Planetwalk: Hangzhou 2015

The Journey Continues

"Thank you for being here."

These were the words of the Planetwalker, Dr. John Francis, when he first began speaking after 17 years of silence and walking across North America.  He spoke these words because he wanted to remind himself of the importance of communication, and the often forgotten half: listening.  Our journeys take on their full meaning when we can share them with each other, so as Dr. Francis says, 'Thank you for being here.'

Last year, March 2014, 11 Hangzhou CIS students, 4 Hangzhou CIS faculty, a National Geographic Environmental Fellow and the Planetwalker, Dr. John Francis, spent 6 days walking through Zhejiang province for their Project Week.  They wanted to slow down, listen to and connect with each other, China and the environment.  They did just that and discovered a great deal along the way.  'We are the environment', one of Dr. Francis' central messages, was brought to life as the people and their surroundings presented themselves together.  They encountered what it meant to be a Planetwalker: to walk through life, and China, in the spirit and hope that their journeys might make the world a better place.

Dr. Francis has returned to Hangzhou, China for the third time so that this May, 2015 he can embark on a similar journey, but this time with 14 new Hangzhou CIS students.  They will walk between 100 and 150 km in 7 days in a celebration of life and of community, and in wonder at the 'every day' experience they get to embrace.  They will leave the comfort, routine and security of life at Hangzhou CIS and make their way - step by step - to the clear, cool waters of Thousand Island Lake.  There is no accurately predicting the things they'll encounter and learn along the way, but they know they'll be walking in the same spirt and hope that Dr. Francis has always walked in.  These are brave, young Planetwalkers; you'll meet them on this website, but you won't truly know them until you're able to join them, and share your journeys together.  They wish you could walk with them now, but until that time comes, thank you for being here.

The Planetwalker

John Francis, PhD

John Francis was in his 20s 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 17 years.

In 2008, National Geographic published Francis’s stirring memoir Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking; 17 Years of Silence. It 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 master’s degrees in science and environmental studies and a Ph.D. in land resources.

In an effort to share his insights with others, Francis founded “Planetwalk,” a non-profit educational organization dedicated to raising environmental consciousness and promoting Earth stewardship. Planetwalk’s work transcends cultural, social, and political boundaries by fostering communication and research between young people, scientists, and environmental practitioners through a global network and educational programs. In 2010, Francis became the first National Geographic Education Fellow.

Now John's journey has brought him to China, and specifically Hangzhou, where he is working on plans for a 'Walking Campus' - a school that walks its way around the world - so that he can help create opportunities for others who want to experience the richness of learning while walking through life and the world for themselves and for their expanding community.

The Hangzhou CIS Planetwalkers will be reading Dr. Francis' book, Planetwalker, together as they make their way across Zhejiang Province.  Dr. Francis' journey is a metaphor for all of our journeys, and so they're using the book to help them discover their own path through life.  Please join them!

Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence.

~ John Francis Ph.D. (author) More about this product
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The Journey

The Planetwalk Hangzhou Base @ Tongzhoudao

Planetwalk Hangzhou is lucky to partner with the small community of Tongzhoudao, in the middle of the Fuchun River, and have the island as their base for the entire week.  Planetwalkers will stay in two local homestays each night, share dinner together in the island's only restaurant, and take advantage of the opportunity to kayak and paddle each day with the great team at Coastlines Kayak.  It's a beautiful place with incredible people and the Planetwalk journey would not be nearly as amazing without them.

Listen | Wonder | Connect | Create

The Planetwalk journey is a learning journey.  All Planetwalkers deepen their ability to do four things while walking through life and the world in the spirit and hope that they are making it better:

They Listen: listening is a metaphor for giving our full attention to the other people and the environment we're surrounded by.  Rather than dwelling in our own minds and bodies, Planetwalkers actively seek out new perspective, understanding and experience.

They Wonder: every day life is rich in stories and opportunities to learn more about the world. To take advantage of this, we have to ask questions.  Rather than focusing on seeking only answers, Planetwalkers focus on finding the questions that matter most to them.

They Connect: with people; with places; with ideas; with themselves.  Connection is fundamentally about sharing, and sharing is what Planetwalk is all about.  Planetwalkers are always looking for connections, new and old, and opportunities to share this planet.

They Create: making the world a better place requires a lot of creativity.  Walking through the world is a rich opportunity to think and act creatively.  Planetwalkers take advantage of this opportunity by challenging themselves to solve problems, tell stories and invent new ways of being a positive force in the world as they walk.

The Planetline

Dr. Francis developed the idea of a Planetlines curriculum, a way for young learners to document their learning experience and discoveries as they walked through the world.  A Planetline is a map of the route that a Planetwalker, or Planetwalkers, take(s) through their environment filled with various kinds of data that they collect along the way.  This year's team of Planetwalkers will be creating their own Esri Storymap of their journey and will share it at the end of their walk, but they have been planning their route using Google Maps Engine (click here to see the interactive version).  Please have a look at the Planetline for this year's Planetwalk: Hangzhou.

The Schedule

Saturday, May 9 @ 5-6 pm: Hangzhou CIS will host a Planetwalk Kick-Off Party

Sunday, May 10: Day 1 - Hangzhou CIS to Song Chun & Planetwalk Hangzhou Community Day starting @ 9 am

Monday, May 11: Day 2 - Song Chun to Fuyang

Tuesday, May 12: Day 3 - Fuyang to Tongzhoudao

Wednesday, May 13: Day 4 - Tongzhoudao to Tonglu

Thursday, May 14: Day 5 - Tonglu to Fenshui

Friday, May 15: Day 6 - Fenshui to Almost to Qiandaohu

Saturday, May 16: Day 7 - Almost to Qiandaohu to Qiandaohu & Planetwalk Hangzhou Celebration @ 5 pm

The Weather Forecast

When you're used to learning inside of a climate controlled classroom most days, you might not realize how important the weather is on your learning experience.  When you're out walking to learn, it's a whole other story.  Check the link below to see the weather forecast for the week, and then remember that Planetwalkers come prepared for everything.

The Projects

Each Planetwalker begins the journey with two purposes: one is individual and entirely of their own design; the other is collective and they have been invited to choose one of three possibilities.  Below they will share their thinking and doing for the three collective purposes and hope that you will experience some of their incredible journey as you see these project ideas come to life.

'We Are All Planetwalkers' Art Installation

The Hangzhou CIS Planetwalkers will artistically recreate their journeys across Zhejiang Province in an installation that will extend throughout the First Floor of the Hangzhou CIS Residential Building.  The title of the installation is 'We Are All Planetwalkers' and it will highlight the most meaningful encounters, moments and memories from the walk.

'The Walking Campus' Short Film

As Dr. Francis prepares to launch himself into designing 'The Walking Campus' the Hangzhou CIS Planetwalkers will work together to create a short film that captures this wild idea and what it will mean for the learning and lives of those who choose to take the very bold steps that serve as the beginning of The Walking Campus adventure.

'The Important Places' Story Map

CIS Hangzhou Planetwalkers will capture on camera and video the places they walk through that hold a special place in the hearts, minds and lives of the people who call these places home.  Inspired by the short film 'The Important Places', this Story Map will help the Planetwalkers rediscover their way back to their own important places.

The Hangzhou CIS Planetwalkers

Photos copyright of Laszlo Varro

Not yet pictured: Jack, Axel

Daily Photo Updates

The Kick-Off Party

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7