A friend once shared with me the proverb: that our souls can only travel as fast as a camel can walk. I believe that a camel’s walking pace is quite similar to ours, so this makes sense to me. It also helps to explain that while jet setting between Europe and the US it takes a long time to be present in either of these places. My physical self arrives for a visit and then I pass it on my return over the ocean, where it must make a turn to catch me again. Once I’m home, about two weeks goes by and finally, I feel like myself again. She found me.
Walking. I do it around my neighborhood, on mountain trails, and through the parks. But walking as a means of travel from city to city, country to country. This is something that is intriguing in our fast-paced world of planes, trains and automobiles. But, think about it, this was our main transportation for millennia.
We walked out of Africa, finding our way to new lands. Crossing the Red Sea when the waters were much lower or hadn’t yet arrived. Was our wandering caused by a shift in climate so it made it necessary to seek new lands for food and water or were our earliest relatives just restless?
‘We crave a past in our landscapes.’ - Paul Salopek
A journalist, Paul Salopek, is in the middle of making humanity’s epic journey of 21,000 miles across the world, and has named it the ‘Out of Eden Walk.’ He began in Ethiopia at one of the oldest human fossil sites, Herto Bouri and will end his journey at the southern tip of Argentina in Tierra del Fuego. He is constantly asking questions too: ‘Why is movement the default solution of our species? What is wrong with standing still? Why even ask such questions?’ He gives two answers to these questions: ‘Because we are restless. Because we always ask.’
Even now with the majority of our planet discovered, we look outside of earth to exploring new planets, new galaxies. Contentment is not one of our most defining attributes.
‘If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.’
'On a clear day on flat ground—in a landscape, say, like the bone-yellow floor of the Great Rift Valley of northern Ethiopia that surrounds me now—it is possible to see 60 miles. This is a three-day walking radius. For the next seven years of my life, as I retrace, on foot, the pathways of the first anatomically modern humans who rambled out Africa, this distance will represent for me, as it was for our ancestors, my tangible universe, my limiting horizon.
I’ll be cheating a bit, of course: The communications kit I’m lugging on my back to share this journey will fling open digital infinitudes that our nomadic forebears could scarcely imagine. Yet the experience of pacing off the continents, one yard at a time through 2020, will still expose, I believe, an inescapable biological reality. We’re built to walk. We’ve been wired by natural selection to absorb meaning from our days at the loose-limbed gait of three miles an hour. And whether we count ourselves cursed or lucky to be standing on the Earth at this frenetic moment in our history—I, for one, would choose no other time to be alive—reasonable arguments abound to slow down. To pause in our tracks, the way a local Afar pastoralist named Idoli Mohamed does, arms folded akimbo atop hand-greased acacia sticks. To watch. To listen. To glance over our shoulders, seeking older compass bearings. Those first bands of Homo sapiens who blazed the trail to our becoming a planetary species—hunter-gatherers we know oddly little about and who may have numbered, researchers say, a paltry few thousand individuals—have valuable lessons to impart. They were, after all, consummate survivors. This is the premise of the Out of Eden walk.’ - Paul Salopek
The website where you can follow Paul’s journey is fantastic. With photos, videos, small blog posts and milestone entries, one feels as though they are on the journey with him. He has local guides taking him through these lands and they are as interesting as the landscapes themselves. It is inspiring and a beautiful educational platform on history, anthropology, geography and time and space.
Currently, Paul is five years into his journey and is near Dhankoli, India. Read his latest post Milestone 58.
I encourage you to start from the very beginning. To read his words and gaze at the photographs of walking the scorched desert land, crossing of the Red Sea, discovering ghost towns in Cyprus, trekking the ancient Silk Road to discovering cities that were once the centers of empires and now survive with the faintest trace.
It is a fascinating look at a part of the world that only seems to harken negativity in the media. There are so many stories to be told. Modern and ancient histories continue to shape the landscapes and the lives of humans that have been born and reside in such special corners of this earth.
May you find inspiration in this finding and it is my hope that it keeps you up at night as well! The stories, to me, all have a resounding theme of our shared humanity with one another. We are all connected in this world, and this moment it is more important than ever to acknowledge and cherish this fact.