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Francis Tapon looking up at the menu bar and wondering if it needs a redesign
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

How to Hike the Tenerife

Mount TeideTenerife’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 seclusion as you explore some of the 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 Friday, 20 November 2015 06:32
Read more... [How to Hike the Tenerife]

5 Questions for Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere

Gary Arndt is one of the top 5 travel bloggers in the world. He runs Everything Everywhere, which I had the honor to write a guest post for. He's also interviewed me on the This Week in Travel podcast, as well as his new Global Travel Conspiracy podcast.

This time, I turned the tables and asked Gary 5 questions. He's graciously allowed me to show some of the photos he's taken in Africa. You can buy them (and many more) on his website. And now for the 5 questions....

1. Gary, isn't the UNESCO World Heritage list becoming a bit ridiculously big so as to dilute the wow-factor that the sites used to have? I'm going to take a shit in my backyard and ask UNESCO to proclaim it as a World Heritage Site. What do you think?

Yes and No. There are some UNESCO Sites that are undeserving, especially in Europe.

However, the Earth is a really big place. Africa is under represented. I still think that the US and Canada are under represented. It is easy to look at a number of draw that conclusion, but if you look closely at the sites which are being added, they are still pretty special. There are far more unknown sites I visit that are surprising in a good way than in a bad way.

Namib Desert by Gary Arndt

2. Is Google+ dead? You have 1.4 million followers, but your posts get just 50-500 +1s. How do you interpret that data?

It isn't dead, but it is on life support. As you note, the engagement rates are incredibly low. However, if you actually do the math, it is about the same or slightly higher than Twitter. I have roughly 10x the following on G+ and I can get about 10x the engagement per post.

Angola Voodoo Guy by Gary Arndt

3. What's your future book going to be about? Will we see it this century?

I'm now leaning towards a book on Travel Photography just because it will support my other projects and would be easy for me to write.

Zambia Waterfall by Gary Arndt

4. How do you have time to do everything you do everywhere? Do you sleep!? 

Dunno. This is pretty much all I do. Each individual thing doesn't take much time.

I've also cut back on my traveling and I'll probably stop traveling full time later this year. Being on the road full-time isn't conducive to running a business or my health. Rick Steves manages to run a travel business being on the road only 3 months a year. I could do the same traveling for 3-6 months, I figure.

Togo Stilt Walk by Gary Arndt

5. If you were to rank your activities from the most productive/lucrative to the least useless/lucrative, how would you rank them? Example: YouTube, Periscope, Instagram, FB, Twitter, Tumblr, G+, Blog, Guest Posts, TBEX, etc....

It is almost impossible to compare something like Instagram to TBEX. Right now Instagram is far and away my best platform. I have the smallest audience on it compared to the other big platforms (FB, Twitter, G+, Pinterest), but I get more engagement than all of them combined.

I plan to start a YouTube channel and will be launching my Travel Photography Training course in a few months as well.

Sierra Leone fire nut by Gary Arndt

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 August 2015 01:40

10 Tips for a Great Safari

Safari with AAAfrica In 2014, I went on the best safari with Augustine's Adventure Africa. 

Here are 10 tips that this month's guest post says you should consider before going on a safari in Africa:

Guest post by Sujain Thomas

The safari travel can be a dream come true experience for a lot of travelers, if they don’t make some common mistakes during the travel. With the help of basic planning, you can avoid the mistakes.

Read the useful suggestions below for a safe safari in Africa:

Last Updated on Friday, 28 August 2015 01:45
Read more... [10 Tips for a Great Safari]

Review of Winter in the Wilderness by Dave Hall with Jon Ulrich

Cover of Winter in the Wilderness A Field Guide to Primitive Survival Skills by Dave Hall, Jon Ulrich

In August 2015, I received a preview copy of Winter in the Wilderness: A Field Guide to Primitive Survival Skills by Dave Hall with Jon Ulrich. The book will be available on September 22, 2015. Before sharing my thoughts of this book, I'll share my background and experience to illustrate my expertise, igorance, and bias.

