Jovago Pakistan interviewed Francis, a travel blogger and lover from U.S.
Let us start with a formal introduction. Who is Francis?
I’m a world citizen who was born in San Francisco, California, USA. I can claim that “world citizen” title more than most: my mom is from Chile, my dad was from France, and my wife is from Africa.
I often say that if I have a child, she will be born in Pakistan.
It’s one of the only Asian countries that give automatic citizenship when you are born there. This practice is common in the Americas, but unpopular in Asia. (See the map when you research jus soli.)
I have 3 passports, so my child would have 4 and maybe even 5 if she can get one from Cameroon.
Then my child would be a true global citizen: Pakistan, USA, Chile, France, and Cameroon!
How and when you developed an interest in traveling?
As you can see from my international background, my interest in traveling is in my DNA. I had to leave the continent to see either side of my family.
How you plan and manage your finances for traveling?
What is that triggers you to travel to an entirely new destination?
Simple: if it’s someplace that I have never been to, then I want to go there! In the case of Pakistan, I haven’t been there, so I want to see most of it!
While visiting a new destination what two things your love to explore the most?
I like to see the extremes: the big cities and the wilderness. By focusing on those two extremes, you will see all the stuff in between (if you travel by land). Example: in Pakistan, I’d love to Karachi and K2.
How do you plan your destinations?
The United States has only two neighbors (Mexico and Canada) and even those two neighbors are far away.
Therefore, when I travel, I prefer going for months or years. The plane flight is expensive. The buses are not.
For example, in the 2020s, I plan to visit all the countries of West and Central Asia. I plan to start in Pakistan and then just travel west to see about 25 countries.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the police almost always demand bribes to let you pass through checkpoints. I was tired of it. So once I offered just 10 cents. The policeman looked at the bill and said, “This is too small!”
I grabbed it out of his hands and said, “Maybe it’s too small for you, but it’s worth something to me. I’ll keep it. Now open the gate!”
He looked at me incredulously, but he opened the gate and let me through without a bribe.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I was burglarized 3 days ago in Tanzania. They broke into the house I was staying in. They didn’t take as much as they could have. I was lucky. They were in a rush. It’s the second time I was burglarized in Africa in the last 4.5 years.
How do you manage when interacting with people without speaking their language?
I learn the basics to at least start with a good impression. Just saying marhabaan in Pakistan will make locals feel better. Then, it’s all about tone and gestures. Using a map helps too, if you’re looking for directions.
Which destination you felt is not actually like you had imagined before?
Most of Africa’s Islamic countries (Mauritania, Mali, Libya, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, etc.) are not nearly as scary as the media makes you think. I traveled through all of them. They’re far safer than most people imagine.
Any 3 money saving tips you would like to share while traveling?
Travel with ultralight camping gear (sleeping bag, pad, and tarp) so you can camp anywhere.
Hitchhike (here are some hitchhiking tips)
Eat street food – it’s fresh and not as dangerous as you think
What do you like the most about traveling?
The discovery and adventure.
What do you dislike about traveling?
Crossing borders and applying for visas.
What do you take back from your expeditions?
Just good memories, stories, and photos. I always write about it. I’m not a materialist so I rarely buy souvenirs. I’m never home to enjoy them. But I bring gifts to others.
Your trips low in the pocket or you like to make it extravagant?
They’re low because I prefer traveling for a long time (years) than traveling for 1 week and living like a king.
Did you ever think of traveling to Pakistan?
Often! It’s where I hope to start my Heart of Islam trip! I dream of seeing K2. I’m getting too old to climb it.
If “YES”, then what was the major reason or factor which made you to think of traveling to Pakistan?
It’s part of my dream to understand Islamic nations. The American media is biased. Polls indicate that there are so many misunderstandings between Western society and Islamic ones. I would like to help write about them and dispel myths on both sides.
If you get a chance to visit Pakistan what are the 3 destination you would prioritize to explore?
Karachi, K2, Nanga Parbat (the ninth-highest mountain on Earth), and the rest of the Karakoram range.
What is Pakistan’s current perception in International travelers and international travel blogger’s community?
Of course, it’s still negative. I hope to help change that in the 2020s.
Any message for our readers?
Don’t be afraid of traveling to Islamic countries. As the American writer Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
And with this, the interview session for Francis came to an end.