In a world laced with vagabonds-on-steroids and a bunch of country-counting, miles-flaunting, hasty travelers, Francis Tapon stands out as a much-needed detox. A deliberate pullback into a lingering form of wandering that defies the urgency that has managed to pervade modern-day travel. He counters jet-setting pace with impervious walks across entire countries. And he does so like no one has ever done before. He shares his story with Tripoto in the midst of his epic 4-year journey through every country in the African continent. Yes, every country. And he’s driving through all of it.
“After Harvard Business School, I asked myself what was my passion. It was robotics. So I turned down a six-figure job offer to work for nothing in a 3-person startup. After 4 years, it was no longer fulfilling, so I left to hike the Appalachian Trail. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next, so I hoped that 4 months on a trail would give me time to think. I thought of what I would do with my time if I had $1 billion. The answer was: travel nonstop. So I decided to become a travel writer,” he answers when asked about his transition from being a Harvard Business School graduate with a thriving corporate career to a free-willed traveler and explorer.
Francis is the first person to yo-yo (hiking it both ways) the Continental Divide Trail, he has also walked across America four times through the 3 major mountain ranges. He has walked across Spain twice, before going on to visit 40 European countries spanning a 3-year period from 2008-2011. He has shared his experiences from these travels in two books entitled Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America, and The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us.
“Things are never perfect. Storms come. It rains. It’s hot. It’s cold. There are bugs. That’s life.”
He has been traveling through West Africa for the last few months and has this to say about the journey thus far, “Aside from my car troubles, West Africa has been fantastic. I’m stunned by how few tourists I’ve seen. Outside the capital cities, I’ve just seen two French tour groups in the last 15 months.“
When asked about his ongoing video project ‘The Unseen Africa’ Francis says, ”After spending 3 years in 25 Eastern European countries, I had 2,000 photographs, but no video. As I mentioned before, some people prefer to process information via video. Therefore, I wanted to capture Africa on TV, especially by taking an angle that few take–the unseen side of Africa.“
He has a Kickstarter campaign running to raise funds for the one-hour pilot episode about his time in Morocco. “The whole team is selected. We’re moving forward. For example, we already have a precise outline of the pilot, which I will reveal once we hit the halfway point of our $20,000 fundraising goal. We’re ahead of schedule, which is what I promise on the Kickstarter page,” he says.
Tapon’s ‘Unseen Africa’ tour is a standout not only because of its sheer magnitude. But, because it’ll bring forth a side of Africa that has been shunned by mainstream travel companies. “They believe it won’t sell widely,” he says, “and they’re probably right. If it did, it probably would have been done before. Still, I believe there’s a niche market of people who want to move beyond Africa’s stereotypical images and stories. That niche market has been ignored and I want to reach out to them.“
We, at Tripoto, are inspired by people like Francis Tapon, who, in their relentless efforts of exploration, help us in understanding the importance of discovering what lies behind the obvious, easiest choices. Here’s to an amazing run through Africa and many more after that!