A Round-Trip Hike Along the Continental Divide Trail

Francis during his epic Continental Divide hike.
Francis during his epic Continental Divide hike.

TeachingTraveling.com: Welcome, to Francis Tapon, a travel writer who hiked nearly 6,000 miles on the Continental Divide Trail!

Tell us a bit about your background, Francis.

Francis: My mother is from Chile and his father is from France. My dad was a college dropout and my mom was a high-school dropout (she had to work to support her family). They met in San Francisco thanks to a slow elevator.

Our family spoke Spanish at home, unless an English swear word was necessary.

I was born in San Francisco, California where I attended the French American International School for 12 years. Native French teachers convinced me that France is the coolest country in the universe. I’m fluent in English, French, and Spanish, and struggle with Italian, Portuguese, Slovenian, and Russian.

At Yellowstone National Park.
At Yellowstone National Park.

I earned a Religion Degree with honors from Amherst College, and also have an MBA from Harvard Business School. After Harvard, I co-founded a robotic vision company in Silicon Valley, but then I decided to become a travel writer. I created the WanderLearn Book Series. The idea is that when we wander the world, we learn. Indeed, travel is one of the best universities around.

TT: Nice! Tell us more about your extremely impressive travels.

F: I walked nearly 6,000 miles on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). This seven-month adventure started in Mexico. I walked to Canada and back to Mexico along the Rocky Mountains. I walked through nearly 1,000 miles of snow-covered mountains. I slept outside every day. I was the first person to ever do that round-trip.

TT: Amazing! How did you create this travel opportunity?

F: I had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The CDT is considered the third part of this Triple Crown. I decided to “yo-yo” it (do a round-trip) because nobody had done it before and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

TT: Undoubtedly. :) How did you find the money to fund this travel?

F: Fortunately, backpacking in the wilderness is cheap! You just need to pay for food, although I had a few generous food sponsors who helped me. In general, you can afford to travel the world with little money if you know how to travel frugally.

TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.

F: When I was in the middle of the Ferriss mountain range in Wyoming, I found a pristine Hustler magazine lying on the trail. That’s certainly not what you expect to see in the wilderness. However, it was useful in more ways than one: I had lost my sleeping pad, so I was able to use the magazine as a pad to insulate me from the ground.

A photo Francis took in Chiapas, Mexico.
A photo Francis took in Chiapas, Mexico.

TT: Hah! How have your travels impacted you in your current career?

F: Travel made me a teacher! Whenever you do something extreme or extraordinary, you become an expert. And experts can teach.

They may not be good teachers, but people will want to learn from you. That’s when it becomes important to give back your unique knowledge to the community.

TT: Well-said. How have your travels impacted you as a person?

F: My travels opened my mind (which was already pretty open considering my multi-cultural background). Travel lets you see issues from multiple points of view. It increases knowledge exponentially. It makes you more tolerant.

Francis conquered the Continental Divide Trail as this man in Mexico conquered that chicken!
Francis conquered the Continental Divide as this Chiapas man conquered a chicken!

TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?

F: Teachers have a unique advantage that most other professions don’t have: they often get three months off in summer. Use it. There are home exchanges. Or you can rent your home and use that money to travel. On my site, I give five tips to travel the world.

TT: Thanks for sharing your story and insights, Francis!

Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Francis?

7 thoughts on “A Round-Trip Hike Along the Continental Divide Trail”

  1. wWas wondering what do you think is minimum time to allow for a one way trip and when would you go-spring summer or fall-all things considered. Also that is amazing accomplishment and how much weight did you lose on your trip-thanks-steve

  2. I can’t believe you speak so many languages. I can not even handle learning 1 extra language on top of what I already know. Did growing up in an environment where one parent spoke Spanish and one spoke French help you learn all those languages (because they are both Romance Languages which derive from Latin)?

    • Elizabeth, each language that you learn makes the next language you learn a bit easier because you can draw connections between seemingly disconnected languages. The more neurons that are interconnected, the easier it gets!

  3. I wonder how you can keep up with your hiking. You are a great active person. I wish I could be like you because I can’t even walk a mile. I think that you are a person who really uses your time wisely, in an active way. :-)

    • Hawkeye, yup, you took that picture of me by the boiling water.

      One thing that the article didn’t mention is that I’ve got a new book out that’s highly educational, fun, and all about traveling in Eastern Europe.

      Not everyone likes to go backpacking in the mountains, but many are interested in Europe. So the book is coming out December 2011 and is called, “The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us.”

      For those who want to sample a couple of chapter, see the trailer, and learn more, visit http://francistapon.com/ee

      Thank you Lillie for helping inspire people to teach and travel!

      Francis Tapon


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