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autobiography, urban planning, international dev’pt, consulting career, South/Southeast Asia, Indonesia, value-based approach

Off the Beaten Path
Autobiography of an Urban Planner's Sojourn Through Fourteen World Cities
by John Lewis Taylor

Dr. John Taylor’s compelling memoir illustrates the life most people only dream of: traveling and living abroad while working in a profession that creates real change in the world. Off the Beaten Path tells the story of Taylor’s evolution from his Quaker upbringing to a multi-faceted career as an urban planner and consultant. After spending several years working in poverty-stricken Calcutta and Patna during times of calamity, Taylor examines the lessons from his five-decade career and forty years working in Asian countries, including India, Thailand, Malaysia and Kazakhstan. Throughout the book, he effortlessly weaves together vignettes of family life, adapting to new cultures, the tensions between his personal and professional values, and his post-career identity. Ultimately, for this transcultural nomad, the question of "where is home" resonates throughout a life rich with experiences.


John Taylor is a senior development planning professional. His experiences as a wandering professional, his principles, values, emotions, successes and failures are all laid out before us. If you also are a long-termer in development like me, you will find empathy here with his search for excellence and meaning. If you are contemplating or have started a life in international development, you will find that the world has changed, but the tensions between his idealism and experience and the ebb and flow of the values that drove him will contain messages to help you on your way. Owen Podger, Professional Associate, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra

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John Lewis Taylor was born in 1935 in Evanston, Illinois, and raised in a Quaker family. His first degree was from Oberlin College and he obtained his MSc in City Planning from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He obtained his PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA, with a focus on urban planning in developing countries. His previous publications include Urban Planning Practice in Developing Countries, 1982; “Evaluation of Selected Impacts of the Jakarta Kampung Improvement Program,” Ph.D. dissertation at UCLA, 1983; “Shelter Upgrading for the Urban Poor: Evaluation of Third World Experience,” 1987 and “Indonesia’s Urban Infrastructure Development Experience: Critical Lessons of Good Practice,” 1995. He lives with his wife, Paulina Hutabarat, in Jakarta, Indonesia.


John Lewis Taylor
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