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Francis Tapon looking up at the menu bar and wondering if it needs a redesign
T
his website will inspire you to wander & learn. I'm a Harvard MBA who left the tech world in 2006 to pursue a more fulfilling mission: visit every country in the world and share their unique lessons with whoever gives a crap. First-time visitors: start with the best articles!

Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America by Francis Tapon. This is the dust jacket cover of the hardcover book.The Hidden Europe by Francis TaponI've written Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America. I've walked across America four times and visited over 80 countries. I'm the first guy to yo-yo the Continental Divide Trail. I also thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail southbound. I've walked across Spain twice. In 2008-2011, I traveled in Eastern Europe and wrote my second book, The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us. I'm currently on a 4-year trip to visit all 54 countries in Africa. Find out where I am now!

 

Francis has been covered on... New York TimesSan Francisco ChronicleThe Washington PostLA Times LogoChicago Tribune LogoTEDxRick Steves radio logoLogo for KQED's Forum with Michael KrasnyBacpacker Magazine The Great OutdoorsKKSR Newstalk 910 LogoPractical BacpackingBacpacking Ligh National Geographic New Mexico magazine BootsnAll MercuryNewsHarvard Buisness School

The Hidden Europe book trailer

 

 

Francis Tapon's "Dream of Traveling the World" video

Don't Worry Too Much About Ebola

Yahoo Travel asked for my opinion on the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Here's what I told them. I've updated this in Sept 20, 2014.Ebola 2014 Outbreak Map

First some background on me:

Should You Be Afraid of Ebola?

The outbreak does give me pause, but only for about 5 seconds. It's easy to get excited about this outbreak, but it's important to have perspective:
  • Over 2,500 people have died of Ebola during 2014 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.
  • Annual auto fatalities in Guinea (1,956), Sierra Leone (1,323), Liberia (760) total 4,039
  • Therefore, the average person in those three countries is more likely to die in a traffic related accident than by Ebola.
  • Yet, almost nobody in those countries wear a seat belts (many cars don't even have working seat belts).
  • So if we want to save the most African lives, why don't their governments mandate wearing seat belts and improving their road conditions?
  • Nobody will worry about me going to Eritrea because it's on Africa's east coast (far from the outbreak). However, according to the WHO, Eritrea has the worst road fatality rate in the world (12 times worse than the UK and twice as deadly as Liberia). In other words, if I go to Eritrea, I'm more likely to die in car accident than to die of Ebola in Liberia.
  • Another way of thinking about it: those three countries have 22 million people. "Only" 2,500 have died. Thus, Ebola has killed 0.01% of the population. Your chance of dying from Ebola when you are in one of those 3 African countries is one in 10,000. That's better odds than the lottery, but it won't make me lose sleep.
  • Remember that we're just looking at the 3 most affected countries. If you are in Nigeria, Senegal, or anywhere else on the planet, then you're far more likely to get hit by lightning.
In short, we need to keep a perspective. It's like people worrying about shark attacks or lightning strikes, yet they think nothing of driving 50 miles a day or smoking. They worry about flying, but not about driving.

Malaria vs. Ebola

Deaths by Ebola, Malaria, and Car Accidents in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra LeoneMalaria kills far more than Ebola. According to the WHO, here are the annual deaths due to Malaria in 2012: Guinea 979 + Sierra Leone 3,611 + Liberia 1,725 = 6,315! That means more than twice as many people have died of malaria in those 3 countries than of Ebola.
Shouldn't that be the big news? Shouldn't we make a huge effort to stop malaria? Instead of spending $1 billion on giving everyone mosquito nets, the WHO wants to spend it on Ebola. Although malaria is not as contagious as Ebola, it is still contagious (a mosquito that bites an infected human and then bites a non-infected human will transmit the virus).

If Ebola regularly killed 4,000 people per year, we'd get used to that just like we are used to malaria killing 6,315 per year and auto fatalities killed 4,029 people per year. We can reduce all of these deaths if we encourage people to take preventative measures.

But Ebola is growing exponentially!

Ebola Deaths: Liberia is owns the bad news dept.

Yes, it's true (see the graph on the right).

However, the graph on the right also shows that only in Liberia is there true exponential growth.

Elsewhere, Ebola is flatlining, as victims are quarantined.

Yes, traffic accidents and malaria are not growing exponentially (their graphs would be similar to the linear growth that we see in Sierra Leone and Guinea). However, as the other graph above demonstrates, Ebola is not deadliest thing in those three countries.