Background on the reviewer

I've spent many weeks backpacking in the winter or in winter-like conditions. For example, when I did a round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail, I walked across Colorado in May. When you're in the Rocky Mountains in May, it sure looks and feels like winter, even though officially it's spring. The mountains are buried in snow and freezing temperatures are the norm.

My most memorable winter trip was when Lisa Garrett and I did a 4-day backpacking trip in Yosemite during Thanksgiving (late November). You can see some photos from that snowy experience.

I've also climbed many snowy peaks, such as nearly all the peaks in Cascade Mountain Range (e.g., Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, Mt. Baker, Mt. Adams, etc...), as well as snowy mountains outside the USA, such as Mont Blanc.

Despite all these situations, I have only once been in a true winter survival situation. That was in late March 2006 when Maiu and I got lost in the Olympic National Park. I've wanted to write about that life-threatening experience for a while years, but until I do, let's just say that we almost died. We spent two nights (one of which snowed on us) in a diabolical ravine. We both ended up with frostbite, but we got out on our own.

Another close call was when I was snowshoeing in Idaho for the day with Julia, my Ukrainian girlfriend at the time. We got lost as the sunset and kept walking until we ran into man running a snowplow at 3:00 a.m. We were walking the wrong way and he took us to  

Therefore, it was great interest that I read Winter in the Wilderness. Here are the pros, cons, and verdict of the book.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 August 2015 00:44
Read more... [Review of Winter in the Wilderness by Dave Hall with Jon Ulrich]

5 Safety Precautions to Consider Before Travelling in Europe

Europe is the safest continent you can travel in, which explains why it is also the most popular tourist destination in the world. However, even in tourism paradise things can go wrong. Here's what to consider.

Cycling safety

In the opening of The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us, I praise Finland for its biker-friendly environment (you can download the chapter for free and read it for yourself).

However, while I was right that Finland is wonderful for biker safety, it's the Central/Eastern European countries that are the best overall. 

Cycling safety in Europe

Biking across Europe is fun. I've even recommended biking across El Camino de Santiago in Spain. However, you still might want get insurance for your bike and health insurance too. And buy a really good lock because bike theft is rife.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 July 2015 09:44
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Road to Morocco

Jumping in Morocco

Today I just released the pilot episode of The Unseen Africa! This Kickstarter funded project is about Morocco. The DVD and Blu-Ray is available today at my shop. You can't get it anywhere else.

To celebrate the availabilty of the 44-minute commercial-free episode, we're having a guest post by Clinton J. Wilson, who shares his misadventures in Morocco. He writes for Goway.com travel.

Here's Clinton...

Misadventures in Morocco

I wasn’t really shocked to learn my friend had lost his passport somewhere along the desolate stretch of road leading us to our isolated hotel in the Sahara.

Somehow this seemed to be the logical development in the plot of our Moroccan vacation. It was right out of a Paul Bowles story. Our doom was imminent. It wouldn’t be long now before murderous Berbers would usher us into a small room and rob us of all of our remaining possessions before hacking us to death and burying us out in the sand. No one in the world would ever be able to trace us.

The End.

But I guess I felt I had too much to live for. I couldn’t waste my energy thinking about my friend, for I’d already given him up to the vindictive natural forces of the African desert. He had a fever, and was now missing his passport; I had to conserve my strength. There was the next day’s camel ride at dawn. I was going to have my “Lawrence of Arabia” photo op if it killed me.

Last Updated on Monday, 06 July 2015 20:51
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Interesting Facts About Icelanders

Iceland by by anieto2k on FlickrIceland is the only European country that I have not visited.

Technically, only about half of the country is in Europe, as it exists right in the middle of the tectonic plate that divides Europe and North America.

Because it lives on a crack in the earth, an astounding amount of geological activity takes place there. Erupting olcanoes, boiling hot springs, and soaring mountains litter the landscape.

I can't wait to visit it one day. My dream is to walk across it like my friend Jonathan Ley did.

