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If you’ve spent any time traveling, you likely know the amazing sense of freedom and possibility that comes from exploring the world.
My boyfriend likes to note the distinction between vacationing and traveling.
Vacations often entail relaxation, rejuvenation, and recreation, and we usually plan them well in advance. Travel, on the other hand, tends to involve more spontaneity, uncertainty, and adventure, whether that means spending hours taking trains or hiking, or sightseeing without a clear sense of where you’ll stay for the night.
The closest I’ve gotten to this type of travel experience was back in college, when I spent a semester in Europe.
I remember thinking that I’d later regret it if I didn’t do it then, because never is international travel more convenient than it is during college. In fact, travel in general seems a lot easier when you don’t yet have responsibilities.
This is partly why I was fascinated to read Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking across America: The author, Francis Tapon, has made travel a priority and a way of life, and has fostered an adventurous spirit and a contagious passion as a result.
But his book isn’t just about seeing the world; it’s about living life on your own terms, and taking time to evaluate whether you’re following fear or following your bliss.
Francis has generously offered to give away three copies of Hike Your Own Hike: one hard-copy book, one eBook, and one audio book.
To win one of three copies of Hike Your Own Hike:
- Leave a comment on this post. (You must be a subscriber to win–it’s free to join the list!)
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You can enter until midnight PST on Sunday, March 25th. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still enter by completing the first step.
1. What inspired you to write Hike Your Own Hike?
Hiking the Appalachian Trail, a 2,168-mile footpath that goes from Maine to Georgia. For four months, I backpacked, communed with nature, and slept in the woods. All that time gave me time to think about life and how to get the most out of it. Later, I would walk across America three more times.
2. You’re a Harvard MBA, an entrepreneur, and a world traveler. What are three things we couldn’t learn about you through a Google search?
- No matter where I am, I take my shoes off whenever I sit down.
- I exercise (usually by going for a run) 360 days per year.
- I read one book per week.
3. You’ve certainly had some unique experiences, from your business pursuits to your extensive travels. Would you say this journey across the Appalachian Trail was your greatest adventure to date, or was it something else—and why?
Doing a round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail was an even bigger adventure than the Appalachian Trail because it was nearly three times longer and took seven months. I was the first person to yo-yo the CDT.
Recently, I returned from my latest adventure: three years of exploring Eastern Europe to write my newest book, The Hidden Europe. My biggest adventure is coming up: I plan to visit all 54 countries in Africa over three years.
4. Your book urges people to get outside their comfort zones and create meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Why do you think we often struggle to do this?
Because homo sapiens evolved to not rock the boat when their basic needs are met. If you’ve got food, shelter, and safety, why embark on a crazy journey that could make you lose all that?
Most cavemen who embarked on such risky endeavors didn’t survive long enough to pass down their adventurous genes. So we’re mostly the descendents of a conservative species; indeed, most living things are pretty conservative.
However, in the modern world, where our basic needs are easier than ever to meet and tigers aren’t about to attack you on the street, we can afford to take bigger risks, yet we don’t because of our ancient programming.
5. You’ve explored seven main lessons in your book. Can you summarize them here?
- Hike Your Own Hike: listen to what others advise you, but do what feels good/right for you.
- Beware of Summit Fever: live below your financial means.
- Hike with Passion: make your job your passion.
- Learn from Trail Lore: before hiking with passion, learn from history (from others).
- Eat Well, Walk Hard, Sleep Soundly: take care of your body.
- Perform Trail Magic: practice random acts of kindness.
- The Hike is Too Important to Take Seriously: have perspective and decode life events in a positive fashion.
6. You explain that living in the wilderness is a form of meditation. Can you expand on this?
Look at all the wise people throughout history. Where have they found their wisdom? Religious figures such as Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, and the Buddha spent some of their most profound moments in the wilderness.
The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years. That’s a metaphor for seeking wisdom. Muhammad reflected in a cave on Mount Hira. Henry David Thoreau spent a couple of years next to Walden Pond.
In short, fifteen-minute meditation breaks are wonderful and one-week meditation retreats are also useful, but spending weeks/months in the wilderness will take you to another level. And it’s probably less expensive than you imagine.
7. In Chapter 2, you talk about the value of freedom. What is one simple thing we can all do today to start creating a sense of freedom in our lives?
Examine a reoccurring expense in your life (coffee habit, cable, alcohol/smoking/shopping habit) and get rid of it. Calculate what would happen over the course of a year—how much money/time would you save? How will it feel to no longer be a slave to that unnecessary expense?
Soon you will either escape from your prison of debt or you will build a financial buffer that will allow you spread your wings and fly to where you really want to be (e.g., a new career, location, way of life).
8. In Chapter 5, you talk about questioning our beliefs, assumptions, and conclusions. Why is this so important—in hiking, and in life?
Because most of what we believe we believe without knowing why we believe it or if it really makes sense. When you travel to a foreign land (e.g.: wilderness or a strange country), you learn that many of your assumptions and beliefs are not axioms.
Challenge your beliefs and stretch yourself. Death is one of the most positive forces in the universe. Perhaps more than any other force, death motivates us to live and to rethink our behavior. Death compels us to live more meaningful lives. It can be death of a loved one or our own brush with death (or a doctor telling us that we will die soon). Don’t wait for Death—question your assumptions and life now.
9. What advice would you offer to someone who wants to experience the excitement and adventure of traveling, but has limited time and resources?
Start locally. So many people have hardly explored their own neighborhood. Begin with a three-hour stroll around an unfamiliar place near your home. Interact with people, observe the surroundings, and ask yourself, “What can I learn from this new environment?”
Then expand that circle of exploration. Challenge yourself by going camping during a rainstorm with the objective to be as happy as you can be, to see the joy of living even during a downpour. With such adventures, you’ll expand your mind and soul.
10. What is the main message you hope people take away from Hike Your Own Hike?
To optimize your life by living fully, not settling for an existence that is shallow and meaningless. It’s depressing to see how many people waste their life by watching brainless TV shows and doing jobs that they hate.
Others are content living a life that’s a 7 out of 10. That’s fine, but what if you want to live a life that’s a 9 or 10 out of 10? For practical tips on exactly how to do that, read Hike Your Own Hike. It’s hard to summarize all the practical steps in a short interview. I’ll leave you with one quote:
“Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up.” ~Anthony de Mello, Jesuit Priest
Read more about Hike Your Own Hike here.
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