It's tempting to continue drawing the exponential line of Liberia, but past performance doesn't indicate future results. Past outbreaks of Ebola had a similar slope at the onset. Each time we contained them and the graph came crashing down.

Of course, we need a bit of hysteria to spring people to action. However, the only people who really matter are the government officials and health care workers. The guy sitting in Benin or the USA has little to worry about.

Ebola's Fatality Rate Myth

Ebola ComicThe BBC regularly reports that Ebola's "fatality rate can reach 90%." 

That's misleading. Yes, it can reach that high, but the average fatality rate is about 52%. That's still horrible, but it's not a guaranteed death sentence. If you catch and treat it early, you improve your odds.

On the other hand, when a leading doctor died of Ebola, I was discouraged. You'd think that he, of all people, would not only be carefully monitoring himself, but also that at the first signs of symptoms, he would treat himself aggressively. Yet he died.

My advice 

  • Don't eat bush meat (or any meat, frankly).
  • Don't worry about visiting an Ebola-infected country.
  • If you do, consider wearing plastic gloves.
  • Either take anti-malarial medicine or always have the treatment for malaria with you.
  • Wear seat belt whenever possible.
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 16:26
 

Spearfishing off the Kwazulu-Natal Coast in South Africa

Map of east coast of South AfricaThe waters off Kwazulu-Natal coast in South Africa are more than generous to the avid spearo. Many spearfishing sites here have fabulous diving conditions all year round and waters teeming with gamefish action. Warm Agulhas and Mozambique currents sweep into this area of ocean from the east to meet a rich array of unspoilt marine life. And as spearfishing in this area is much less common than angling, productivity is plenteous.

Recommended Spearfishing Equipment for Spearfishing off the Kwazulu-Natal Coast

Kwazulu-Natal enjoys a sub-tropical climate with steamy summers and mild winters. Summer (November-May) water temperatures reach up to 24°C, dropping to 18°C in the winter (May-August).

Whether you’re planning on diving offshore or from a boat then here’s the recommended spearfishing equipment you’ll need for the local conditions:

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 August 2014 15:26
Read more... [Spearfishing off the Kwazulu-Natal Coast in South Africa]
 

10 Exciting Places in Africa

Guest post by Amelia Verona

Three times the size of the United States, the continent of Africa is especially diverse. Trying to comprehend the hundreds of languages that are spoken will keep visitors/tourists occupied indefinitely. Accord this vast continent, there are 10 spots of interest worth singling out.

1. Luangwa River Valley

In southern Africa, Zambia offers guests one of the best natural life havens on the continent and likely the slightest went by The Luangwa River Valley is in eastern Zambia, hours far from the fringe of Malawi. The region is home to Luambe and North and South Luambe National Park. Untamed life in these districts is the same species discovered somewhere else on the continent. They include predators, for example, lions, panthers and cheetahs, groups of elephants, rhinos, hippopotamuses, mandrills, galagos, hyenas, wild canines, kudus, hartebeests, topis, aardvarks and crocodiles. Stops in the waterway valley range from comprehensive foundations to hike lodgings.

Hippo in Luangwa River Valley

Last Updated on Monday, 04 August 2014 02:54
Read more... [10 Exciting Places in Africa]
 

Kickstarter for The Unseen Africa TV Pilot Episode

If you do just one thing for me this year, please tell everyone you know (and a few you don't know) about The Unseen Africa Kickstarter Project, which launches today, Africa Day (May 25)!
Below you'll find the Kickstarter video, its current fund raising status, and links to blogs that have covered the project.

Status of The Unseen Africa Kickstarter Project

⋆ The Unseen Africa TV Series - The pilot episode: Morocco -- Kicktraq Mini

Press Release

Man Traveling Nonstop to All 54 African Countries Over 4 Years
The Unseen Africa TV Series Announced on Africa Day on Kickstarter

May 25, 2014 - Agadez, Niger - To celebrate Africa Day adventure travel writer Francis Tapon is announcing the production of a new TV series called The Unseen Africa.

Tapon, who is traveling nonstop to all 54 African countries over four years, will host the show. In addition to capturing Africa's unseen parts, he plans to summit the tallest mountain of every African country.

Tapon said, "This ground-breaking travel TV series will reveal the sides of Africa that CNN and National Geographic never show."

The Unseen Africa will move beyond the standard images of Africa (war, wildlife, poverty, and pyramids). Instead, it will capture the everyday life of Africans and also show how 21st century Africa is different than how most Westerners imagine it.

