Traveling the world isn't always fun
I've had my fair share of frustrations - haven't you?
There's this common misconception that it must be "so much fun" to spend your life traveling. I guess most people think of their 1-2 week vacations from normal life, where they spend up to usd 200/day and have a great time.
Now money isn't everything. We all know that and I'm sure Trump will work that out too sooner or later ;) You can have a ball without money and money isn't what this entry is about. Although I'd just quickly remind you that we will "soon" be launching a YUGE crowdfunding campaign and it's going to be THE BIGGEST and BEST you've ever seen!! Just kidding...but we are going to launch it and I hope you'll help keep the Saga going when the time comes. I'm not traveling for free as a lot of people seem to think? :)
The Sudanese Airforce showing off above Khartoum.
Why would traveling the world full time be anything else than normal on the emotional roller coaster? Sure, I've got some spectacular and unparalleled memories to look back on. But it also comes with everything else: Sadness, fatigue, doubt, disgust, surprise, failure, fear...on the other side I have joy, enlightenment, victory, success, love, friendship, laughter and so much more. Don't you? I imagine you do? I certainly had before leaving home 3 years and 5 months ago. Within the Saga I simply can't stay upbeat constantly with my eyes full of wonder. Anything can become ordinary here in life if you're exposed to it long enough. You can sleep next to a busy road or an airport and not even be bothered by the sound after some time. I've done both in my early youth back home in Denmark. As a student I had a cheap student apartment right next to a noisy road. After 3 days I was so tired that I just slept through it and it never bothered me again.
If Sudan ever ran out of tea (and sugar) then I recon it would be considered a national crisis ;)
I don't think I'll ever get used to looking into my fiancées eyes. And sunsets and rainbows haven't grown old yet. Some things stay delightful. But pushing myself everyday trying to deliver and complete the Saga does become old. A part of the problem is that I might be trying to deliver too much. If the Saga was for me alone then it wouldn't be "The Saga". Why would I even name it? I would cut out the Red Cross Red Crescent, I'd get rid of all social media and I would not have a target or a timeline. I'd just go wherever I wanted to go and leave whenever I wanted to leave. Then it would be for me. Some day I will get back home and then it will largely be for me. I'll look back at fond memories and I might even spin a dollar or two on all of this. But who's to say I'll get home? Who's to say I have what it takes to complete this insanely large project? Who's to say I won't get into my fatal last bus somewhere? Now please don't worry about any of that. I don not consider myself normal in the meaning of the word. I do believe I've got what it takes and that I'll cross the finish line some day. And meanwhile it's the journey and not the destination - right? ;) But man oh man...what a lonely journey this can be. In a mental sense...because I'm nearly always around people. But who on this planet can relate to what I feel considering having traveled 163,000 km (100,000 mi) across 4 continents and 126 countries on a flightless journey on a $20/day budget...without returning home? I can't explain it. But just as it has its unique rewards it also has its price.
David, Country Manager of GSS, has along with his staff been a tremendous support: www.gss-contracting.com
If you're familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow's pyramid) then we should be able to establish that I was quite high on that one when I decided to leave home. If I was to worried about shelter and food then I wouldn't do this to begin with. But just consider this; while I'm often told that "I chose this upon myself" I do find that I'm delivering quite the service to people all around the world. And if I wasn't doing this then you and everyone else wouldn't have the Saga. "So what's so important about this self righteous mission you have Thor?!? Aren't you just a little full of yourself?" I hear a voice ask...let's break it down:
There is (in my opinion) a large gap between how most people perceive the world and the world we actually live in. This is what I call "perception versus reality". I GUARANTEE you that the world is a far better and downright normal place than you could possibly imagine. Most people have no way of knowing that given the way the world is portrayed in the media. By definition the most sensational material makes it in "the news". And by definition most of the world is not sensational. So there you have it. Most people are just people trying to get by in life. Even in the most disappointing parts of the world you find friendship, schools, markets, workplaces, football, families, smiles, weather, food and all that makes up life. Try to picture a scale with hell at the bottom and heaven at the top. Life as we know it is somewhere in between. We all know that we're not living in the biblical portrayal of hell with fire and torture for ever. Likewise we are not free of decease, fear, hate, death, loss, hunger and we definitely don't have wings.
