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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

The Ladder of Excellence

Unfortunately, for many of us, our passions don’t lead us on careers that can easily lead to big bucks. You might have a passion for writing, acting, or gardening. How are you ever going to make money doing that?

I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it. — Jonathan Winters

Think about the top of your ideal profession

No matter what profession you pick, think about the individuals who have made it to the pinnacle of that profession. Are they poor?

Let’s examine a few professions that most people think are doomed to poverty, and let’s see how those who pursued them to the top fared. These are professions that your parents would probably tell you not to pursue because “You’ll never make any money that way!” Let’s see what a few rebellious kids (or some with encouraging parents) did with their lives:

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 23:08
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Discover Your Passion by Answering 5 Questions

After backpacking about 240 miles through the green mountains of Vermont and the hot fields of Massachusetts, I came up with five questions you can ask yourself to help figure out what is your passion.

#1: The “Billion Dollar” Question

One of the best ways to determine your passion is to find out what you would do if you had tons of money.

Write down what you would do with the majority of your waking hours if you had a billion dollars in the bank.

Obviously, with a billion dollars you wouldn’t have to work, although some lunatics might. Don’t worry about how you will spend the money. Yes, I’m sure that you’d donate 99 percent of your wealth to the poor and needy. Great. That’s nice, but the goal here is to find out what you would do with most of your time. Clearly, there are many things you might do with your hours, but what would consume the bulk of your time? Would you travel? Teach? Write books? Help the sick? Build homes? Trade stocks? Collect meat cleavers?

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 23:11
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Damien Tougas and His Family is an Adventure in Progress

Damien Tougas and his familySometimes people read Hike Your Own Hike and they actually like it. When I find these freaks of nature, I like to profile them. In this article, I interview an oxymoron: an adventurous family-man. See how Damien Tougas lives the paradoxical life.

Francis Tapon: Give those who don't know you some background about who you are.

Damien Tougas: I am a husband, a father, a techie, a writer/blogger, and an adventurer. I am a believer in integration, which means that I pursue creative ways to bring together those diverse aspects of my life into a cohesive whole. As a family, we have been working towards pursuing our passions full-time rather than just as hobbies.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 May 2011 07:23
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When to credit luck or skill

Although I enjoy receiving email from my friends, some of my favorite emails are from strangers. These strangers have read Hike Your Own Hike and are writing to tell me the positive impact it had on their life. Such emails are more rewarding than seeing a boost in sales (OK, except for really big boost).Fuji mountain and cherry blossom, Japan

Below is a excerpt from Hike Your Own Hike that spurred a reader to write how it impacted her. First, the excerpt:

When you’re good, you’re good

When good events happen or when you perform well at an activity, you should attribute it to your inherent skill. Do not attribute it to luck. It’s possible that a thru-hiker may believe she’s lucky to have hiked 20 miles of trail. Indeed, it’s possible that she was lucky. Maybe she was blessed with great weather, or a friendly Trail Angel who gave her some food and encouragement to press on. On the other hand, walking 200 miles of trail isn’t about luck—it’s skill and determination. Finally, when a thru-hiker has walked over 2,000 miles, clearly luck had little to do with her success—she accomplished that feat because of her pure will.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 13:10
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4 Steps to Develop Good Spending and Savings Habits

Summiting a mountain is similar to reaching a financial summit - beware of summit feverMost thru-hikers have a good understanding of their expenses, know how to control them, are good at saving money, and know how to resist upgrading. Successful thru-hikers usually follow four steps to prepare for and complete their journey. Let’s look at each step and how we can apply it on and off the long distance trails.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 April 2011 23:40
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How to compare yourself with others

At one point on the CDT, I had not had a proper shower in 45 days, but I was still happy. Here I have ripped clothing and a garbage bag for a rain jacket during a sleet weather, but I was super happy!When someone asks, “Are you happy?” we tend to look around at our peers and see how they are living. If we’re better off than our peers, it’s likely that we decide to be happy. Therefore, one of the tricks of being happy is to change the group we compare ourselves to.

Silicon Valley gossip columns enjoy pointing out that Oracle’s software titan Larry Ellison, whose $40 billion net worth makes him one of the top 10 richest people in America, is not the happiest guy around, mainly because he always compares himself to Bill Gates.

Meanwhile, on the Appalachian Trail, some backpackers feel smug because they got a spot in a shelter (which only has three walls and frequently has rodents nearby), whereas the latecomers have to set up their tent in the rain. For some reason most backpackers covet the spots in the shelters, and prefer cramming next to snoring neighbors than setting up their tent.