Since I know little about Iceland, I accepted this article written by Allison Turner.

Interesting Facts About Icelanders

Boats in Iceland by manumilouAll countries and cultures have their own unique quirks, it just seems Iceland has a few more of these quirks than other places. The key to this charming strangeness comes from the people that inhabit the land itself, the native Icelanders. Here are four interesting facts that you may not have known about Icelanders.

Surnames Do Not Exist

The majority of Icelanders (save for a few family names left from foreigners marrying into an Icelandic family) do not have a surname, which is why they call everyone by their first name. The last name is made from their father’s or mother’s first name with the addition of daughter or son. That also means that women keep their last names when they get married.

Last Updated on Monday, 29 June 2015 06:44
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Step Off The Tourist Trail in Lanzarote

This sponsored post was written by Lance Sprewell

Lanzarote is well known for its beaches and bars, but there’s much more to the island than this. With its otherworldly landscapes, beautiful towns and fascinating art and architecture, this sun soaked vacation spot has plenty to offer the discerning traveller.

César Manrique Foundation

If you book flights to Lanzarote and want to discover the beating heart of the island,make your way to the César Manrique Foundation. During his life, this architect, artist and environmentalist helped to shape the look and feel of Lanzarote photo by Dario Garavini on FlickrLanzarote, and his unusual constructions dot the island, adding to its unique character. Based at the artist’s former studio and home in Taro de Tahiche, the foundation is one of the island’s most impressive sights. With its playful use of colours and shapes, it manages to look both retro and modern at the same time. As well as his own artworks, the building showcases sketches by Miró and Picasso.

Timanfaya National Park

Be sure to add the Timanfaya National Park to your sightseeing itinerary too. Given its status in 1968, this large area is home to over 100 volcanoes, which rose up from the ground in the 18th century to create a Martian-like landscape. As well as its fascinating rock formations, the park contains a variety of rare plant species.

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 June 2015 12:58
Read more... [Step Off The Tourist Trail in Lanzarote]

2 Tanzanian Guides - AfricanZoom and Augustine's Adventure Africa

Many of those who have just heard my national radio interview with Rick Steves want to know how to book their own African safari or mountain climb.

Others want to see my report on my East African adventures. I will do that by March 2015, but for now, because I have computer problems, I want to just quickly answer the first question.

Recommended Tanzanian Safari Guide: AAAfrica.net

AAAfrica.net Augustine and Francis

Augustine (the man on the right) has 20 years of guiding people (mostly Americans) throughout Tanzania (especially around the Arusha region).

You won't find a more experienced, friendly, and professional guiding company than Augustine's Adventure Africa. They have the vehicles and the knowledge to entertain and inform you about the wonders of the Seregeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and far beyond.

I mentioned him on the Rick Steves show, and I stand 100% behind my recommendation. You can find a cheaper guide, but Augustine runs a top class operation that is worth every penny.

Recommended Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru guides: AfricaZoom

Francis on top of KilimanjaroJust like AAAFrica.net is a class act for safaris, AfricanZoom is the best outfitter to take you to the roof of Africa.

What makes them special isn't just the professional service, knowledgable guides, and friendly attitude, but it's also their inspiring leadership.

Maggie Samson founded the company and is the only woman who has climbed all 8 routes up Kilimanjaro.

It's hard to find anyone who has done that.

It's extremely unusual in the male-dominated guiding business in Tanzania.

Moreover, she is a member of an organization that looks after the welfare of guides and porters, who are often mistreated by unprofessional trekking companies.

Therefore, if you'd like to climb Africa's tallest mountain, you should consider AfricanZoom. 

Lastly, both companies go into each other specialties. For example, AfricanZoom leads safaris and AAAfrica.net leads mountain climbs. 

Although I'm sure they are both competent, I would advise sticking with their specialities. You can't lose!

Uganda guides

Finally, I also should mention Gane and Marshall, who are the best guides for Uganda.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 August 2015 01:05

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 Wednesday, 01 October 2014 14:11

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]
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