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Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence. Paperback – April 21, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Francis was green before it was the popular thing to be. On January 17, 1971, he saw a half-million-gallon oil spill near the Golden Gate Bridge, and a year later, in an attempt to do something positive for the environment, he chose to start walking, forsaking motorized vehicles of any kind. He walked everywhere, and on his 27th birthday, feeling again that he was not doing enough for the world, he took a vow of silence. For the next 17 years, he spoke not a word. But his life didn't stop and he never sat still. Francis managed to walk across the United States and, while he did, he earned an undergraduate degree and a master's degree in science and environmental studies; finally, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a PhD in land resources. He learned how to play the banjo, and the five-string Conqueror became his walking companion, people magnet, and calling card. He continued his pedestrian trek, took a job at the office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and eventually became UNEP's Goodwill Ambassador to the World's Grassroots Communities, and walked and sailed to the tip of South America. Planetwalker is an inspiring story that will make teens think and may help them to realize that global change is possible through individual action.—Joanne Ligamari, Twin Rivers United School District, Sacramento, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"It’s a remarkably insightful, poetic, and inspiring story, one that’s sure to make readers think more carefully about their own styles of living." — Booklist
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426204051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426204050
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #527,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This was a Library Thing Early Reviewers book, and although it took me a while to get into it, I liked it and recommend it. When I first started it, there was a lot else going on in my life and I could not connect with it. I put it down and picked it up again on vacation and really enjoyed it. John Francis has a minimalist writing style and I found myself looking for more about him and his philosophy, but this is the story of his journey and he is true to that. He is not proselytizing or expecting others to emulate his decisions. He simply tells his story - How he stopped riding in cars, how he stopped talking, and how he managed his journey under those conditions. The glimpses of his travels are sparse, but telling. The style is journalistic, and I expect relies heavily on his journals- all present tense, and briefly descriptive. It is illustrated with his sketches ( I wish they could be larger), and punctuated with quotations from the text. The historical perspective is interesting and a nice juxtaposition to the current trend of paying attention to Carbon Footprints and our personal responsibility to the environment - Francis was 30 years ahead. The story of how his simple decisions (albeit with complex implications for his life) led him to significant accomplishments and allowed him to make a real difference in the world is a good lesson about the impact we each have, or could have. If you are interested in Environmental Studies, travel stories, or personal journeys, give it a try- Don't be surprised if it starts slow- it is worth the effort to stay with it. Francis has a good story and I'm glad I read it.
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Format: Paperback
I first bought this book after reading an article in Adventure National Geographic Magazine about John Francis. I was 15 when I first cracked open this book and have never placed it down since. It really made me think deep. This book opened up my eyes and gives you the 'anythings possible feeling'. The book is somewhat artistic. I enjoy reading his poems at the beginning of every chapter that sometimes foreshadows what lies ahead in the book. John Francis inspired me to the point that I'd take his book on vacations or hikes so I could write short poems in the back blank pages. I have read this book once a year since buying it in 2007. This book changed who I am today. It teaches you to listen to others opinoins before you speak. If you like nature and the outdoors you would most definately cheerish this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am on the fence about this memoir. John Francis has lived this really unique life. Meeting people from all over the world, getting a phd, learning to build boats, and more all without speaking. I would have loved to learn more about these experiences but I feel like this memoir often focuses on mundane details like camp sites and water drop strategies. It's almost as if it was pieced together years after the walk with the help of a travel journal. Losing many of the personal details to the tides of time.
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Format: Hardcover
An interesting journey, poetically documented (along with wonderful pen & ink sketches) by a man who was distraught by the damage we humans do to our environment. He sought to make a statement by changing his way of life, embodying his own philosophy. Certainly not a "how-to" guide (how did he afford his walkabout across the country? or all of his education? the apartments?), but he was clearly very resourceful, made friends easily, and even entrepreneurial in nature. A zen-like journey toward self-discovery by interacting with the environment & people around him, even in his self-imposed silence. The tone and pacing of the book shifted toward the end, where it seemed the flowing insightful wording from his journals drops away; the pacing fast-forwarding as he re-immerses himself in the "daily grind" of the "real world" -- the wording more stilted, more intellectual, professorial even. At this point, for me, the journey (inward & outward) seemed to disconnect. Up until then, the reading flowed beautifully.
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Format: Paperback
Enjoyed this book for its pictures, poems, philosophy, and travel narrative.

Realized as I wended through the chapters that I was reading a kind of Zen Koan due to factual accounts appearing other-worldly.

While I don't doubt the veracity of John Francis' stories, the way they are set down makes them seem dream-like due to unusual time sequencing/gaps and the nature of his personal relationships. People appear and disappear like phantoms. Money is rarely discussed, giving the impression he found a buried treasure on one of his early walks and when in need, simply went to the chest and filled his pockets with gold coins. When he needed a place to chill out from the road a house filled with friends would appear on the golden horizon. He appeared to never go hungry or suffer defeat.

I came to the conclusion that his personal triumphs were due to high intelligence and sensitivity to the people and things around him, and his good looks and charisma - a mixture of Jimi Hendrix and Jesus Christ, someone who attracts people through talent, positive energy, and a good-natured smile. The key to his success was his ability to connect with and attract all types of people, as his friends are so numerous and diverse that he always has someone to turn to when in need.

The book hides in the shadows the more sinister things in life, such as need of money/unemployment, friendships/relationships going sour, health problems, doubts about choices and his life's direction. Here and there a crumb is thrown, such as when he reveals in a short paragraph the need to have surgery on his feet - aha, the darker side of life coming into focus, but he does not explain how he paid for it (treasure chest of gold coins?
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