4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time
“This is a deeply felt account of the trials and tribulations of growing up . . . Enjoy a journey across our country through this fascinating young man’s eyes as he recounts and ponders the stories and life philosophies from people he meets along the way.”
—The Boston Globe
At twenty-three, 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 being 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. 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.
Andrew Forsthoefel is a writer, radio producer, and public speaker. After graduating from Middlebury College in 2011, he spent nearly a year walking across the United States. He first recounted part of that journey in a radio story featured on This American Life. He now facilitates workshops on walking and listening as practices in personal transformation, interconnection, and conflict resolution, and is currently based in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Walking to Listen has been adopted for First-Year Experience programs at:
Elms College (MA); Lipscomb University (TN); Berkshire School (MA); Holderness School (NH)
Beyond the Book
Watch Andrew Forsthoefel’s TEDx Talk:
Read feedback from educators at institutions that have used Walking to Listen for their First-Year Experience and/or common reading programs.
“Walking to Listen is a perfect compliment to any program that hopes to improve a student’s ability to listen, to be intentional, and to empathize. The book stresses the importance of participation in local, global, and intercultural conversations in order for students to become sophisticated, life-long learners. The theme is interdisciplinary and can be used in a variety of contexts, but perhaps most importantly, it proves that the best educations require learning both inside and outside of the traditional classroom.”
“Holderness School used Walking to Listen for the all-school read in the summer of 2017, then had Andrew Forsthoefel speak to our community, visit classes, and connect with faculty. Simply put, it was as useful and meaningful an all-school read/all-school talk as I’ve seen in over 20+ years of being about this life.”
“Forsthoefel’s invitation is simple: Listen. Yet this is a complex and timely challenge in this world saturated with talk. As they listen, our students, faculty, and staff will hear stories recounted, about relationships born out of trust and distrust between strangers, and the music of the self in relation to others. The power of the book for our Holderness community also lies in its surprise: one might assume a tale about a man spending time outside, in nature, away from social politics. Yet Forsthoefel’s wanderings remind us how intricately the American landscape and the human experience in it confronts us with and compel us to grapple with issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and privilege. If we take the steps to listen.”
“We chose Walking to Listen as our 2017 All-School Read for its authenticity of voice and experience that embody our school’s core values of curiosity, inclusion, integrity, perseverance, resilience, and respect. There is so much to learn from the author’s journey, both the actual and the intellectual one. Beyond Andrew’s search for identity, readers experience the wildly different points of view of people from across our country that he encounters as he is “walking to listen.” In creating space for all perspectives, Andrew conveys the critical importance of hearing one another and how that process can be transformational. Aside from being a skillful writer, Andrew is also a truly magnetic speaker. He visited Berkshire to announce the selection to our school community, and not only did we sell out of copies of his book, he drew a crowd that didn’t disperse for nearly two hours after his talk. Walking to Listen is an incredible story written by a thoughtful, engaging, and generous soul.”