Since October 10th 2013: 143 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Waiting for what?
Have you noticed how timers and clocks have appeared at traffic intersections, train stations and other places where people commonly wait? It’s been going for on for a while and it’s because of human psychology. It’s far easier to wait if you know how long you are waiting for. Waiting three minutes can feel much longer than waiting for five minutes when you don’t know how long it will take.
We’ve passed a full month of waiting for the Syrian visa. Yup! I’ve been in Lebanon for more than a month now which is approximately 2.3% of the entire Saga in case you were wondering. It’s not like I’ve been sitting around watching paint dry. I’ve explored various neighborhoods of Beirut, I went to Anjar, the Beqaa Valley, Baalbek, Ksara winery, I saw the great Cedars, Becharreh (the birthplace of Khalil Gibran (famous poet)), Kozhaya and the holy valley, Byblos, Tyre, Ras El Metn, the National Museum, the mineral museum and the list goes on. Lebanon is by far not the worst country to be stuck in. However I’d really like to keep things moving forward so this waiting gets to me. Especially as we have no idea what we are waiting for? The Syrian Embassy may eventually return to say that the visa has been denied? If that’s the case then I may need to start all over again. Someone recently suggested that I may never enter Syria. I can’t even see that as a scenario? Not given everything I’ve been through to get us here? Water is wet, the sky is blue and I will get the Saga to Syria. That much is certain. That’s what makes the waiting so intolerable!! If we already know that I’m going then why make me wait?
Check out this cool carved out mountain road!! :)
I returned to the mineral museum again. It’s that interesting! I really didn’t think I spent enough time at the museum the first time. It’s truly a special collection of minerals I hardly thought existed. I remember once going through a list of things we as humans don’t know. Something I never thought about was that we actually don’t know what’s inside our own planet? We think we know and the foremost theoretical explanations are likely spot on. However nobody has ever been inside to prove anything deeper than 12,262 meters (40,230 ft). That’s barely past the earth's crust which is often compared to the skin on an apple. The distance to earth's core is a whopping 6,371 km (3,958 mi) which leaves us with A LOT of undiscovered landmass beneath our feet. Imagine what we might be able to find?
The Mineral Museum is truly worth a visit...or two: www.mim.museum
I also went back to Ras El Metn in the mountains near Beirut. The last time I went it was raining and I really wanted to see its beauty under a blue sky. It was looking good as Nidal picked me up but then it quickly turned to rain? Nidal and I made a short video for you guys.
Before the rain:
The Green Mountains of Ras El Metn.
After the rain (see video):
How quickly the weather changed?!? However another great day with Nidal :)
A few weeks ago I got in touch with Front Page Communication (www.frontpage.co.com) which is a public relations firm in Beirut. We set up a meeting and I really liked them but unfortunately for the Saga they mostly operate locally in Lebanon and I’m on the outlook for someone much more international. If you estimate that there are about 200 countries in the world then your country amounts to just 0.5% of the world's countries. Nonetheless Front Page Communications took interest in the Saga and offered to see what they could do. Last week Shereen reached out and said that she had spoken to four tv channels which all showed interest: MTV, OTV, TeleLiban and FutureTV. Good job!! The Saga has been featured in the media in nearly 100 countries and there is definitely a lot of content to dig into by now. I have also been in touch with a fundraising company in Denmark called www.fundraiseren.dk. They are now using their expertise and are helping the Saga out. Apparently it’s better to apply for several small amounts and not a large amount from a single donor. Makes sense but it’s also more work.
Have patience people. The postcards you ordered during the crowdfunding campaign have all been written. Indiegogo still has not transferred to us but hey? I've tested the postal service and it worked. So have patience and hopefully you'll get your card wherever you are ;) I haven't done this much handwriting since my early school days!