Curious kids near mosque. They wanted a selfie with me :)
So let's get back to the scale I was talking about. As I wrote we are somewhere in between and you can make up your own mind where to place us. What I argue is that you are placing us too low. Maybe not by much...but too low compared to reality. In other words your perception is rated below actual reality - and that's the gap I'm trying to close. If you're not ready to believe a man who has spent more than 3 years across more than half the world then I'm not your guy :)
My favorite street in Khartoum - I don't really know why? Just like being there.
Then there's the whole "every single country, in a single unbroken journey, completely without flight" thing. It has never been completed before although it has been attempted at least once. Is it significant? What the world get as Amundsen reached the South Pole for the first time in humanity? What did we win when they scaled Mount Everest, planet earths highest mountain, in 1953? If nothing else then we won a great deal of inspiration. These were people who did not give up even if it would cost them everything. They did the impossible until it was no longer impossible. While that might not hold great value to everyone it certainly does hold value for me. Great people and the likes of them. Don't you just sometimes feel like we live in a world where everything of significance has already been done by someone somewhere? Doesn't it somehow feel like everything has been said and done?
My friend Dafaalla on the left and our friend Abdalwahid (singer) on the right. At the recording studio.
Well, today "awesome" is an everyday word which can be used about a hamburger (thank you Eddie Izzard). Everyday you can see someone do something spectacular on YouTube, in the news or somewhere else. You can't "just" run a marathon anymore. You need to do it within an acceptable time or else some couch potato will say: "only 4 hours?" Honestly, how many people will ever have the determination to complete a 42.195 m (26.219 mi) run? Anyone who can should at least have some respect for their momentous achievement? But we're not like that anymore. It's all about the time. Or "when will you do an iron man?" On the flip side all of that naturally also comes down to your relationship with Maslow. But I think my point is valid; we are becoming numb to achievements.
That brings me to the Red Cross Red Crescent. It was founded in 1863 and spans across 190 countries today!! We are talking about 17 MILLION volunteers reaching 150 MILLION vulnerable people EVERY DAY!! It's like trying to comprehend infinity...or simply the distance to the sun. It's pretty hard to understand the momentous achievement which lies within the humanitarian work. The Red Cross Red Crescent is the worlds largest humanitarian organization in an ocean of humanitarian organizations. And to borrow something I recently heard, then the Red Cross Red Crescent are the ones with one eye open in the land of the blind. I can support that having visited and written about the movement in 124 countries by now. My heart bleeds for the work which is carried out and simultaneously I'm deeply frustrated with the lack of engagement regarding the Saga. I'm doing this for free! Not a penny of the Sagas budget comes from the movement. And I've walked through the doors of more than half the the countries where it's found. And yet I can say with certainty that almost no one knows that. I've visited the movement in 50 of Africa's 54 countries. And the last 4 do not know. How is that even possible? Why would the world not spread? It keeps my mind occupied and adds to the workload of singlehandedly spending time on communicating my arrival in advance, which is a lot harder than you might think. For one I need to combat the language barrier of people receiving an email who might not understand English. But also the Red Cross or Red Crescent does receive a fair bit of spam from people saying that they are in need or that they are Red Cross...when they are not. So who would believe an outrageous claim as mine: I have been to 126 countries without flying and your office is next. Trust me, I spend a fair amount of time explaining to the Red Cross Red Crescent in each country who I am and how this can benefit them. And just for the record I'm creating awareness, I'm inspiring and inviting volunteers and I'm inviting donations as well. Through the Saga we have collected €464 (usd 493) so far:
The 3G here is way slower than the 4G. I'll never get it all used (wanted to save money).
