Out of Eden the Long Way

Paul Salopek and his guide Ahmed Elema walking into the desert, continuing the Out of Eden walk in northeastern Ethiopia. Salopek’s journey connects him to the earliest travelers who left Ethiopia’s Afar desert some 60,000 years ago. Photo: © John Stanmeyer, National Geographic

One of the big questions in the study of human evolution is the question of how our ancestors spread across the world.

Our species evolved in Africa and migrated around the world from there. Most people on earth today are mixed descendants of multiple migrations to different places.

Somewhere in almost everyone’s family history, whether it was last year or thousands of years ago, there was someone who left the place they were born and set out into the unknown, looking for a new life somewhere else. For most of humankind’s time on this planet, we all did it the same way. We walked.

Paul Salopek and Ahmed Alema arrive in Haramfaf village to a welcoming song. Photo © John Stanmeyer, National Geographic

Paul Salopek is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic Explorer who is on an epic ten-year journey around the world on foot, tracing the path of early human migration out of Africa. Along the way he is talking with people and sharing their stories through his writing and through educational programs for students. His project is called the Out of Eden Walk.

Salopek says he had the idea to tell a big story that “would connect us all, not just in the contemporary world, but also through the past.” He says his project is “a combination of science and writing that uses paleoanthropology and the study of the deep past to inform the route of my journey as I walk through the headlines in the day.”

Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk follows early migration pathways and he visits ancient fossil sites along the way.

Salopek began his walk in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, home to some of the most famous paleoanthropological discoveries in the world. From there, his journey will take him some 21,000 miles in the footsteps of our ancient ancestors.




We talked with him from Bishkek, the noisy capital city of Kyrgyzstan, where he was waiting for the snow to melt on the mountain pass.

Bonus Content


Click here to see more photos from the Out of Eden Walk.


Out of Eden Walk

Out of Eden Learn

Articles by Paul Salopek:

Articles about early human migration:


Editor Julia Barton 

Series Producer Meredith Johnson

Associate Producer Shuka Kalantari


Sound Design Katie McMurran

Theme Music Henry Nagle 

Intern Yuka Oiwa

Additional Music Lee Rosevere