I wonder if people can distinguish between easy achievements and hard achievements with all the input we receive every day? I have never tried to visit every country in the world having the convenience of flight. However it’s not easily achieved by anyone. I know very competent and experienced travelers who had to give up on reaching every country in the world because of a few hard to get to nations. Doing it without flying is however a completely different ballgame!! In my particular situation I could just have flown to Jordan and returned to Lebanon when there was news regarding my Syrian visa. Eritrea would have been a lot easier as I could have flown to the capital. Equatorial Guinea as well... In fact a number of countries would have been downright easy to visit if I flew: Seychelles, Saõ Tomé and Príncipe, Mauritius, Cape Verde etc. Also if I got tired of a certain part of the world I could simply fly to another continent and relax with some easier countries. Visiting every country without flying and doing so with the convenience of flight cannot be compared. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that anyone could visit every country if they flew, had enough money and enough time...but it all helps. I can’t help to think that I’m doing something wrong? Why is the Saga not more popular? What should I be doing differently? There are 2 billion Facebook accounts in the world. The Saga has 22,000 followers. There are 5.7 million people in Denmark but the Saga is followed by less than 40,000 people worldwide. I’m a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross but hardly anyone knows about the Saga within the head office in Copenhagen. It has happened a few times that the media was waiting for me as I arrived in a new country. However mostly somebody notifies a friend or a journalist a few days after I arrive and a story develops. I wonder if the Saga isn’t interesting enough? However if that was the case then how come it’s been in the media so often and it’s definitely not the response I get when I do public speaking events?
I love to make people smile and smiles come easy in Lebanon! Here I am after making a presentation at AstraZeneca. What a lovely bunch of people from all over the country...and my 56th presentation ;) www.astrazeneca.com
I recently did two events in the same day. The first one was at a pharmaceutical company called AstraZeneca and then a taxi brought me straight to Maersk Line where I did a second presentation. I love doing those presentations and interacting with people right in front of me. That’s the main upside. The downside is that it drains me for energy and I’m nearly useless afterwards. You can imagine how tired I was after doing two of them and then I agreed to join some of the Maersk guys at football afterwards. I didn’t play. I just tagged along and watched. Afterwards a 21 year old employee drove me back home at the speed of light! You’d really think that we were escaping the police after robbing a bank or something similar!! I got motion sickness from it but nothing too bad. (edit 20/1 - 2018: Habib aka Gordon Flash, went out with me and a bunch of others from the office last night for happy hour. Habib liked this blog but asked that I mentioned his name. He also swore he never went faster than 70 km/h or 44 mph. Yeah right Speedy Gonzáles!!) ;) Afterwards I walked up the stairs to the apartment where I’m staying and a horrible headache began. It was the beginning of a migraine. Let’s get something straight! A migraine is not a headache. I’m underlining this because I used to think that migraines were simply bad headaches but I was wrong. A headache is pain in your head and can be dealt with relatively swiftly. A migraine is something completely different. I received my life’s first migraine in Central Africa and I couldn’t believe the distress! I’ve had it a few times since then. Perhaps 5-6 times in total. A good friend gave me the best description of what it’s like. He said that when you have a migraine and if someone was to offer you a pill, one which would either cure you or which would kill you, then you would consider that to be good odds and take it!! I believe that I’m I reasonable man with a good grip on logical thinking. However the other night as I was twisting in pain I managed to convince myself that I had stumbled upon something completely new to all of mankind and that my brain was being ripped apart from the inside. Not very pleasant at all. Then the nausea took over and I made it to the toilet just before my body violently surrendered my insides. I had horrible cramps and my arms and hands twisted in strange contortions. Not fun at all. The following day I wasn’t quite myself although I was relatively functional. My sense of smell was improved for some reason and all smells came across very strong. Well...I’m better now...
