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.
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.
“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.
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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