I suppose if we put Larry Ellison on the Appalachian Trail, he might feel better about himself if we somehow made sure that he always got to stay in one of the shelters (and Bill Gates had to sleep outside under a shoddy tarp).

Last Updated on Monday, 11 April 2011 02:17
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Venice Slide Show and 27 Photos

Venice is my favorite city in the world. Yeah, there's lots of tourists, but there's a good reason for that: Venice is awesome. That's why tourists don't flock to Hayward, California.

Also, you can avoid the crowds by going to parts of Venice that are less popular. Parts of the main island (far from Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal) have almost no tourists. Murano and Burano are also somewhat quiet. And the other islands, like St. Eramus, are almost dead.

Below are 27 photos of Venice, but first, enjoy this slide show video!

(If you are in Germany, you won't be able to see this video because of the soundtrack restrictions. So watch the Vimeo version, which appears after the 27 photos.)

If you're learning to do photography, Venice is perfect. A blind guy could take stunning photos in Venice. I'm not blind, but here are some photos to motivate you to visit, or revisit Venice.

Gondolas driving the tourists through the Grand Canal


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2012 19:00
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Below are the 80 submissions for the $1,000 Book Cover Contest. We are not accepting any more entries. Included in the list are the Top 8 Finalists, as a well as the Honorable Mentions.

The Top 8 Finalists will compete for the $1,000 Prize in three competitive rounds. Each round will eliminate half the competitors.

Best Designer Overall: Yasmin Rahmani. She combined humor with beautiful design. She's the only designer (so far) who has two covers in the finals.

Most Creative Designer: Scott Neilson. He really thinks out-of-the-box.

I gave an Honorable Mention to a cover that I seriously considered to make the Final 8. First, a few FAQ:

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 August 2011 07:11
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Having Financial Freedom in Life

Freedom to jump aroundFreedom is about having options so you can do what you love, pursue happiness, and get the most out of life. Yet how many of us are truly free today? How many of us can take a six month vacation? How many of us can afford to not worry about being laid off? How many of us can change careers and start at an entry level position in another industry? How many of us have the freedom to easily pack up our bags and move to a new city or country?

Most of can’t do any of this. What kind of freedom is that? Who has put these shackles on us to inhibit our options and possibilities? Who is impeding our ability to squeeze the most out of life?

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 April 2011 23:38
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Hike Your Own Hike on the Appalachian Trail and in Life

To hike your own hike on the Appalachian Trail may mean starting on Mt. Katahdin instead of ending thereNobody knows for sure where the saying hike your own hike came from. Although I wrote a book called Hike Your Own Hike, I certainly didn’t coin the phrase. When I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2001, people were repeating that mantra often, so an anonymous hiker may have come up with the saying in the 1980s or earlier. Regardless, it’s an old concept. Native Americans surely had a similar saying in their languages 5,000 years ago.

What does hike your own hike mean?

Hike your own hike means that you should hike a trail in the manner that you enjoy, and not the way somebody tells you to hike it. Although you should ponder the advice of others, ultimately make your own decision and focus on having fun! For example:

Last Updated on Friday, 25 March 2011 00:55
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Finland: home to the smartest kids in the world

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tested 400,000 15-year-olds in 57 countries on science, math, and reading. Finnish teenagers placed number one in science and ranked number one overall. As a result, school administrators from all over the world have been descending on Finland to learn their secrets. For example, during one six-month period, one Finnish school had 300 foreign journalists visiting it. What they learned shocked some observers. Consider that the typical Finnish high-school student:The Finns aren't dumb blonds. Photographer Aapo-Lassi Kankaala

  • Gets only 30 minutes of homework on an average night.

  • Doesn’t have a school uniform.

  • Has no honor roll or valedictorian status to strive for.

  • Has no tardy bell to hear.

  • Didn’t start school until the age of seven.

  • Doesn’t stress that much about going to college.

When a student asks a stupid question, Finnish kids usually bark out, “KVG!” (which stands for kato vittu Googlesta or “check it out on Google, you cunt!”

Instead of sending their gifted students to special classes, teachers encourage the brightest to help their fellow classmates along. Nerds effectively become the teacher’s assistant. The smart ones aren’t as polite as the teachers. For example, when someone asks a stupid question, Finnish kids usually bark out, “KVG!” (which stands for kato vittu Googlesta or “check it out on Google, you cunt!”)

I can’t help but wonder what it says about the future of the human race when the smartest kids on the planet are calling each other cunts.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 April 2012 16:18
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