Along the way he will be writing articles, shooting video and tweeting.
Salopek will take some 30 million footsteps during this journey, which he calls “the long walk into our becoming”. So there is a lot of potential for blisters.
But he insists he is not doing this as some kind of extreme sport – he will be thinking hard, en route, about human evolution.
The starting point for the trek is Herto Bouri, a site in north-eastern Ethiopia populated by early humans in the Middle Stone Age.
“Paleoanthropologists have found an extremely old Homo sapiens fossil there, which might be as much as 160,000 years old,” says Salopek.
“Since the group of people whose footsteps I am following are early homo sapiens, the fit is pretty good.”
He is interested in how small groups of hunter-gatherers colonised the world.
“I shall be retracing the pathways of the first human diaspora out of Africa, which occurred about 50 to 70,000 years ago, as authentically as possible, on foot,” he says.
From Ethiopia’s Rift Valley he will walk with Afar nomads to the Red Sea and cross over into Arabia, where he will follow the western coast north to the Middle East, ending the year either in Jerusalem or Amman.
“From there I shall continue the trek eastward across Eurasia into East Asia, through China and north through Siberia,” he says.
China alone will take him 14 months to cross.
“I’ll hop a boat across the Bering Straits and then ramble down the New World to Tierra del Fuego, the place where our ancestors arrived about 12,000 years ago, the last continental corner of the world to be colonised by our forebears.”
The route Salopek is following is one of a number of possible ways that humans left Africa and settled the world.
This will be his route: