Un­bro­ken jour­ney

The Fiji Times - - VOYAGE - By John Kamea ([email protected]­jitimes.com.fj)

Tor­b­jorn Ped­er­sen is a reg­u­lar guy with a crazy mis­sion.

The Dan­ish ad­ven­turer hopes to be­come the first man in his­tory to travel to ev­ery coun­try in the world in one un­bro­ken jour­ney without fly­ing.

He started this am­bi­tious jour­ney in 2013 as part of a project called Once Upon A Saga, and six years later, he vis­ited Fiji in late De­cem­ber 2019, his 192nd coun­try.

To put things in per­spec­tive, only 215 peo­ple in his­tory have been to ev­ery coun­try in the world, 560 peo­ple have been to space and more than 6000 have as­cended Mt Ever­est.

“Only 215 have been to ev­ery coun­try on earth. That rep­re­sents a very small club, but no­body has done it without fly­ing,” said Tor­b­jorn, who is nick­named Thor, the sec­ond might­i­est of all the Norse Gods who con­trolled thun­der and light­en­ing.

“What I’m do­ing is a very unique and dif­fi­cult at­tempt but it will be his­tor­i­cal.”

While trav­el­ling, Thor, a Good­will Am­bas­sador for the Dan­ish Red Cross, pro­motes the work of the world’s largest hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tion and vis­its in-coun­try Red Cross of­fices.

He also hopes to be a source of in­spi­ra­tion for bil­lions of peo­ple around the world.

“I’m also try­ing to in­spire peo­ple be­cause what I’m do­ing is un­be­liev­ably com­pli­cated. It takes a lot of time, en­ergy and fo­cus, but it is pos­si­ble.”

“When­ever you give up in life you don’t get what you want, that’s the mes­sage that’s com­ing across with this project. I hope that peo­ple might be in­spired to never give up just like how I’ve never given up.”

Thor pro­files coun­tries he vis­its and shares pos­i­tive in­for­ma­tion about its food, cul­ture, his­tory, art and re­li­gion, among other things.

“Peo­ple are afraid of trav­el­ling to cer­tain coun­tries be­cause of nega­tive things. But the re­al­ity is all around the world, peo­ple are just peo­ple, they are hu­man at the very core and not every­one is hos­tile.”

In the past six years, Thor has done more trav­el­ling on land than by sea.

He trav­els by sea when con­nect­ing two con­ti­nents, and when vis­it­ing the scat­tered coun­tries of the Pa­cific and the Caribbean.

“I have been on ev­ery­thing that floats — con­tainer ships, fish­ing boats, shrimp trawlers, yachts, pri­vate sail­boats, ba­nana boats and cruise ships. I don’t really care what I float on. My main aim is to get to ev­ery coun­try without fly­ing, even if

I have to travel on the back of a tur­tle.”

Thor misses his fi­ancée and fam­ily who keep re­mind­ing him he has been away for too long.

“I miss home, but I’ve never been home­sick. If you are home sick then you stop func­tion­ing and the only cure is go­ing back home. I don’t feel like that, but I think of home all the time. I want to speak my lan­guage, eat my home food, and see my friends and fam­ily.”

“I have a fi­ancée back home and I want to wake up next to her. I have two younger sis­ters and both my par­ents are in their 70s. I com­mu­ni­cate with all of them of­ten, but they com­plain be­cause it has been too long. I was hop­ing to fin­ish af­ter four years, but my jour­ney has taken over six years.”

Thor says his mis­sion has had its shares of ups and downs. He has ex­pe­ri­enced nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, bouts of food poi­son­ing and cere­bral malaria but none of th­ese chal­lenges has been able to send him out of the game.

He agrees Fiji is a beau­ti­ful place, but be­lieves the peo­ple are what make it spe­cial.

“This is a great place to do things, to be hon­est. You are very mod­ern, you’ve got ev­ery­thing and the internet is cheap.”

“The hu­man el­e­ment is very im­por­tant to me. Coun­tries can be beau­ti­ful, but they are just stones, seas, rocks and trees. The thing that makes a coun­try in­ter­est­ing is its peo­ple.

“If you have peo­ple who are open and friendly then you have a good coun­try. Fiji has friend­li­ness and peace, and be­cause of that you have pros­per­ity, you can get stuff done and fo­cus on what’s im­por­tant in life.”

Thor, who vis­ited his 193rd coun­try (Mar­shall Is­lands) on New Year’s Eve 2019, has 10 more coun­tries to go to, in­clud­ing New Zealand, Aus­tralia, Palau, Tonga, Samoa and Tu­valu.

He will be back in Fiji in May and is ex­pected to re­turn to Den­mark by the mid­dle of the year, af­ter vis­it­ing his last coun­try, the Mal­dives.

When asked for a mes­sage to the peo­ple of Fiji, Thor chose to talk on friend­ship.

“The world is a lot of bet­ter than the image it has. Most things on this planet are con­trary to what peo­ple think. Most peo­ple are just peo­ple and the world is a lot safer than what you think it is.

“I want peo­ple to know that a stranger is a friend you’ve never met be­fore. When you meet some­one you’ve never met be­fore, there’s no rea­son to think they will harm or do bad to you, but there’s ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve that some­one is a po­ten­tial friend.”

I have been on ev­ery­thing that floats — con­tainer ships, fish­ing boats, shrimp trawlers, yachts, pri­vate sail­boats, ba­nana boats and cruise ships. I don’t really care what I float on. My main aim is to get to ev­ery coun­try without fly­ing, even if I have to travel on the back of a tur­tle

Picture: JOHN KAMEA

Thor dur­ing an interview at the Fiji Red Cross head­quar­ters in Suva.

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