Paul in conversation with students: a Google+ Hangout

Despite intermittent internet service, long and tiring days of walking, and various roadblocks along the path of his trek, Paul enjoys finding time to engage directly with the Out of Eden Learn community. Before heading off on the trail once again, this time toward the Silk Road of Central Asia, Paul participated in a Google+ Hangout for educators and students hosted by National Geographic Education. Our community was allocated three on-screen spots for interested educators. Through a random drawing, the Project Zero team selected classes from Salem, Massachusetts, Santa Barbara, California, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Appearing remotely from Azerbaijan, Paul shared photos and memories from his trek to an audience of approximately 180 schools from around the world. He then took a variety of questions from students, including from students who were following off-screen.

In response to a question about setbacks during his walk from an Out of Eden Learn class in Santa Barbara, Paul admitted that his plan has been full of flaws. But, he said, the most notable roadblocks have been political.

“There have been times specifically where my walk has been stalled,” he said. “Things you would expect, like hot deserts, snowy mountains—all those have been obstacles that have slowed me down or made me stop the walk until the weather changes. But probably the biggest obstacle walking across the world today is politics and these things called borders. So getting permission to go across an imaginary line that divides one side of a river from another side of a river … that has been the biggest barrier.”

However, a sense of global connection proved to be a major theme of Paul’s hangout. A class from Brampton, Ontario asked Paul if he has encountered any dangers along the trail, and he recalled a few times he’s felt unsafe. “I can tell you these anecdotes about this happening because they stand out in my mind as being exceptions to the rule,” he said. “People greet you not with a fist, but with an open hand.

“The world has its dangers, just as your hometown does,” Paul added. “The world is your home, too. Don’t fear it.”

From the feedback we’ve received from educators, it’s clear that this message is one that resonates with many Out of Eden Learn students.

“Paul Salopek has experienced violence, pain, hardships,” wrote one student from Hobe Sound, Florida. “But he has learned that there is more beauty and kindness in the world than bad.”

Out of Eden Learn fifth graders in Danville, California shared reflections on Paul’s hangout via podcast:

This ongoing dialogue between Paul and classes engaging with his journey not only keeps learners immersed in his journalism, but also shows Paul how profound and impactful the message of his walk can be. Many thanks to the team at National Geographic Education, Paul Salopek, and our committed educators and learners for participating in this event. The Out of Eden Learn team plans to host more Q&A-style hangouts with Paul later on this year.

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