There’s a guy spending a decade walking around the world. Just let that sink in for a sec.
His route traces the pathways of the first humans and spans 21,000 miles.
In a refreshing departure from the norm, he isn’t looking to break some sort of speed record. In fact, the Out of Eden Walk is about slowing down to find humanity.
Along the way, National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek is telling stories through words, photos and video of the people he meets — “villagers, nomads, traders, farmers, soldiers and artists who rarely make the news.” He calls it slow journalism. (Follow the Out of Eden Walk online, in real time, at this link.)
In September 2016, Salopek was in Uzbekistan when he was joined for two days by 16-year-old Life Scout Nicholas Fahy from Milton, Mass. Nicholas (pictured above with Salopek) won an essay contest and enjoyed a trip that changed his life. The trip was made possible by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
“Paul’s lesson of being deliberative and contemplative in action is perhaps the most compelling aspect of the walk and the way in which all of us can participate in the walk in our own lives,” Nicholas wrote.
A chance to join the journey
It’s the ultimate chance to “Live Scouting’s Adventure,” a phrase that happens to be the theme of the 2017 National Jamboree, held July 19 to 28 at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.
That’s no coincidence. To be eligible for the trip, a Scout or Venturer must either attend the 2017 National Jamboree or complete a Philmont Trek in 2017. He or she must write an essay about the value of slowing down to absorb one’s surroundings, record milestones from the jamboree or Philmont trek, and complete other Out of Eden Walk tasks.
Find eligibility requirements and more details about this incredible opportunity here. The page will be updated with more information as the jamboree nears.
The value of intentionality
For a glimpse into how the intentionality behind this project mirrors much of what the Scouting program is all about, read this essay written by Mark Schulte, Pulitzer Center education director, and Chris Sawyer, former Philmont associate director of program and current natonal jamboree senior program specialist:
Intentionality has always been one of the guiding principles of the Scouting movement. Ernest Thompson Seton, Daniel Carter Beard and Lord Baden Powell were intentional in how they laid the foundation for a youth development program that would be rooted in service, leadership and character development. Intentionality is also a word that could be used to describe Waite Phillips’ gift of Philmont Scout Ranch to the BSA.
Eight years prior to his gift, Mr. Phillips laid the foundation of his vision to provide a place for Scouts to recreate and experience the mountains of northern New Mexico in a letter to BSA President, Walter Head. Like Seton, Beard, and Powell, Phillips’ intentionality can be viewed through the lens of his journal entries, letters, and other writings.
Part of Philmont’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2013 was the introduction of the Passport to Adventure journal. The journal served as a way to intentionally encourage Scouts to document locations visited as they hiked the backcountry and to record their thoughts along the way by writing. Just like Waite had done so many years before.
At about the same time, also in 2013, Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic Fellow, traveled to the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia to begin the Out of Eden Walk.
As a journalism project, the walk is an exercise in telling the big stories of our day — climate change, mass migrations and other global issues — from the perspective of ordinary people who live along the route. But it is also a clarion call to us back home in the U.S.
At a time when digital technology and global connectivity allow us to act, speak and even to think more quickly and with less reflection than ever before, Salopek wants to slow readers down. When we walk, we can perceive a world of connections and meaning that is unobserved by those who speed by in cars or bury their noses in smartphones.
He calls this practice “slow journalism,” and he urges us to follow his example.
Since the walk began, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a nonprofit journalism organization based in Washington, D.C., has supported the walk’s educational mission. Through online curriculum and innovative partnerships, the Pulitzer Center has brought the story and lessons of the walk to middle, high school and college students across its network of school partners in the U.S. and abroad.
For the past two summers, the Pulitzer Center has partnered with Philmont, a place that understands the importance of extended walking. At the opening Philmont campfire, where the seven- to 10-day treks begin, Salopek greets the Scouts in a video he recorded in Tbilisi, Georgia.
He urges each participant to carefully observe the terrain they pass, noting details in their Passport Journals.
“The first thing we learn is that slowing down lets you think,” Salopek says in his opening comments at Philmont. “Every step is a negotiation with the natural world. It’s literally impossible to be bored. Walking makes use of our problem-solving brains in the way that they were intended.”
This year the Pulitzer Center and Out of Eden Walk are excited to grow the reach of Paul’s work at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree due to the rich history and intention to celebrate the ideals of Scouting.
The “Live Scouting’s Adventure” programming has been designed to help youth reflect on their experience at the Jamboree and how Scouting has made citizenship, leadership, and character development a priority in their lives.
Through Paul and by the skills developed in Scouting, it is the hope that each young person will realize their potential to set and accomplish big goals that impact the lives of others, even something as monumental as walking around the world.
Scouts who are interested in building on the BSA’s legacy of intentionality and “Living Scouting’s Adventure” with Paul on his Out of Eden Walk should register today for the Jamboree at bsajamboree.org.
If you are a Jamboree Unit Leader, you will be receiving more information about this program in January to share with your Scouts. In the meantime, share with them yet another exciting reason why they should attend the National Jamboree or a Philmont Trek in 2017!