“The ideal antidote for even the strongest bout of national doubt . . . [with] frequent descriptive gems.” – Washington Post
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.
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 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 at the most human level.
In this relational address, Andrew tells the stories and shares the insights of his 4,000-mile walk across America, and facilitates a discussion on the practice of “trustworthy listening” and its function in self-discovery and connection with others.
Andrew invites participants into their own “walking to listen” experience in which they workshop principles of trustworthy listening, then set out for several hours in their local towns to walk the walk, and return to share what they learned with their cohort or community.
In this keynote designed specifically for convocation and commencement ceremonies, Andrew inspires students to think of their educational journey as an initiation into their adulthood, and prepares them for the journey with reflections, stories, and hype.
In this open lecture, Andrew offers his own take on humanist philosophy and the practice of listening, and how they both have applications in DEI work, cultural transformation, and processing interpersonal conflicts in a community.
In this talk, Andrew draws on his experiences walking across America and working as a community chaplain explore the challenges of healing in a community of diverse backgrounds, identities, and histories of trauma. Basic participatory listening exercises provide experiential grist for the discussion.
In an open forum, Andrew facilitates a dialogue to excavate and explore modern masculinity and its influence on mental health and community well-being. What does it currently mean to be a man? What else could it mean? What is the unarticulated interior experience of a conventionally conditioned man? And for those who are not men, what is it like to be in relationship with men? With respect, through a personal lens, Andrew invites engagement in this delicate, necessary conversation.
In this keynote designed specifically for convocation and commencement ceremonies, Andrew inspires students to think of their educational journey as a rite-of-passage into their authentic adulthood, equipping them with reflections, stories, and hype for the journey. His thesis is simple: Our humanity will either unite us or divide us. Andrew invites out the humanity of the students, and asks: What would have to change if every person you saw was your teacher and they were here to teach you about their humanity? What if your own humanity was something others needed, too? Who would we become if we let our humanity lead?
Middle Tennessee University
“Andrew was as engaging one on one when interacting with our students as he was commanding attention from the thousands who attended his Convocation address. His message to our entering class was exactly what we were hoping for. I’m happy to speak directly with any university considering Walking to Listen as a summer read or having Andrew come to campus.”
Pequannock One Book, One Community
Andrew is one of those rare individuals who lives his life authentically. He has a zen-like presence about him. In having the opportunity to being and speak with him, is a gift. His attunement to the world and his compassionate for his fellow human is awe-inspiring. He is the embodiment of listening, living, and loving. In the words of one of our patrons, he is a modern prophet.
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 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.
College of the Holy Cross, 2021
Andrew Forsthoefel was great. He has a powerful ability to elicit great questions from the young men in particular – some that I might have thought might not be yet on their radar developmentally. I also appreciated how easy he was to work with and focused on doing the best for our students.
– Forsthoefel’s invitation is simple: Listen. Yet this is a complex and timely challenge in a world saturated with talk. The power of the book for our community 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 compel us to grapple with and confront issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and privilege. If we take the steps to listen. (Director of Teaching and Learning)
– 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. (Head of School)
Berkshire School, Massachusetts
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. Beyond Andrew’s search for identity, readers experience the wildly different points of view of people from across our country. 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.
Dublin School, New Hampshire
Dublin School was thrilled to have Andrew Forsthoefel deliver our 2017 Commencement Address. Trustees, parents, faculty, alumni and students all remarked that it was the most personal, powerful, and meaningful address that they had ever heard. Andrew brought the stories from his wonderful book Walking to Listen to life by connecting his journey to the unique journeys of our students. We look forward to continued conversations with Andrew as we work to bring the lessons of his book to our community. I highly recommend Walking to Listen as a community book and would encourage any school to bring Andrew to their campus to speak with their students!
Greenfield Community College
I truly enjoyed your presentation, and I am especially grateful to have just finished reading your book. I am currently completing my Masters in Higher Education Administration at UMASS, and this book truly has/will enhance my ability to support students through a time that they are formulating their identities and navigating the complex terrain of what ”adulthood” is in our society. I have already passed your book to another peer in my cohort, as I truly believe higher education professionals should read this brilliant work! As a young adult also trying to explore purpose and discover my authentic and truest self, especially when “adulthood” is such an elusive concept in our society, your presentation was personally comforting. Your presentation, and book, helped me to contemplate the meaning of the human experience and human connection, as well as grapple with the difficulty of not always having an answer. Your focus on mindfulness, gratitude, and empathy, as well as your profound ability for self-reflection, was nothing short of inspirational. By sharing your journey, my journey feels less isolating. Thank you again so much, and I will absolutely recommend to other schools that they host you!