Let's move on to the social media. I'm unsure how many online followers we have now, but it must be around 30,000. Can you imagine the amount of questions coming from that many people? Not to ignore the constant flow of entertainment I need to upload on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and last but not least the blog. If nothing else then I have certainly proven than internet is available worldwide. 126 countries so far and probably the rest as well. I find myself fighting algorithms and staring into my smartphone more than I'd like to admit. What should I post? At what time? How much? How often? You might not know this, but there are certain times during the day that the average user is more active on various social media. And according to expert advise you need to upload "something" to Facebook every day in order to keep the algorithms happy. Just think about it? The Facebook account is approaching 20,000 followers and the best of the best content I can provide might get 400 likes while an average post gets between 50-100 likes. Does that sound right out of 20,000 people? It's the algorithms which dictate that you only get to see anywhere between 3-6% of the posts until it receives likes, shares and comments. That's why hardly anyone knows that you posted "my friend is looking for an apartment ". So please add a curtesy "like" one in a while so it will reach more people ;) I receive a lot of online love...but it's also a lot of work.
If you work for your goal - you'll reach it!
Finally we need to keep on keeping on. Africa is a wonderful full-sized continent with a lot of very different countries. I love this continent as much as any other. But please let me go now!!! I entered in April 2015 thinking that the 54 countries would take us 1 year and 2 weeks. Laughable today :) Especially the region known as Central Africa (which in a map is the armpit area on the west coast) drained me in anyway you can imagine. It literally broke me and I continued as a zombie for a while. I maintain that you won't know what I'm talking about even if you go there. Because it's incredibly beautiful, it's historically and culturally interesting, people are enormously sweet and I loved the food. But just try going overland between ALL of them without a break. Just try it ;) The bureaucracy is overwhelming and there's a fair amount of racism and power play from most authorities. And there are a lot of authorities there. However as a tourist your bound to have a wonderful time at paid resorts with your visas already settled from home. So don't stay away from there :)
Goal accomplished!! PS2 connected: gaming time ;)
It's visas, visas, visas for me on this continent. And a fair bit of travel permits in some regions. Your tour guide will handle all that nonsense for you. But I don't have a tour guide. What I do have is a "push on" attitude, a smile for most strangers and proof that A Stranger Is A Friend You've Never Met Before! ;) It's still hard enough though which brings us up to today. In Eritrea I got a transit visa for Sudan surprisingly easy. It only took a few hours in comparison with the 2 weeks it took while I was sick in Djibouti. Noticed what I just did there? ;) I do get sick from time to time, but in the big picture it's not that often. It's however never fun to be sick alone away from home. Now, from Eritrea I was trying to confirm when the train leaves from Khartoum (Sudan) to Wadi Halfa near the border of Egypt (north). There's only one train in Sudan and it leaves every second Saturday. How hard can it be to find out which date? You would be surprised. I texted a friend in Sudan and asked him to find out. "No problem" he said but the days went on. In Arabic you call that kind of people "Al Masura". You know, the people who are always late and and constantly underachieve. So after 3 4-5 days I grew impatient and asked someone I knew I could trust. I suspected that the train would be leaving on Saturday April 8th (and I was right), but my accountable friend corrected me and said it would leave on April 15th (which was wrong). But I trusted the information and after all where would we be in this world without trust? We simply can't do everything ourselves and as stated: How hard could it possibly be to confirm? I mean 1 train every 14 days? Oh well. So saddened by the news I still left Eritrea early enough to make the train on the 8th and possibly wait a week. You see I've got this dream of riding the train across Sudan up to Wadi Halfa, then board the overnight steamboat to Aswan in Egypt and continue with another train to Cairo. But you need to get it right: every 14 days. By the way, my Sudanese transit visa is only good for 14 days in Sudan so I don't have unlimited time. Besides I want to get a move on things so I was considering a bus to safe days...but I really wanted the train-ferry-train experience. You must be able to understand that?