Tapon said, "Besides going to unseen parts in Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa, we will go to African countries that rarely appear on TV such as Benin, Guinea Bissau, and Comoros."

To make the show's pilot episode, Tapon has created The Unseen Africa Kickstarter project, which aims to raise $20,000. The campaign launches May 25 and lasts 30 days.

Tapon started his African journey in Morocco and has spent the last year in West Africa. He plans to finish in North Africa in 2017. He has walked across America four times, written two travel books, and has visited nearly 100 countries.

Contacts
Public Relations: Zorica Loncar This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Creator/Host: Francis Tapon This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
http://TheUnseenAfrica.com | http://Facebook.com/FTapon
http://Twitter.com/FTapon | http://Google.com/+FrancisTapon

Press Coverage of The Unseen Africa Kickstarter Project

The Unseen Africa Logo

Below is a list of the bloggers who have written about the project or where I've written a guest post. If you'd like to get on this list, write about the project and we'll add a link to your page!

Video and Audio podcasts

Bernie Wild at Practical Backpacking interviewed me. There's as bonus audio available about how you can finance your adventures.

Script Magazine highlighted us by featuring a 45-min video podcast that talks about the unseen parts about The Unseen Africa.


 

The Amateur Traveler's popular podcast discusses the Western Sahara and my journey there: 

Extra Pack of Peanuts podcast:  

Unseen Africa with Francis Tapon - This Week in Travel #166

Last Updated on Monday, 23 June 2014 06:54
Read more... [Kickstarter for The Unseen Africa TV Pilot Episode]
 

A First-Timer’s Guide to Hiking in Tenerife

Mount TeideGuest Post: Tenerife’s landscape creates perfect terrain for hiking with mountains, coastal paths, secluded villages and volcanic geology to offer. Hiking in Tenerife has long been popular amongst Europeans, yet you’ll find plenty of seclusion as you explore some of the more remote parts of the island.

So get your walking boots on and find out about the best spots to get roaming on your Canary Island trip, with our guide to hiking holidays to Tenerife…

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 April 2014 05:08
Read more... [A First-Timer’s Guide to Hiking in Tenerife]
 

9 European Festivals That Are Not in the UK

EXIT Festival in SerbiaGuest post by Rachel Jensen:

As the summer approaches and the temperature rises, festival season starts to creep up on us. There is no better way to make the most of the sunshine of the months between June and September than packing your shorts and sunglasses, and jetting off to one of Europe’s many different festivals.

When people think about festivals, they are most likely to mention the well established ones like Glastonbury or the Isle of Wight Festivals. Whilst these are very popular, well trodden paths, there is a lot more to see!

We have gone and found those festivals that are off the beaten track. It’s not just music festivals as well that we have found, there are a number of exciting and cultural events in countries like Germany, Italy and France, as well as unique festivals in the UK.

You might be travelling across the continent by car, train or even bike. No matter how you’re getting about, there’s no excuse not to take a detour and indulge in the festivities that a festival brings. The atmosphere, the food, the drink and the people, all gathered in unison with an aim - to enjoy themselves and have a good time!

You could choose to stay in Britain and don your wellies, before dodging the English summer rain, wading your way through the mud. But with travel relatively cheap and efficient these days, you could be rubbing shoulders with festival goers in cities, towns and fields across Europe in a matter of hours. So, without further ado, here are nine wonderfully different European festival options for 2014!

1. The EXIT Festival

Young Serbians just wanted to exit out of Yugoslavia's civil war, so they created the EXIT Festival to do that. Today, it's one of Europe's biggest summer bashes. 

2. The Garden Festival

DJEastern Europe is becoming an increasingly popular travel destination, and Croatia is no exception. The Garden Festival takes place in the stunning coastal town of Tisno and is now in its ninth year. This year the electronic music event takes place between the 2-9th of July and is blessed by its location on the shores of the crystal clear Adriatic sea. The glorious sunshine in the daytime is mirrored by cooler evenings, but one thing’s certain, the party never stops!

There is boutique accommodation available for all, including villas and glamping facilities. There are boat rides available and the soundtrack for the week comes from a plethora of underground house and techno DJ’s such as Craig Richards, Leon Vincent and Axel Boman.

And if you don’t want to leave (and who would) the Garden Festival is followed immediately by the Electric Elephant festival. EE is another similar music festival, and another reason to kick back and enjoy the summer sun in Europe.

