John Francis was in his twenties when a 1971 oil spill in San Francisco Bay jarred his comfortable life. Even as he joined the volunteers who scrubbed the beaches and fought to save birds and sea creatures poisoned by petroleum, he felt the need to make a deeper, more personal commitment. As an affirmation of his responsibility to our planet, he chose to stop using motorized vehicles and began walking wherever he went. His decision was greeted with surprise, disbelief, and even mockery – but it was only the start of a much deeper transformation. A few months later he took a vow of silence that would last seventeen years.
This book is the story of a man who, on foot and in silence, has rediscovered rhythms in nature that most of us have forgotten, and learned to communicate his understanding and empathy without speaking a word. He walked across the Pacific Northwest, crossed the Sierra and Rocky Mountains, and traversed America from coast to coast. Along the way – and without a word – he earned undergraduate and Masters degrees in science and environmental studies and a PhD in land resources.
Illustrated by John’s sketches and complemented by practical wisdom on how we too can follow the trail that he has blazed, Planetwalker chronicles positive experiences and challenging times, bears witness to the beauty of our world and the vivid characters who inhabit it, and shares the insights of a pilgrim philosopher who has truly earned his wisdom step by step by step.
22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence.
Now available from National Geographic and Random House.