As Paul Salopek journeys around the world on foot, he will follow the migration pathways of our ancestors who walked out of Africa 50,000 years ago.

Paul Salopek Walk Around The World: American Journalist Begins Epic Trek

  • This photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 and released by the National Geographic Society on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, shows Paul Salopek standing on the desert flats in Djibouti. (AP Photo/National Geographic, Paul Salopek)

Editor's note: Setting out from a village in Ethiopia, Pulitzer Center grantee Paul Salopek on Jan. 10, 2013 took the first of about 40 million steps that he hopes will carry him around the world, from Africa to Patagonia, on a 21,000-mile journey that retraces the path of human migration. Follow his progress on www.outofedenwalk.com.

NAIROBI, Kenya -- On the eve of an unimaginably long walk – one that starts in Africa, winds through the Middle East, across Asia, hops over to Alaska, goes down the western United States, then Central and South America and ends in Chile – one question nagged journalist Paul Salopek: Should he take his house keys?

Salopek on Thursday departed a small Ethiopian village and took the first steps of a planned 21,000-mile (34,000-kilometer) walk that will cross some 30 borders, where he will encounter dozens of languages and scores of ethnic groups. The 50-year-old's quest is to retrace man's first migration from Africa across the world in a go-slow journey that will force him to immerse himself in a variety of cultures so he can tell a global mosaic of people stories.

The Ethiopia-to-Chile walk – which took human ancestors some 50,000 years to make – is called Out of Eden and is sponsored by National Geographic, the Knight Foundation and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, the American plans to write one major article a year with periodic updates every 100 miles or so.

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