3. Festival of Cycling

If you’re looking for a festival idea which is a little closer to home, you could head to the Festival of Cycling, which coincides with the Tour de France.

From the 4th - 6th July, Harewood House, which is North of Leeds, will be turned into an all out cycling fanfare. There is room for camping, and festival goers can enjoy lots of live music throughout the weekend! There will be a purpose built cycling circuit so all visitors can get in on the act themselves, even challenging Olympic medalists the Brownlee brothers in a time trial.

4. San Fermin

Each year, the town of Pamplona in Spain turns into one non-stop fiesta. Pamplona is world famous thanks to these fiestas and is most well known for the running of the bulls, which was immortalised in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises. This year, San Fermin begins at midday on the 6th of July, everyone in the city dons red and white clothing and the fun commences. The Bull Run is something everyone has heard of, and is an event that we should all go and see! The historic town of Pamplona is beautiful all year round, but the chance to visit during the fiesta should not be turned down.

5. I’Primi D’Italia

If food is more your thing, you might want to try out the I’Primi D’Italia 2014. Throughout the event, you can wander about and taste all the delights that Italian food has to offer. The market in Piazza Della Repubblica is a hive of activity during the three day festival which runs between the 25th and 28th of September this year. You can travel by train to Perugia.

6. Wife Carrying World Championship

Now for something a little different. If you happen to be in Sonkajarvi region of Finland between the 4th - 5th July this year, you should head to the world famous Wife Carrying World Championships. The event started in 2014, and is deeply rooted in the local history of the area. The aim is to carry your wife (if she's over 49kg) over a course of exactly 253.5 meters and the competition has been won by Taisto Miettinen during the last five years. You might even want to enter yourself into the competition!

7. Jazz in Marciac

If Jazz is more your thing, head to the Jazz in Marciac festival which takes place over a three week period in the town of Marciac in southwestern France. This year it is happening between the 25th of July and the 10th of August. Over the years, the event has become a model for rural development centered on a cultural happening. Each year there is a fusion of jazz legends and up and coming talent who take to the stage through both the day and night.

8. Oktoberfest

If you are after something a little louder, you could head to the Oktoberfest in Germany. The event is held annually in Munich, the 16-day celebration has been held since 1810 and is an important part of Bavarian culture. Each year, the event runs from late September through to the first weekend in October and more than six million people attend from all across the world. If you fancy a winter break, you could choose to be one of them!

Oktoberfest is amazing because all the beer that is served is local to the Bavaria area. All of the lager must meet a certain strict criteria of being brewed within the city limits of Munich.

9. Outlook Festival

We started this list in the Balkans, we're going to end there. The Outlook Festival happens in Croatia [which Croatians don't think is the Balkans]. 

We hope you have enjoyed our brief guide to nine different festivals of Europe, but have we missed anything out? Let us know if you have any festival travel plans this year?

This guest post was written by Rachel Jensen for Cruise Nation, the cruise specialists.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 May 2014 04:28
 

4 Hidden Gems in Croatia

Guest Post by Romeo Demes:

Galesnjak - Island of LoveCroatia has firmly established itself as one of Europe’s premium tourist destinations. Its major attractions like Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes and Zadar have gained global tourist acclaim.

As a result, most visitors to Croatia travel to these attractions. However, these attractions are just the tip of the iceberg. Croatia has numerous jewels and hidden gems, many of which have been delighting curious adventurers for years.

If you are one of those who are willing to look beyond the standard travel brochures, then these hidden gems are the perfect destination for you. Some of the hidden gems are the following:

Galesnjak – The Island of Love

Popularly referred to as the “Lover’s Island”, Galesnjak is quietly emerging as one of Croatia’s top romantic destinations. This is because it is the most heart-shaped island in the world. This fact was first brought to the attention of the world by Google Earth images in 2009.

The island has since become popular stopover for couples on a romantic holiday. Therefore, if you are travelling with your better half, you may want to drop by there.

The island itself is small, uninhabited and mostly covered with trees and shrubs. It is surrounded by pristine waters of the Pasman channel, and has a few pebble beaches. The majority of the island is wild and untamed. You can have a picnic, enjoy a quiet romantic time or even camp through the night. Most people who visit the island set base at Pasman Island or in the historic town of Zadar.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 09:12
Read more... [4 Hidden Gems in Croatia]
 

3 Tips to Get You Traveling

Guest Post by Andi Singer 

Travel cheap when you canWith the exception of the extreme homebody, most everyone enjoys traveling. Most people only travel out of their community once or twice a year, while a rare few travel for months out of every year. For the average adult traveling more is very attainable--you just have to get out the door and go!