– Andrew left behind a footprint at our school that we hope has cracked some of our students preconceived notions of the world and its people. He gifted our community with his deep human message about the art of listening and connection that is urgently needed not only for our students but also for the world. Through telling his story, he touches on the core of what it truly means to be a global citizen. Travel does not make you a “global citizen” but rather it is the development of the complex ability to move in and out of human experiences that are profoundly different from your own that makes you a “global citizen”. The students who went on the “walk to listen” with Andrew got to experience this and will never forget it. Their reflections were from the heart and the experience was life changing.
– Andrew is a deeply engaging speaker. While some students were inspired by the sheer physical endurance he exhibited walking across America, others were inspired by the deep connections he forged with complete strangers. Others still were drawn in by his kindness and humility. After his talk, we broke into our advisory groups and continued the conversation. My group, like many others, was able to talk about the skill of trustworthy listening, and connect with one another on a deeper level than we had before. I would recommend Andrew to any school, church, or community group. His message is so important right now. (Dean of Community Life)
Langley High School, VA
Andrew Forsthoefel, the author of WALKING TO LISTEN, came to Langley high school in McLean, Virginia for an author’s visit on October 11th, 2018. Andrew spent the day with our students giving two talks to upperclassmen and leading active listening workshops with smaller student groups. He also signed books and talked to many Langley students individually. The student and faculty reaction to the day with Andrew Forsthoefel was amazing. One teacher emailed me and said: “It was wonderful! My 7th period loved being with Andrew for the listening workshop. Wow, wow, wow! I was completely moved by what the kids revealed to him in that session. We are all closer as a class because of it!” This is but one comment that I have heard about how inspiring and uplifting the day was for our entire community. I heartily recommend inviting Andrew Forsthoefel to your school or community. He is tireless in his passion to get the message out that we will have a kinder world if we take the time to truly listen. I cannot thank you enough for the gift that you have given to the Langley community. Today, as I write this, it seems that the entire school is still on this heart-felt high. People are smiling more. The conversations between colleagues are lasting a little longer. Teachers are rethinking their interactions with students. We are all working a little harder to make kindness our goal.
Tower Hill School, DE
At a time when the world is short on compassion, long on meanness or anger, and confused about kindness, the role of our school communities is critical. Andrew Forsthoefel understands this viscerally. As an independent school graduate himself, Andrew’s work with our Upper School students was compelling. He encouraged our seniors to be themselves, to discover their call, and not to bend to the pressure of society or social norms. His story is compelling and his sincere way of sharing it inspired our students and faculty.
Riverdale Country School
Andrew shares in WALKING TO LISTEN that, “you take all your footprints with you.” Furthermore, Andrew speaks wisdom from the heart sharing with humility and admiration lessons learned from the gracious hosts he encountered during his incredible journey across America. Andrew demonstrates that we all have the ability to connect across a shared humanity and learn from each other, if we embrace the power of deep listening with compassion and empathy. Forsthoefel reminds us that we all have the potential to become intimate strangers with those we meet on our life’s journeys. Andrew is a storyteller extraordinaire, a captivating speaker, an engaging young man, and quite possibly a magical pied piper who brings out the fascinated child in all of us. Andrew encourages all of us to slow down and listen and I enthusiastically recommend Andrew as a speaker for audiences of any age.
I left Andrew’s talk a different person than when I entered. His strength is in his natural ability to speak to the audience, conveying a uniquely personal message in a meaningful, unrehearsed way. His ideas are unique, his story is captivating, and his words are inspirational. I am thankful to Andrew for being my teacher and for helping me listen better, strive for more in my relationships with strangers, and for giving me hope for me and my children’s generations.
Caldwell Alternative School
Listening to Andrew, inspired (me) to reflect, check my inventory, and rethink the purpose of why I do what I do…. Andrew is amazingly sincere and well-thought. He speaks with such clarity and offered a belief system that is user-friendly and makes sense…a mesmerizing storyteller.
This American Life Featured Author
The Moth Featured Author
Living to Listen Podcast
This America Life | Episode 494: Hit the Road
Washington Post | One millennial’s extreme adventure in adulting
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Review: ‘Walking to Listen,’ by Andrew Forsthoefel
The Moth | Deluded in the Desert
Good Life Project | Walking to Listen, A 4,000 Mile Odyssey
One Idea Away Podcast | “Listening Starts With You”
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