Torbjørn C. Pedersen is on a journey to address environmental concerns, showing round-the-world trips are possible without boarding an airplane
Though the world does seem to get smaller and smaller everyday – thanks to cheaper flights, and more accessible and affordable travelling options – the carbon footprint for travellers and tourists increases on an exponential scale around the world. Travelling, too, leaves an impact on the environment, and can have negative consequences for the climate. It is key to learning about new cultures, exploring different spaces, and having a more open, global mindset. Travelling can help enrich one’s life, and is a perfect way of challenging oneself in new environments. Now, the latest trend is not to stop travelling altogether, but to find new, alternative, carbon-free ways of roaming the globe; effectively being at peace with the environment while still exploring new spaces.
Embarking on an epic journey
Born in Denmark, Torbjørn C. Pedersen (known as Thor to his followers, friends, and colleagues) has embarked on a journey in 2013 to be the first person to go around the world (visiting over 194 countries) without once boarding an aircraft, using forms of transportation on land and sea alone.
He embarked on a journey with the goal of spending more than 24 hours in each country, and to visit every country without once boarding an aircraft. One of the biggest reasons he chose to undertake such a journey is simply because the act is possible, and the goal is to do what no one has ever done before. “Doing something new is exciting, and it turns out that it serves as a source of inspiration and motivation for many. […] Not everyone is inspired to visit new countries, and it makes me wonder where inspiration really comes from,” he writes. One of his personal heroes is mountaineer George Mallory, who wished to summit Mount Everest simply because it was there. Torbjørn’s goal, too, is to attempt the impossible simply because the challenge is already present.
Once upon a Saga
Torbjørn also records his travels on a blog, titled ‘Once Upon a Saga’, where he writes his ‘one-man journey to visit every country in the world, without the use of flights, while bringing some attention towards the well-meaning people of the planet’. His blog begins with a simple yet heart-warming statement, “a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before”. He is able to fund his travels by donations to the Danish Red Cross, and he was made a Goodwill Ambassador of the Danish Red Cross, and works as an ambassador to promote the generosity of the Red Cross. He also aims to break a number of stereotypes that people have about countries that they have never visited before. Thanks to the appeal of sensationalist media, news cycles highlight gritty news from countries around the world, choosing to focus on disasters, conflicts, corruption, and other horror stories.
Torbjørn’s journey focuses on everyday life in each country, and the sheer generosity and kindness of people around the world, no matter which region he visited. “I have found so far that most everyone we share this planet with are good, well-meaning people with good intentions. Most people want to carve out a small part of the world for themselves. Is it newsworthy? Not really, but it represents the vast majority of everyone on this planet,” he adds, pointing out the simple fact that most populations are not how the media portrays them to be, and highlights the idea that, at the heart of it, most people have similar goals and values to work towards.
He also hopes to inspire other travellers to take on seemingly impossible trips, and point out that there is no real barrier to stop them from undertaking a life-changing journey. “By the end of my journey, I will have proven to people that it is possible to reach an impossible goal, if you never give up and fight for it. I will also have proven that the world is a better place than what most people believe,” he mentioned in an interview with Trift.
Challenges on the journey
Torbjørn aims to shed light on every country in the world, and give some form of positive representation to every population that we share the Earth with. However, this journey was not always easy or pleasant. “I don’t know many who would enjoy traveling for six years straight, and most people get travel fatigue after 12-18 months, and then come home,” he adds.
There are many challenges that he has to keep up with, and keep an eye out for, from handling a daily budget, to staying healthy on the road, to dealing with border control every time he enters a new country. “I am constantly exposed to new bacteria and viruses, so I cannot avoid getting sick, though I try my best to eat healthy, stay hydrated, and maintain a high level of personal hygiene. Most things can be treated with food, water, and some painkillers, and if it gets serious, I seek out a local clinic,” he adds, sharing the challenge of maintaining one’s health while on the road for six years.
Border control, too, can be difficult to manoeuvre. “Quite recently, I had to apply for a visa to the US, as a ship I will be travelling with will pass through US territory and it is required that I have a visa to be on board. The process got extra complicated as I had already been to every country that the US had blacklisted, so I couldn’t apply for a regular visa,” he explained, pointing out that the journey has not been smooth sailing. However, with these travels, he hopes to make future journeys easier, and to shed light on the nuances of each and every country – every region is filled with rich cultures and populations that are generous and kind-hearted, with a fanatic few overwhelming mainstream media with sensationalist views that warps the perception of global audiences.
Another challenge is travelling on a low budget, in order to make the journey more affordable and accessible. “My goal was to travel the world on a $20/day budget, which covers meals, transport, accommodation and visas. It’s possible because a lot of the world is pretty cheap to live in, if you buy local food and use local forms of transport,” he explains. By working with the local population, Torbjørn was able to sleep in friends’ houses for most of the journey, negating the cost for accommodation, further proving the fact that most people are willing to lend a helping hand to an absolute stranger, instead of barring their doors.
For Torbjørn, the most daunting aspect of the trip, back in 2013, was not knowing if he would survive the journey. Now, seven years later, he’s able to say with confidence that he’s worked with Red Cross around the world, and that he achieved an impossible goal – reaching every country on the globe without flying.
“After the trip, there are a number of countries that I’d like to visit for a longer time, including Algeria, South Africa, Iraq, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Pakistan, Mexico, Argentina, and so many more,” he adds. The journey was done for humanitarian purposes, and he aims to visit many places again, for leisure.
For those looking to travel in a similar fashion, Torbjørn shares a few tips and tricks to make the journey much easier. “For information on train travel, I recommend people look up, ‘the man in seat 61’. In India, ‘Redbus’ is a must-have app on the phone. Don’t be afraid to speak with the local population, to make your travels easier and more affordable,” he concludes.
He has shared a detailed map of his travels, and posted throughout his journey on his blog, Once Upon a Saga, and has shared the journey on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Pictures provided courtesy of Torbjørn C. Pedersen.
Despite working on a project that seemed too daunting to even take up, he was able to work on such a scale by handling his project with one small goal at a time, using smaller steps to achieve a much bigger picture. With this trip, certain social stigma around specific countries has been removed, making the world that much more accessible to the everyday individual. Travelling helps create new perceptions, and helps open up the mind, and Torbjørn has helped make travelling that much simpler.
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