1. Put Money Out of Sight

One of the biggest things that limits people from travel is money. They simply feel like they cannot afford to go on vacation.

No matter how much or how little money I make, I always put some aside. I live with very few expenses, so even working 30 hours a week at an hourly wage I am able to put money aside. However transferring money into my savings account isn’t enough because I see the balance every time I look at my checking account. It’s too easy to pull from my linked savings when money is tight.

Instead I put a small portion of my income in an account at a different bank, separate from my long-term savings, simply for the purpose of travel and toys. I haven’t set up the online banking, so the only time I see the account balance is when I get a statement in the mail, or if I call in to check on the balance.

Putting money out of sight, especially when it is just a percentage of your income, can add up quickly. When I am ready to start planning a trip I can take a look at my “fun” account and plan my trip with a budget in mind.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 11:47
Read more... [3 Tips to Get You Traveling]
 

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Eastern Europe

Guest Post by Alex Pejak:

Source: Yourope - EXIT Festival, Novi Sad, Serbia

Eastern Europe is increasingly becoming more popular with travellers around the world. Where is Eastern Europe? It encompasses the area of Europe east of the Czech Republic and extends from southern Bulgaria to Russia's Borders with Asia and the Arctic.

Some of the easily accessible countries of East Europe include Serbia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and many more. The countries of Eastern Europe are all ethnically, topographically, culturally and historically distinct. The one thing they do have in common is a past under the Soviet Union's realm of interest and control.

Eastern Europe has seen its share of war and atrocities after the breakup of the Soviet Union, with various new countries fighting to gain independence from socialist federal republics such as Yugoslavia.

Today, twenty odd years later, all of the countries of Eastern Europe have either been accepted into the European Union or are working towards gaining this status.

This has made the region more open and attractive to tourists, so here are the top five reasons you should visit Eastern Europe....

Last Updated on Friday, 16 May 2014 17:16
Read more... [Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Eastern Europe]
 

Role of Women in Morocco Podcast

Download my first radio dispatch from Africa for WBAI radio in NYC

It's a 7-minute (7 MB) report on the role of women in Morocco.

Notice the woman in this Moroccan tent is away from the men in the corner. Francis is in the corner with Soufianne.

Notice the woman in this Moroccan tent is away from the men in the corner. I'm drinking tea in the corner with Soufianne, my cameraman, who is wearing an orange sweatshirt.

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 May 2014 09:30
 

4 Travel Documentaries That Inspire Backpacking Exploration

Throughout my 4-year journey to every African country I've been filming to produce:

  1. A TV series that shows The Unseen Africa
  2. A film documentary.
  3. Video stock footage.

Regarding #2, I have absolutely no idea how I plan to condense four years of travel into a 90-minute documentary. No clue. I'll worry about that in 2017. In the meantime, I'll just keep filming. 

Freddie Trimble, who is works with the Sheffield documentary festival in the UK, wanted to share his four favorite travel documentaries. I've only see the first one, but the rest look promising. Check them out.

Guest post by Freddie Trimble and Caroline Schupfer

A travel documentary film gives you an concentrated insight into different cultures and traditions, information on attractions or travel in general, and a greater awareness of different people and their lifestyles. Travel documentaries give you a better understanding of the world, and of the people you share it with, all without trying to sell you some overpriced travel package deal or recommending any commercial tour operators.

Samsara

As one of the most valuable, yet much underrated and underexposed educational device, travel documentaries supplement your awareness as a human being a little bit at a time. They are filled with real life stories and show you true beauty; triggering your inner wanderlust, appealing to your senses and your true human instincts of wanting to get out there and explore.

Here are some of the best examples of documentaries that will inspire you to backpack to places worth exploring:

Samsara

Ron Fricke’s visual documentary Samsara is definitely out of the ordinary. With his precise and captivating shots we were whisked around the world, experiencing all walks of life; effectively contrasting the overwhelming beauty of the natural world, along with what we see as manufactured destruction.

We were left guessing about where many of the places were due to the absence of a narrator, although it was exciting to recognise a few places that we have been ourselves. One example being the aftermath of a volcanic eruption in Cappadocia, Turkey.

This visual delight will certainly force you to take a step back, and give you a clearer perspective of the brutal diversity of our planet.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 07:00
Read more... [4 Travel Documentaries That Inspire Backpacking Exploration]
 
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