A memoir of one young man’s coming of age on a journey across America--told through the stories of the people of all ages, races, and inclinations he meets along the way.
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 headed 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 to take a cross-country quest for guidance, one where everyone he met would be his guide.
In the year that followed, 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.
About the Author
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. It was the greatest privilege and blessing of his life. He now facilitates workshops on walking and listening as practices in personal transformation, interconnection, and conflict resolution. He is currently based in Northampton, Massachusetts.
"The ideal antidote for even the strongest bout of national doubt . . . [with] frequent descriptive gems." - Washington Post
"More than a story of the physical trials and tribulations of walking across the country (although there's plenty of that too!), this is a deeply felt account of the trials and tribulations of growing up . . . the 'how do I fit into this world?' kind of exploration. 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." - Boston Globe
"A remarkable book that calls to mind William Least-Heat Moon's Blue Highways." - Starred Review, Library Journal
"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." - Booklist
"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." - Publishers Weekly
"Forsthoefel offers moments of genuine kinship and transcendence . . . An intriguing portrait of America." - Kirkus Reviews
"[Andrew Forsthoefel] considers weighty issues, such as race, privilege, religion, and family, and offers a fresh spin on familiar themes as he ponders how to approach the world and all its beauty and pain and how to listen to others. VERDICT This title will appeal to thoughtful teens and may serve as a tie-in to history, literature, and philosophy discussions." - School Library Journal
"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." - Sue Halpern, author of A DOG WALKS INTO A NURSING HOME
"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. His enduring determination to understand others is infectious, and like the many walks of life who embrace him into their homes and hearts, we cannot help but be disarmed of any lingering cynicism or distrust. 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." - Tim Cope, award winning author of ON THE TRAIL OF GENGHIS KHAN
"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." - Jay Allison, Producer of The Moth Radio Hour
"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." - Albert Podell, author of AROUND THE WORLD IN 50 YEARS