A memoir of one young man’s coming of age on a cross-country trek–told through the stories of the people of all ages, races, and inclinations he meets along the highways of America.
Life is fast, and I’ve found it’s easy to confuse the miraculous for the mundane, so I’m slowing down, way down, in order to give my full presence to the extraordinary that infuses each moment and resides in every one of us.
At 23, Andrew Forsthoefel walked out the back door of his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, with a backpack, an audio recorder, his copies of Whitman and Rilke, and a sign that read “Walking to Listen.” He had just graduated from Middlebury College and was ready to begin his adult life, but he didn’t know how. So he decided he’d walk. And listen. It would be a cross-country quest for guidance, and everyone he met would be his guide.
Walking toward the Pacific, he faced an Appalachian winter and a Mojave summer. He met beasts inside: fear, loneliness, doubt. But he also encountered incredible kindness from strangers. Thousands shared their stories with him, sometimes confiding their prejudices, too. Often he didn’t know how to respond. How to find unity in diversity? How to stay connected, even as fear works to tear us apart? He listened for answers to these questions, and to the existential questions every human must face, and began to find that the answer might be in listening itself.
Ultimately, it’s the stories of others living all along the roads of America that carry this journey and sing out in a hopeful, heartfelt book about how a life is made, and how our nation defines itself on the most human level.
“For the author, what started out as an attempt to understand our connections to other people ends in a greater understanding of a connection with himself…A remarkable book that calls to mind William Least-Heat Moon’s Blue Highways.”
“Soulful … [Forsthoefel’s] openness provides a window into the extraordinary lessons to be learned from ordinary people. This is a memorable and heartfelt exploration of what it takes to hike 4,000 miles across the country and how one young man learned to walk without fear into his future.”
Sue Halpern, author of A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home
“Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, you need to read this book. You need to read it for its searing honesty, its hopefulness, and its grace. You need to read it because its story is your story, too. Andrew Forsthoefel walked across a continent to listen to strangers and learn from them. There is great wisdom in his footfalls, and you are holding it in your hands.”
John Francis, author of Planetwalker
“Walking to Listen is a must read for any young person searching for a way to discover themselves and their place in where we live. Forsthoefel sets off to discover not only the story of the American puzzle but, how each of us might fit…It is a story about our family, filled with all its diversity, despair, and hope. But be warned, after reading Andrew’s book, you just might be inspired to take long walk to listen.”
Joseph Goldstein, author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening
“Walking to Listen is a most remarkable book, chronicling an extraordinary journey across America…that inspires, challenges, and ultimately uplifts us all. At heart, this is a spiritual journey, pushing the boundaries of physical endurance, emotional vulnerability, and heart-opening wisdom. Andrew has done us all a great service in writing so beautifully of this great adventure.”
Tim Cope, Award-winning author of On the Trail of Genghis Khan
“In a world of congestion and noise Andrew Forsthoefel has written a book that opens up an ocean of sublime reflective space. As refreshing as it is timeless and endearing, Forsthoefel deftly shifts between his inner being and the people’s lives that flow through him, mile by mile…Ultimately Forsthoefel inspires us to be more curious in life and less offended—a virtuous philosophy in what appears to be an age of increasing polarity in American society.”
“In this moving and deeply introspective memoir, Forsthoefel writes about the uncertainties, melodramas, ambiguities, and loneliness of youth . . . Forsthoefel’s walk becomes a meditation on vulnerability, trust, and the tragedy of suburban and rural alienation . . . [his] conversation with America is fascinating, terrifying, mundane, and at times heartbreaking, but ultimately transformative and wise.”
Eric Weiner, author of Geography of Genius and Man Seeks God
“Some books you fall in love with on the first page. Walking to Listen is one of those books. This quixotic, analog journey will restore your faith in millennials, in America, in humanity.
Forsthoefel writes with a grace and quiet wisdom that belie his years. There’s a little Kerouac
in these pages, a touch of Thoreau, and even Forrest Gump, but what shines through is an original voice demanding to be heard. Listening is pure pleasure.”
Jay Allison, Producer of The Moth Radio Hour
“If you look at Andrew Forsthoefel’s journey on a map, it’s a tiny thread, an infinitesimal crack, yet it’s enough to break loose America’s stories: The open hearts and closed minds, the love and the fear, the beauty and danger, the wisdom.”
Albert Podell, author of Around the World in 50 Years
“With a name like Forsthoefel, it had better be good … And it is, combining the best humanistic aspects of Walt Whitman, Barry Lopez, John Steinbeck, William Least Heat-Moon, and Marco Polo.”
Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream
“In dark times, this is a book that restores your faith in humanity. Beautiful.”
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