For many Westerners, Eastern Europe is about as appealing as a deodorant-free French armpit. That didn't scare Francis Tapon because not only did he learn how to rough it by walking across America four times, but he is also half French, so he kind of smells too. Francis spent nearly 3 years travelling and backpacking in 25 Eastern European countries. It started with a 5-month trip in 2004. He returned in 2008 to spend 3 years exploring all the countries again. The Hidden Europe is Book Two of the WanderLearn Series. There are 25 chapters (one for each country). Each chapter: Examines an Eastern European country's history, food, language, sites, stereotypes, and drinking habits. Covers Francis Tapon's personal adventures in that country. Ends with a short summary of what practical things you can learn from that country. Francis Tapon yearned for a European adventure, but Western Europe seemed too tame and passe. So he travelled for 3 years visiting every Eastern European country - all 25 of them. The Hidden Europe cleverly mixes insightful facts with hilarious personal anecdotes. It's profound, yet light. Francis Tapon is a sharp observer who helps you distinguish a Latvian from a Lithuanian, while not confusing Slovenia with Slovakia. You'll also learn: Why Baltic people are human squirrels. When and why Poland disappeared from Europe. Why Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia broke up. Why Hungarians are really Martians. How Slovenians learn languages so quickly. Why the Balkans is so screwed up. Why there's much more to Romania than Dracula. Which Moldovan tradition saves marriages. What the future holds for Belarus, Ukraine, Russia. Why communism was a dream ...and a nightmare. You'll understand a side of Europe that is still mysterious and misunderstood even 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Francis Tapon is an ideal guide in a book that will become a classic travel narrative.
To learn more about Francis, visit his webpage at FrancisTapon.com.
Origin: Francis Tapon's mom is from Chile and his dad is from France. He was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He's been to nearly 80 countries, but we keeps coming back to this magical city because he loves earthquakes.
Languages: He spoke Spanish at home, French at school, and English everywhere else. He can get by in Slovenian, Portuguese and Italian, barely survive in Russian, and speak a few other languages like a two-year-old.
Education: He has a degree in Religion from Amherst College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. So he is well prepared to start a church and make lots of money off of it.
Work: He co-founded SIGHTech, a successful Silicon Valley company. He also worked at Hitachi Data Systems and Microsoft.
Backpacking: He's walked across America 4 times: thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and in 2007, became the first to do a round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail. He's walked across Spain twice (traversing the Pyrenees and El Camino Santiago). In 2009, he was nominated a one of the seven finalists to the California Outdoors Hall of Fame, which "features nominees who are world-renowned for their skills and who have helped inspire thousands of others to take part in the great outdoors." Although he "barely missed induction," he was quite honored to be nominated. Some think that they nominated him because he's evangelized about the glories of backpacking 10,000 miles, but we know the real reason: they're impressed that he backpacked for 45 days without a shower.
Author: He wrote Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America, which is based on my AT experience. He also produced a 77-minute movie on his round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail. His latest book, The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us, just came out in 2012. It's a book about his 3.5-year adventure in 25 Eastern European countries.
Current activity: He is about to spend 3 years traveling to all 54 African countries.
Things Francis has never owned: A television, couch, bed, chair, or spaceship. (He's disappointed about the last one.)
Books he's read: To learn what thinks about some of the books he has read recently, read his book reviews on Amazon.
Goal in life: Visit every country on the planet and share the experience with anyone who cares to listen.