Interview with Francis Tapon – world traveler & travel writer

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ January 27th, 2011. Published in: Travel blog » How to live overseas.

Who is Francis Tapon?

It’s very rare I get to come across travelers and writers that make me go  “wow, he’s on a mission to succeed”. Francis Tapon is one of them.

Interview with Francis Tapon

Francis Tapon, traveler, author, speaker.

Not only has Francis traveled extensively, and is now making a living from it. But he’s also a genuinely nice guy willing to help and share his knowledge.

Moreover, prior and during this interview I soon discovered we had some things in common. Francis was more than willing to share some great career, travel and writing advice to everyone here.

Read on and discover the great world of Francis Tapon!

Who, why and how? Can you tell the readers here a little about your background. Where you grew up and your job before travel?

My mother is from Chile and my father is from France. I was born in San Francisco. I went to a French school for 12 years. I have Religion BA from Amherst College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. I co-founded a robotic vision company in Silicon Valley. I also consulted for Hitachi in Latin America and Microsoft in Redmond.

Is travel writing along with motivational speeches now your full-time occupation, or do you have to supplement it with another job?

Ever since 2006, selling my WanderLearn books and videos have been my only source of income (and it ain’t much!).

Your first book Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America was published in 2006. Tell us how this came about, and the difficulties involved?

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2001, I started writing Hike Your Own Hike. However, full-time consulting slowed down my writing pace, so it took five years to finish.

I was a first-time author, but my brother had published two novels with a big publisher. Seeing how little marketing support they gave him, I made a half-hearted attempt to find a publisher. After getting rejected everywhere, I happily self-published.

One of the most fascinating aspects you hold above many other travelers is that you have methodically listed out a precise 10 year goal. Is this you as a person, or is this the best practical solution to accomplish everything you want?

It’s both. I love to dream of the future. But I’m also practical, so writing it all out helps. If you concretely visualize your future, then it’s easier to backtrack and figure out a way to get there. Most importantly, be flexible and spontaneous.

I clearly say in my 10-year plan that it will almost certainly change. It’s just nice to have a long-term goal, just like you have a goal to find a home.

Francis in Croatia

Francis in Croatia

Francis’ goal

“Visit every country in the world”(he’s doing just that with some adventure too!)

Your website is well thought out, structured, and quite unique in the terms of personal travel sites. Is this again you as a person, or are you really a business mastermind too?

I wish my life was as organized as my website! I created my first home page 15 years ago just to learn HTML. Now, with hundreds of pages and photos, it’s easy to get lost. I picked Joomla over WordPress because Joomla works better for complex sites. I structured the site so that it’s easy for visitors to find what they want. It’s not much of a money-maker, so I need to work on my mastermind skills.

What has been the worst thing to happen to you when traveling?

I went for a day-hike in the Olympic Mountains of Washington. I got lost for three days without shelter, food, or adequate clothing. I had frostbite because it was snowing and raining. During those tough three days, I saved my partner’s life twice.

What has been the best one time experience you’ve had while on the road?

When I hiking the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada, I spent a cold night high in the snowy Colorado mountains. I woke up because my sleeping bag had become soaked when snow had sneaked under my tarp. So I got up at 2 a.m. and hiked until 8 p.m. to stay warm. I was a bit worried where I would camp since my down-sleeping bag was dripping wet. Then the miracle: before sunset, I found an unlocked cabin, complete with firewood. I dried out and was happy.

Francis on Triglav, Slovenia's Tallest Mountain

Francis on Triglav, Slovenia's Tallest Mountain

Is it true that you’ve never owned a television set? Is this a key to staying focused on your own reality and goals rather than living through others via T.V.?

It is true! Don’t get me wrong. TV can be a great tool: I love the Discovery Channel and other educational shows. However, just like a car is the biggest money sink, a TV is the biggest time sink. Minimize it.

Many people reading this want to travel, and many want to accomplish their dreams. What are your two top tips for getting a dream realistically accomplished?

First, live like a monk. It’s hard to pursue your dream when you’re burdened with debt and expenses. Downsize everything and you’ll hardly miss it. Once you have savings, your liberty, confidence, and ability to pursue your dreams will soar. Second, learn from others. Follow their best practices to minimize painful mistakes.

You’ve covered the USA 4 times on foot, and written all about it. What’s next?

I’ve spent 3 years traveling in Eastern Europe. In late 2011, my second book, The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us, will come out. In 2012, I plan to start a three-year trip to all 55 countries in Africa (check out his plans for traveling all 55 countries in Africa!)

Many thanks to Francis Tapon for sharing his incredible travel story with us here today.

Travelers are a plenty, inspirational ones are hard to find

Today’s world is full of people seeking out places to travel, or looking to accomplish goals in their lives. It’s very hard to come across people with such plans written down and mapped out like Francis has done.

I know that I’ve learned something from reading about Francis. Map your goals out, write them down in an orderly fashion, keep that list in focus. Then, of course, go for it!

