Friends, friendships and Europe - the tour continues.
Since October 10th 2013: 131 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Everything has a price
It is hard for me to explain just how much it means for me to see someone I know. A familiar face holds enormous value to me - and I'm slightly blessed.
Right now the Saga is taking a detour trough 8 countries we already visited back in 2013. It's a chance for people around the world to see a little more of Europe. It's a chance for the Red Cross to gain more from nearly 4 years of work and experiences. It's a chance for me to thank Maersk Line for all the assistance I have received in East and Northern Africa. Last but not least it's a chance for friends and family to visit me without having to apply for visas, spend great sums and travel half the world. It has all been quite successful so far.
Gauda (the Dutch town) knows what it is ;)
I'm trying to remember exactly why my head was spinning so fast last week that it nearly spun off!! I was desperately looking for the 25th hour within the day. Now most things have calmed down again. I'm probably down to 40-50 hours of work per week now so it's definitely manageable. In Portugal, Spain and France I had to make train reservations which took several hours of my time. Sure I could do it online but at a higher cost and with greater difficulty. So I needed to reach the stations a day or two in advance, line up behind teenage backpackers on the adventure of their lifetime and wait for hours. Meanwhile I was trying to arrange for dates and times where I could meet the Red Cross and Maersk. Also getting to the addresses at the right time, updating social media and being social with my hosts and my general environment. Don't forget that the crowdfunding campaign has been a struggle to build up and we are still not ready to launch it. It's getting close though and I hope you'll continue to show support. Thank you thus far.
Perfect summer weather.
I've been away from home for a very long time. In October it will be 4 years and I'm in Germany now, which is so close to Denmark that it almost appears pointless not to go home. Throughout all of that time we have reached 131 countries, traveled more than 173,000 km (107,500 mi), grown the social media support exponentially and made me a lot wiser than when we started. I dearly hope you have been inspired, educated a bit or simply entertained throughout all of this. There is only 1 reason why I cannot go home before I reach the final country: there can be no doubt that this was a single journey! It's like having someone run a marathon but divide it into shorter distances over a couple of weeks. That runner didn't really complete a marathon although the distance was covered - what do you think? It may be semantics today but it will prove valuable some day that the Saga was done right. I never flew, I stayed more than 24 hours in each country and I didn't go home before the end.
I may have lost a few friends in the process. I guess that's to be expected? People are not static. Everything changes even when it's just a tiny bit. I notice that some people have stopped writing me. I have noticed that I stopped writing some of them... It took roughly 2 years and 3 months to complete all of Africa. In that time my fiancée came to visit me 5 times and 1 of my sisters came to see me once. David (from www.world-adventurer.com) and I met up 4 times in Africa including the time when we first met in Gabon back in 2015. I even had the chance to meet Per 2 times. Per is half Danish and half from the USA. He's been to more than 180 countries and we met for the first time in Congo Republic (Central Africa). The second time we met was in Sudan. I've made new friends across the world and I'm sure the balance is in my favor calculating from when I left Denmark in 2013. My point here is simply that there is great value in recognizing a face!
As it turns out, I have some of the best family and friends I could ever hope for. I've been seeing and feeling that a lot lately! Not long ago there was the surprise party my fiancée arranged for in Madrid. It was great to see such familiar faces all in one place! Last week I stayed a few nights with Samira and Denis in Brussels (Belgium). Samira and I know each other from working in Bangladesh back in 2011. Then I reached Amsterdam (Netherlands) where Pernille, Soren and Helle came to support and cheer me on. They are friends from Denmark and go way back. You might notice Soren as a project member for the Saga: www.onceuponasaga.dk/about. They arranged for a hotel stay (2 nights) for all of us, food and entertainment! They brought all sorts of things from Denmark such as my prized milk!!! I really miss Danish milk!! There's nothing wrong with your milk it's just that I've been drinking Danish milk most of my life and that's the taste I'm used to :)
We had a great couple of days hanging out, talking, fooling about, being serious, remembering days past and looking at those to come. I also let them hear a thing or two which I wouldn't write here or on social media. They left last Sunday before noon and I went back to bringing emails down to a minimum. I had the hotel room until 6pm thanks to an arrangement made by Helle.
You can't see it...but Kris is trying to hit my balls. 38 years and still children.
