The Pulitzer Center is delighted to be partnering again with the Philmont Scout Ranch, whose staff leads some 17,000 Boy Scouts through multi-day hiking journeys in the wilds of northern New Mexico each summer. More than a million scouts have traversed the Philmont backcountry over the 77 years since its first season.
National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek, himself a resident of New Mexico, has been away on a hike of his own. The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner is taking some 10 years to walk around the world, following the path of the first human migration from Ethiopia's Rift Valley eastward across Asia, and then down through the Americas to the southernmost tip of Chile. He calls this epic journey, which started three years ago, the "Out of Eden Walk." Along the way he's been publishing blog posts, feature stories, interactive maps, and other experimental forms of journalism in order to weave together the most important stories of our day from a perspective rarely seen–that of the wandering storyteller, a nomad bound to a pace of just three miles per hour.
The Out of Eden Walk is more than one reporter's journey. It is also an invitation for all of us to slow down, walk more, and become better observers of our everyday experiences. At Philmont, every scout will be heeding Paul's message, recording their observations by hand in journals and sharing these at campfires along the trail.
Salopek recorded the two videos embedded below from Kazakhstan in spring 2016 to encourage and advise the scouts as they take their own walking and thinking journeys. He urges them to slow down, looking for details and lessons in the world as they move through it.
"Every step demands a negotiation with the natural world. It's a kind of ever changing puzzle," Salopek explains. "Walking makes use of our problem solving brains in the way they were intended."
Salopek urges the scouts to stop to take photos and to write down their experiences and observations in their passport journals. "Walking helps thinking," he says. "And that's why recording your walks experiences are so valuable. You want to preserve those insights."
Inspired by Paul's walk, the scouts are encouraged to write in their "Passport Journals," small notebooks provided to each scout. Scouts can fill them with their own "milestones," writing down observations and thoughts, drawing scenes, and recording memories along the way.
“Take time to observe," Salopek concludes. "Take time to think. And write about it. I won't say goodbye now, because whether we realize it or not, we are all walking together into a common future."