This is an additional post about travel & life, hopefully it will help others with their own goals and accomplishments in life

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26 Great responses to Interview with Francis Tapon – world traveler & travel writer

  1. Anna's World says:

    It’s so good to learn about new travelers making a dream come true!

    The way he’s written out his plan like this over ten years is gutsy and impressive. Makes me think that I should do the same. Maybe not ten years though!

  2. Stuart says:

    Always amazes me to see how others are doing things like this. Makes me wonder if I could as well

  3. LeslieTravel says:

    Great interview! I actually wasn’t familiar with Francis until I read this post. He seems incredibly driven! I must say, Twitter is my time suck– I barely watch TV anymore :)

    • Since traveling, I’ve really not watched TV at all. It’s become so full of commercials it’s just annoying! I’ll have to agree with you on the twitter thing. How do you manage? I just have to close the twitter tab when I want to work online!

      • LeslieTravel says:

        Yeah, I do that too! I have to take Twitter-free blocks. I pre-schedule my tweets and then login several times a day to get news and respond to messages. That’s why I appear to never sleep ;)

  4. Jason says:

    Great interview Dave. He certainly is very driven in his quest. I also have a dream of visiting every country in the world, but I’m currently 20 years into a 50 year plan. Being realistic that’s how long I believe it will take me to achieve but I will get there. Francis is on a mission, and I know his personality type. He will make it happen, and good luck to him.

    • You’re a perceptive guy Jason, that’s good! Strange when you just come across a website or person, and you know that they are the driven type that will succeed vs the very many other site out there! There’s something to be said for being unique I guess!

  5. Ciki says:

    MAN! what an inspiring interview! What made the most impact on me? 1. throw away the TV 2. live frugally and u won’t miss it 3.never despair even in the face of adversity – u might find a cabin and fire just around the corner!

    Great interview Dave, with a great man. Also because you asked all the right questions.

    • I have to agree with the TV thing. It’s a huge time vacuum. And, like Leslie said, twitter and other things can be too.

      Nice idea about the cabin and fire … would need a big screen though, and internet connection and … maybe not so frugal for me then :)

  6. Nicole says:

    Always love learning of inspiring people! Thanks for interviewing Francis Tapon–going to his site now!

  7. JH says:

    Great interview ! Thanks for sharing ! Inspiring !

    Makes me think more deeply into my travel plans, destinations, what to do, what am I going to capture them down on my photographs etc etc


  8. Michelle says:

    Great interview! very inspiring!

  9. Andreas says:

    Great find, looking forward to picking up one of his books. Hard to find quality these days, sounds like this guy is on a mission!

  10. elbuensamaratin says:

    Anyone that sets a “10 year goal” is either naive or unrealistic in a logical sense, that is.

    • I think Francis mentions that the ten year plan is not set in stone. It is, a “guideline” more than anything else. And to this end, I agree with the approach.

    • elbuensamaratin, I agree with you. I often love to ask old people, “When you were 20, did you imagine your life would turn out the way it did?”

      Few say, “Yes.”

      I worked in high tech companies and I always laughed when we made 5 year projections. So it’s good to be realistic.

      However, as Dave mentioned (and I mentioned in the interview and on my webpage), my 10 year plan is flexible – a rough guideline. I admit that there’s a good chance that it won’t happen exactly like I envision.

      Nevertheless, having such a long-term plan can help motivate people and help them stay focused on the big picture.

      I’m not against wandering. Dave has been wandering for years. My website is called So I’m all for spontaneous wandering. I just think some people might also benefit from having a general long-term plan. You may disagree, which is why we all have to hike our own hike! :)

      • el buen samaratin says:

        I get it. Big difference in wandering and wandering aimlessly. But by definition wandering implies basically the same.

  11. Nancy says:

    Thanks for interviewing him! I find it interesting that he has planned his journey. His travel experiences must be very enriching. I do want to travel all over the world, however, not by foot. :-) Also, I agree about him saying that TV takes up time. I have read how some people don’t have TV’s in their homes so they can focus on quality of life. (I have TV and wouldn’t give it up. :-) )

  12. Steven says:

    Well, i guess meeting Francis Tapon is certainly a great achievement for a traveler like you! And luckily, you have it. You are a sure inspiration for all the travel bloggers that want to have a successful life in this field.

  13. Sabina says:

    Dave, I think this is really a great interview. And Francis, you are inspirational! How come I’ve never heard of you? I think it’s really telling that you name your best one-time experience on the road as simply being able to dry out in a cabin. This goes to show how discomfort can lead to happiness in the tiniest things. I’ll be following you from now on.

    • Thanks Sabina! One reason you may not have heard of me is that there are many crazy travelers who are quietly traveling the world. Dave, you, and most travelers have certainly met some extraordinary people while we’re somewhere in a forest of Central America or in a hostel. These travelers are fascinating either because of their minds or their experiences, yet they don’t have a blog. I know one that doesn’t have an email! I was just lucky that Dave decided to interview me. :)