Expedition Watch: Revolutionary Road Trip

Inskeep couldn’t find a map that covered his route, so he pasted two together. Photo: Nick Fountain/NPR

When Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep started planning a 2,000-mile-long drive from Tunis, Tunisia, to Cairo, Egypt, he couldn’t find a map detailed enough to set his course. So he bought two and started cutting. There will be a lot more innovation from Inskeep on his three-week-long expedition to document change in North Africa. "We did a lot of planning on this trip, but a lot of a trip like this is being able to improvise," he said. "Make it up as you go along and be willing to follow what you discover to its logical end."

The 43-year-old reporter has covered the war in Afghanistan, the hunt for Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and the war in Iraq. Since he started at NPR in 1996, he’s taken home three Alfred I. duPont Silver Batons—the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. On June 4, he, producer Nishant Dahiya, and photographer John Poole will drive through Tunis and file their first report from the ruins of Carthage, the city destroyed by the Roman Empire in 146 B.C. Then they'll drive from town to town, filing story after story for a series called Revolutionary Road Trip. We called him shortly before they left.

Where did this idea come from?
These are three of the most interesting countries on earth. They’re connected geographically and they’re connected as part of the same gigantic story. It just seems like one huge, almost once in a lifetime, opportunity to see a rapidly changing part of the world in a really, really wide angle.

Is there something that doing this as a road trip offers that jumping in at different points wouldn’t offer?
Totally. We’ve done this before. We did a road trip across South Asia—several correspondents, producers, and me—along the Grand Trunk Road, from Calcutta, or Kolkata, to Peshawar, Pakistan.

It affects the kinds of stories you seek out, it affects the kind of people you look for, it causes you to think about the relationships between different places along the road, and often, there’s remarkable similarities, human similarities, between places that are very different and people that may even hate each other. You find out that they eat similar foods, or that they have very similar traditions in some places. It really affects your outlook.

Another thing is this, whenever I’m reporting and especially when I’m reporting overseas, it’s important to be open to the idea that the story that you discover could never have been pinpointed from a distance. Putting yourself on the road creates many opportunities to discover stories that you would never have thought to go look for.

Filed To: Adventure, Travel

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