Nadeem, Country Manager at Maersk Line, has likewise been a tremendous support! Here we are seen with the Pakistani Ambassador Zahid Ali after lunch at the Rotana luxury hotel: www.maerskline.com
Then there was some doubt if I could even get the visa for Egypt at the border? Tensions have lately been growing between the two countries (Sudan and Egypt). Some said I could and some said I couldn't? Who should I believe? Was online information updated? What did the embassy say? The Egyptian embassy in Eritrea had a really hard time giving me a response. And as I mentioned in last weeks entry: if the embassy can't tell you then who can? Eventually they came up with the answer that I could. But I've had false information from embassies before. The Egyptian consulate in Khartoum also said I could. Meanwhile they needed 3-4 weeks to give me a visa I had received in 4-5 HOURS just a month earlier. So something had changed? The interior ministry in Cairo first said I couldn't get the visa on the land border...but then days later said I could at a post called "Kastel" or "Qastal"? In either case I couldn't locate that border post online, but perhaps think it could be in Aswan having done a lot of research? What should I believe? Some said no problem while others said no way! And I do have prior experience turning up at a border and having to return to the capital I came from to get a visa. And sometimes that takes days! You won't believe how hard it can be to come by good trustworthy information sometimes? It's probably easier for you to relate to how quickly things can change in some countries. I was once working in Libya and left the country for a few weeks. After that I suddenly couldn't return without an Arabic translation of the first page? It's that kind of stuff. Oh yeah...spoiler alert: I've been to Libya before - but soon we're going back ;)
My Sudanese friends keep me sane...and sometimes drive me insane :)
I've reached a point where I'm going to the Egyptian border and we'll just see what happens. Hopefully its be fine and I'll pay usd 25, get my passport stamped and cross the border into country number 127. I've already made my bus reservation and ferry reservation. A bus because yesterday I was at the train station early in the morning hoping to get a ticket. And that's when I learned that the train left LAST SATURDAY!
Lunch or dinner? Can't remember. There's always enough and it's always good!
If you're wondering why it's taking so long for the crowdfunding campaign to come online then it's down to just two things now. Firstly my own bank doesn't want to create an account for it, because "we don't know where the money will be coming from". My bank was so unlucky to be involved in some media scandal with deposits of illicit money. Money laundering or something like that. Probably not my banks fault, but you know how the media can be. From personal media experience I can read that I'm traveling to every country in the world FOR FREE? And I'm only traveling with container ships - even to the landlocked countries? The Saga has been featured in media across more than 80 countries now so it's hard to keep up. The second issue delaying us is that I want a smashing video to go along with the campaign and I have a friend who's asked a friend to do a cool little cartoon. It will be great! But something went sour out of nobody's fault and that's causing some delay. I think we'll get the video, but it's not that important as long as we are trying to create an account. I've got friends helping with all of this in 3 countries on 3 continents: Canada, Rwanda and Denmark. I'm in Sudan :)
Do you remember Abdallah who got married? (I was at the wedding). He could hardly lift my bags :)
Besides the sun warming this part of Sudan up to 44 degrees C (112 F) in the daytime and 28 C (82 F) at night, the above are a few of the things that are frustrating me these days. Oh you know, the same old finance-work-world promotion-Red Cross Red Crescent promotion- logistics-foreign culture-away from home for 3.5 years-social media-kind of thing.
But here's the good stuff!! Sudan is such a pearl!! I've had the pleasure of speaking at schools, businesses and universities and relating directly to hundreds of Sudanese. I've spoken with media several times to the degree where I was recently recognized on the street. I've boated on the Nile. I've drunken water from the Nile. I've seen the pyramids and snorkeled in the Red Sea. I've been to a wedding and a graduation. I've been to the top of the NTC tower and I've been cared for by so many people. I've made so many new friend and some that I hope to keep for ever. And to top it off I'm living together with a Sudanese family who keeps saying that I'm family too. I sleep in a room with whoever is home and wants one of the 3 beds in that room. I share all meals with the family and we usually eat out of the same bowl with our hands. I risk getting deported anytime I suggest I should pay for something. And I'm so incredibly safe with them and feel loved by all of them. My Sudanese mother sometimes brings me a freshly squeezed lemonade and a smile - just because :)
My good friend Dafaalla was DESTROYED on the tennis court. Don't believe if he says otherwise ;)
On Sunday at 5am my bus leaves from Bahari (Khartoum) to Wadi Halfa. Sunday evening I arrive. Monday I board the ferry. Tuesday it arrives to Aswan in Egypt. Hopefully Wednesday I'll board a train to Cairo. It has now been 217 days since we set out from Cape Town in South Africa on our way to Cairo in Egypt. We've meanwhile covered the African island nations in the Indian Ocean. Now what can go wrong? Just a bus, a boat, a visa and a train :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - 4 countries left in Africa
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga