Today, Torbjørn Pedersen finally disembarked in the Maldives, almost ten years after the start of an incredible journey. The 44-year-old has now visited every country in the world without flying. No one else has done that before him.
Updated 23/05/2023 13:07
We meet Torbjørn Pedersen as he disembarks in the Maldives on 23 May at 1.57pm local time.
– This has been an incredible adventure, but now I am completely exhausted. I’m going to sleep for a month and then take the world’s longest shower, grins Danish Thorbjørn Pedersen.
He turns to take in the MSS Graphene one last time. We wrote about the 44-year-old’s goals for the first time in 2016. By then he had been traveling for three years. Now seven more have passed, and he is finally at the finish line.
The blue and white cargo ship is at anchor a few hundred meters outside Malé, which is both the country’s capital and one of the Maldives’ 1,192 islands. A light boat has shuttled him to the dock in the very last country.
– Scary to go back to a normal life
The question that is mandatory after every five-mile in Kollen presses on, even if this blood-straining has taken 44,000 times as long. How does it feel now?
– I would like to return to a normal life, but it is a bit scary, and I am a bit nervous, says Pedersen. It has taken a toll mentally that the journey has dragged on. As early as 2015, he was close to giving up, but gritted his teeth and has had to do the same countless times since.
Then the serious frown turns into a broad smile.
– But now a party awaits!
It has been long overdue. The plan was to spend “only” four years, but a demanding route, constantly changing visa rules and the pandemic meant that the journey took much longer than planned. Along the way, his girlfriend Le also became his wife.
– I proposed on top of Mount Kenya in 2016. We had intended to celebrate the wedding at home in Denmark, but because of the pandemic I was stuck in Hong Kong, and only spouses were allowed to visit, he says.
Thus, they got married via the internet, and Le was able to travel to the British ex-colony that became his home for over two years.
Budget? NOK 220 a day
In the 3,513 days since the starting shot went off in Copenhagen on 10 October 2013, the patient husband has visited Pedersen 26 times, twice in Hong Kong.
She is of course among the dozen guests who will be celebrating Torbjørn’s feat for three days to the end at Oblu Xperience, a real Maldivian resort surrounded by turquoise seas and chalk-white beaches.
There hasn’t been much of this kind of luxury since 2013, since the budget has been NOK 220 a day. He has managed to maintain that by shopping for food at local markets and staying overnight in cheap hotels or at friends’ homes.
He has been a goodwill ambassador for the Red Cross and, in that connection, has given lectures in around 50 countries about his hardships, intercultural observations and why he has concluded through introspection that people all over the world are really quite similar. At the same time, he has talked about inequalities and climate challenges, but also opportunities.
In total, he has collected over NOK 250,000 for the aid organisation.
– It means a lot to be able to help others who are not as privileged as us. Although I would have liked to have been able to collect one kroner per kilometer. The GPS, which has logged my entire journey, shows 359,957 kilometres, he says.
The distance corresponds to nine times around the Earth at the equator
The Canadian documentary maker Mike Douglas has been following the modern Viking for several weeks to make a feature film about the crazy journey. The project itself has been named “Once Upon a Saga”, and the motto is “a stranger is a friend you have not yet met”.
Then the Dane has met thousands of people in 203 countries. Altogether, there have been 1,263 stages spread over, among other things, 351 buses, 158 trains, 37 container ships, three sailboats and one police car. But thanks to a friendly gesture in the latter, not as arresting. And therefore zero flights.
He wanted to do something no one had done before, and he can now boast of being the first to visit every country in the world without setting foot in a flying vehicle.
It has become at least 24 hours in each and every country, with an average time of 17 days in each. Naturally, he spent the longest time in Hong Kong, while he also spent over a hundred days in Lebanon and Fiji due to waiting for visas and means of transport.
Slow travel has become a trend, but…
“Slow travel” has gradually become a trend, but few stretch the term as far as the steadfast world explorer.
Now even he has had enough, at least almost. Because even though the last country has been visited, he refuses to fly until he is back in his home country for the first time since the starting gun went off.
There he is looking forward to finally meeting friends, family and new uncles. Pedersen is working on a book, but has so many stories to choose from that there may soon be at least two.
Otherwise, the globetrotter has the benefit of getting corona, despite hundreds of required tests. The container ships are strict before passengers are allowed on board.
However, he has contracted malaria, but not so badly that he had to be hospitalized. And in Hong Kong he took up a job in the Danish sailors’ church just as well.
Have you heard of slow travel? It could become the new way we travel in the future.
Going to fly on the next holiday
He is already sought after as a speaker, the calendar is about to fill up. The importance of willpower is expected to be a consistent theme from Danish speakers. First of all, a hero’s reception awaits at the end of July in Ålborg. There are four container ships away.
After that, there will be a lot of relaxation going forward. And few slow-moving journeys.
– My next holiday? Strictly speaking, it will be the first in ten years, and then Le and I will fly. But not too far, perhaps to Bergen. I love the Norwegian Westland!
Then there is the question of whether Thor, as he is called outside the Nordic countries, gets time for holiday activities or whether he is allowed to walk the streets in peace at all. As early as tomorrow, interviews await with the British BBC, the Australian ABC and a number of other TV stations both in the Maldives and elsewhere in the world.