Around 6pm my childhood friend, Kris, showed up having driven 7 hours down from Denmark. Kris and I have know each other for about 30 years! Wow!! 30 years?!? We checked into something far cheaper and started sightseeing Amsterdam. Mostly from an outdoor cafe with a beer in front of us. Nah, we did other stuff too: I had a package I needed to send, Kris got a haircut, we managed to find a cinema and see a movie...but most of all we just talked and took care of each other. On our last night in Amsterdam, Kris pulled out a small table from the back of his car. Then 2 small chairs, a grill, a gas bottle, a fondue for boiling water for tea, plates, cutlery, wine and a CD player with "dinner jazz". Then we sat there "camping" on a parking lot in the center of Amsterdam :)
The Netherland Red Cross is incredible. And sometimes a picture speaks more than words. This is 94 year old Job from The Hague. He has been a Red Cross volunteer for 60 years!!
The spirited Maersk team in Rotterdam, NL. They laughed a lot! :) www.maerskline.com
The next morning we drove to The Hague and met with the Netherlands Red Cross, then we drove to Rotterdam where I did a presentation of the Saga and afterwards we rushed on to Hamburg in Germany where we met with my father, his wife AND MY FIANCÉE!!! Yes! They brought her with them :) Kris had a cup of coffee and continued north to Denmark. The rest of us stayed in Hamburg. My father had booked a hotel for us: 1 night for him and his wife and 2 night for me and my fiancée.
Next to me: my father, my fiancée, Kris and Lisbeth (my fathers wife).
The day I left Denmark and the Saga began.
The next morning we went for a walk in beautiful Hamburg and in the afternoon we all went to visit Maersk where I gave another presentation of the Saga. After the presentation my father and his wife drove back to Denmark and my fiancée and I had the rest of the time for ourselves.
The Maersk team in Hamburg, DE. Great bunch of people who also laughed a lot :)
The next morning we both went to the train station and as faith wanted it her train was directly next to mine. Only, they were leaving in opposite directions.
I nearly forgot how great the German ICE trains are!
In Berlin I was supposed to meet the German Red Cross at noon. But I somehow ended up taking the metro in the wrong direction and delayed myself by 40 minutes! Even after more than 3 years and great distances of traveling with public transportation? There are some inaccurate cliches about a lot of countries but in terms of accuracy and efficiency Germany has more of it than most. It wasn't the right country to fumble the ball in!! However as you might expect; the German Red Cross was very understanding, very friendly and incredibly modest! I had a good chance to see how important they are within Germany and it is very impressive! In addition to that they are highly active in about 50 countries around the world. Germany really grows on me.
At the German Red Cross HQ in Berlin.
Dr. Dieter Schuetz, GRC Press Officer, Anne Wispler, GRC online editor
There is no such thing as a perfect country but Germany gets a lot closer than many others. Germans definitely complain about this and that, however the truth about Germany appears a lot kinder than what populistic media projects. Something I noticed was that in spite of Germany hosting more than 1 MILLION REFUGEES the attitude among people appears to be that it's fine. The refugees contribute to society and why not share the welfare? The Red Cross has naturally been highly active in this regard but it isn't at all what takes up most of their time. The management of blood donations, operating a nationwide ambulance service and disaster risk reduction takes up far more of their attention.
The width of the Berlin Wall is seen in the background. Once we said "tear down that wall". Today the news across the pond screams something else.
Meanwhile most Germans are just going on about life. You do get a sense that Germans are just as occupied with fidget spinners and Game of Thrones as everyone else. Isn't that interesting how so many things just transcend society from the richest to the poorest countries? Family, music, sports, weather and Facebook. It has been everywhere so far.
Tower cranes across the river Spree.
I thanked the German Red Cross and called Theresa. Theresa is a friend of Mary and Sebastian who was going to host me in Hamburg. But that ended up being unnecessary when my father booked the hotel for us? It's a shame because I really wanted to meet them. I got something else instead! Mary hooked me up with Theresa who lives in Berlin. In her early teens she lived 4 years in South Africa and today she's coming to the end of her sociology studies at the university. Theresa was a lot of fun and wasn't shy of showing me Berlin and introducing me to a few of her friends. I indecently had Berlin's second best pizza, a couple of Berlin beers and she even let me have her bed and room while she slept in the common room. What amazing hospitality! :)
I'm in fact sitting on her couch writing this while she left earlier today to go and visit friends and family in Hannover. It appears to me that people are just people and that if you treat them nice then you often get it back tenfold.
And: laundry day.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - still tired, but moving forward!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga