Hike Your Own Hike by Francis Tapon

Hike your own Hike by Franscis Tpon

Despite its title, Hike Your Own Hike, is not just another Appalachian Trail memoir. It’s a book about applying the lessons of the trail to everyday life and giving yourself the freedom to be happy.

Anyone who’s backpacked for a few hundred miles comes to realize that you can get by, quite happily, without a lot of stuff. The truth is, you don’t need a Range Rover or an Escalade, you don’t need a TV set in every room of your house, and you don’t need a cabin cruiser or a ski house in the mountains. A lot of us get caught up in making enough money to buy these things, raise a family, or put our kids through college, but become miserable wrecks in the process. Is that happiness?

Who is Francis Tapon?

Francis is a triple crown backpacker, who’s hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail (the last twice, back to back). He’s a vegetarian and a super ultralight backpacker. He’s got an ivy league education, a Harvard MBA, and had a successful business career before chucking it all to travel, hike, and write full time.

Francis figured out that he wasn’t happy with his job and his life. He’d walk down the halls at work and ask himself, is this really what I want to do the rest of my life? So he minimized his expenses and his material possessions, applying the lessons he learned as an ultralight thru-hiker to his every day life.

What about you?

  • Do you feel like your life is stagnant?
  • Do you feel like you’re going nowhere?
  • Do you dread going to work in the morning?

Inflection Points

By hiking the Appalachian Trail, Francis gave himself 4 months to find out if he could get more out of life. This became his inflection point, where he let himself pursue a radically different direction in life.  In doing so, Francis discovered his true passion is to be a travel writer, book author, and backpacker.

Understandably, Francis’ new, itinerant lifestyle is not for everyone, and hiking the AT might not be your inflection point. Francis gets that.

But what Hike Your Own Hike is about, is giving yourself permission to take a break from the everyday groove that you’ve worked yourself into, to try something different that might make you a lot more happy. It’s about reducing the level of fear we all experience when we question our life-course and consider alternative options.

On a Personal Note

Just weeks before I read Hike Your Own Hike, I decided to create an inflection point in my own life and career, in an astoundingly similar manner to the path that Francis recommends in his book. I came to the conclusion that there were things more important to me than making money and the accumulation of material possessions. So, I’ve gone out on a limb and taken a 3 month leave of absence from my job to pursue a simpler lifestyle, with more time for me and my family.

There’s no doubt in my mind that lightweight backpacking and the freedom and self-reliance that it’s built in me, helped me see another path for my life. So it was uncanny to read Hike Your Own Hike, which comes to the same conclusion and recommended course of action.

Disclosure: Sectionhiker received a complementary electronic copy of this book from the author.

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  1. Thank you for the review!

    I'm glad that you make clear that this book isn't a travelogue that describes the day-in-day-out challenges of thru-hiking the AT. There are several excellent books that do that already.

    Instead, it uses the AT as metaphor for life, showing that each step of the journey teaches something philosophical.

    Congratulations on having the courage to take 3 months off. Please share what you learn after those 3 months.

    Happy trails!

    Francis Tapon

  2. My pleasure Francis. Reading HYOH reaffirmed my resolve to make a major lifestyle change. It was great to read about own experience doing this.

    5 days to go at work and I'm out. Then the real work starts!

    Shedding 30 years of accumulated crap, restructuring finances to reduce household expenses, a 150 mile section hike on the AT in southern Maine, start a few new web properties, rebuild my personal yoga practice, write a few books.

    The focus is on lifestyle simplification and doing one thing at a time without an overwhelming amount of interrupt driven madness.

    The hardest part of this will be to celebrate all progress, and not be too critical about falling back into well-honed patterns. The key is to be able to recognize when you have strayed from the new "trail", and work yourself back onto the path you want to take.

    Be in touch!

  3. What's cool about having a public blog is that you can announce your goals to the world (even if nobody is listening/reading). This makes it easier for you (and anyone else) to track your progress and remind yourself of your goals.

    Often we take our goals more seriously if we announce them to others. We're less likely to get off the trail we want to be on (unless, of course, we find an even better trail!). ;)

  4. Yet another book I want to get!

    I think I have sort of started on this. In my "real life" I'm a lawyer with my own law practice. The woman I share a suite with has young kids & only works 4 days a week. I have no kids but I wondered why only mothers could get away with working 4 days. So, I decided that I would only work 4 days a week. And not 4 ten hour days, just 4 normal days. With email and things, I can respond to clients if they need me on Fridays, and since I do Wills and things I'm not in Court and bound by their schedule.

