
As one man, he is connecting with the world on the most basic level. People are fascinated by his walk, and he shares his stories and photos on his Out of Eden Walk Facebook page.
“It’s not my walk,” Salopek says. “I watch in wonder as this idea grabs people and they make it their own.”
He stops and talks to everyone he can. He laughs with them, stays for a meal, listens to their stories and traditions.
And it’s nothing like how the rest of us “connect.” It’s far more inspirational and profound than we can imagine.
Do you really think your 465 social media followers actually care anything about the pictures of your dinner that you posted last night? They don’t.
In contrast, Salopek gets to see the care and attention people put into others when they’re fully engaged and not glued to their phones.
It’s something we’ve lost. It’s something Salopek is thankful he’s found on his journey. It’s something we can all learn from.
Slow down. Walk. Talk. Listen. Connect.
Look someone in the face without distraction.
It seems that Paul Salopek has found the key to happiness.
For the rest of us, it doesn’t have to be something as extreme as walking around the world for years on end.
We gotta be realistic – we’re happy just to get our 10,000 steps in a day, right?
But he’s got a message to share here and it’s worth listening to.
“Walking is addictive, in a positive sense … It forces you to engage with people. You can’t ignore them. You have to say hello,” says Paul Salopek, as reported by The Current.
So get off that phone and get out there. I’ll stop and chat with you awhile when you walk by.