    At first I felt weird when I'd see other attorneys posting that they were working at 9pm on a Friday or chatting with a friend who was finally getting home at 8pm, bringing work with her. I thought there was something wrong with me because I wasn't working all the time. But then I realized that it was ok if I wasn't like that. And I discovered that there were other attorneys who realized that they too wanted more life and less work.

    I just want a practice that supports my life, not one that is my life. And I don't want a lifestyle that is so expensive to maintain that I can't leave it.

    If you find your way to Hingham, check out Dancing Crow Yoga, they are a great studio!

  5. I am going to get a Prana Pass and zip on down there. I enjoyed going through the yoga postings on your blog last night. I think you made the right choice with the 4 day week. With yoga, biking and hiking, you seem to be enjoying yourself.

  6. Leanna,

    A lawyer from Oregon told me how my book inspired her to pursue her dream of traveling for free. On the side, she worked to become a flight attendant.

    She took a pay cut and had to bill far fewer hours, but she loved flying across the country and internationally too. She liked the flexibility because she could set her schedule, so if she had lots of legal work, she wouldn't fly for months.

    A lawyer/flight attendant: now that's hiking your own hike! ;)

  7. Congratulations Philip!

    I quit my job, and my career, in April. After 20 years of writing software and stomping bugs I came to the inescapable conclusion that there was more to life than endless days pounding on a keyboard.

    I've spent the last four months hiking, cycling, gardening, simplifying, and catching up on life. I'm not there yet, haven't quite figured out what the next phase will be, but taking the first step has been incredibly liberating.

    May I also recommend "Work Less, Live More" by Bob Clyatt.

    The best things in life are not things.

  8. I've got to say how impressed with Tapon's accomplishments, but after reading his book the only thing I could think of was the amount of time I wasted reading it. It was soooooo boring. Let me summarize for you, save money but cutting out frivilous things in life and go and enjoy yourself. I won't be buying another one of his books even though I'd follow his trips.

  9. I'm all for LIVING life. I feel like I am often confused because I rarely meet people with the same aspirations, I have trouble understanding why everyone isn't into backpacking :). Last summer I hiked 1,400 miles of the PCT, and came back with a fresh attitude on life, especially after meeting and camping with Billy Goat. On September 14th I'm moving to France for two months to live in a small town called Tillac and help a family out with their small touristy inn where they are working on sustainable living. Check it out, it's through a website called workaway.info, as long as I work 25 hours a week, doing gardening and light construction, they will put me up and give me all my meals. Another website worth checking out is wwoof.org, which is the same kind of gig. I actually met some wwoof'ers when I hiked the West Coast Trail a few weeks ago. They ran a garden near the trail and cooked for hikers, very cool. I'm very interested in learning skills to live a sustainable life and there is no better way to learn than staying on an eco-friendly touristy spot in France where they are attempting to become sustainable themselves!

  10. Brian: Congrats on your moves!

    Shannon: Sorry that my book wasn't for you. That's why I have 1/7th of the book on my website for a free download: so people can read the start and see if it's for them.

    My second book is so different that it's possible that people who didn't like the first will like the second and vice versa. Feel free to read the first three chapters of that and see if you're bored: http://francistapon.com/ee

    If you don't like that one either, then yes, you should use my future books for fire kindling. ;)


  11. Brian – thanks for those links. Way cool.

    Rob – 22 years for me in software. Same old gets very boring. Glad to hear you are enjoying your freedom so much. I'll check out that book. My wife just approved a 3 day backpack, so hurricane permitting, I'll be out there soon too. :-)

    @Shannon – Francis' book is very different than what I expected when I started reading it, but it did resonate with me. Perfect timing, I guess. Appreciate the comment, still.

  12. Very well written and concise review of a book that really holds a lot of chunky good life nuggets.

    Francis' book really is a nice blend between life, and long-distance hiking. Inspirational, thought-provoking, excellent.

    I picked up Francis' book after talking to the "Jacks" at Jacks'R'Better, a company that specializes in lightweight down backpacking quilts & hammocks. They had just decided to sponsor me for my upcoming PCT thru-hike (2011), and told me the last person they had decided to sponsor in that way was Francis. I was humbled, especially after reading his book.

    Great read, highly recommended.


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