The wonderful Maersk team in Beirut brought me up on 57 public talks. Visiting Maersk feels like "coming home" by now. Without Maersk's assistance I might still have been fighting bureaucracy somewhere in East Africa. Thank you for having me! :) www.maersk.com
As I mentioned last week I began running again. I’ve been out 5 times now and I have started to increase the distance slightly. It feels good. Also after a month in the same country I’ve made a lot of friends, I have routines, I go for walks, I watch some tv sitcoms and so on. Work is a lot less these days. I once proclaimed that I don’t know anyone who works as hard as me. That was back in Central Africa which is a very beautiful, exciting and friendly part of Africa. I will defend Central Africa until my death!! However the bureaucracy there is mind boggling?!? A good thing that came out of conquering that part of the Saga is, that I feel there’s nothing I can’t handle these days. A funny thing I remember is that a Danish newspaper picked up on the fact that I said “I don’t know anyone that works as hard as me”. I was working well beyond 100 hours a week back then. The newspaper twisted it into a headline that read: “nobody works as hard as me” :) Clickbait of course. There are people on this planet that work harder than I did back then. I just don’t know them ;) These days I’m down to about four hours a work per day so I’m fairly sure most of you have me beaten. My stress levels are pretty high though as I’m gambling with the Syrian visa. Am I doing the right thing? Should I do something else? Worrying about what’s out of our control is useless and I shouldn’t think to much about it. However in the end people are just people and so am I ;)
My father loves football. It doesn't really appeal to me which is a great shame. As far as I can tell people are passionate about the game all around the world. What I really like about football is that it's easy to set up and that it brings people together. It's basically a language to many and I occasionally try to fake it. Sometimes I like to watch and speculate about the physics: the hardness of a boot, the air pressure in the ball, the angles etc. Sometimes I even like to play although I'm at the lowest possible level. Jad and George from Maersk/Safmarine brought me along which I really enjoyed! :)
I’ve met so many wonderful people within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. I have 443 RC contacts stored in my phone. On a side note I have a couple of hundred Maersk contacts stored ;) Recently my friend from the Red Cross in Paris, Adrian, reached out to hear if I have any contacts in Benin? He’s doing a project where he will be educating schools in Benin regarding International Humanitarian Law (IHL). When I visited Benin I made friends with Thierry who’s a great guy. He’s got a lot of African experience from working at different places for more than 20 years I believe. Thierry earned a nickname which is ‘Grand Sage Africain’. Pretty cool! I earned my own in Zambia which is ‘Lubasi’ (family man). Naturally I connected Adrian with Thierry. I spend a lot of time staring into my smartphone. Research, emails, social media etc...the other day I walked into a store to learn something about laptops. I haven’t bought one for five years and obviously a lot has changed since then. I didn’t bring a laptop for this project which was a mistake. There was an HP laptop which caught my eye but it costs usd 1,200. A friend in Kuwait told me that I can get a good deal on a laptop there. Apparently the many rich people want the latest model and as a result you can get an almost new laptop really cheap. So for now I’m still typing all of this on my smartphone. The phone is definitely smarter than me ;)
How I see myself...
Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder who you are? I do sometimes and the answer is unclear to me? Am I a traveler? an explorer? a blogger? a Goodwill Ambassador? a fiancé? a brother? a logistic coordinator? a Dane? an adventurer? a businessman? a source of inspiration? a public person? am I nobody? am I somebody? I’m very sure that the way we see ourselves does not correspond to how others see us. I see my belly fat, my slightly crooked nose, my bushy eyebrows, my receding hairline, my imperfect teeth, my feet are not the same size, I’m not good at remembering names... That’s not how others see me? Well I guess someone sees it... We are eventually not better than our actions and most often only our last actions. How will I be remembered? How will I remember my parents? My sisters? Both my parents are turning 70 in the next few months and I won’t be there to celebrate it with them. I thought the Saga would take between 3.5-4 years to complete. Now it looks more like six. I should make it for their 75 year celebration.
How others see me...
Raymond is a good friend. Age doesn’t matter. He is old enough to have grandchildren and yet we get along really well. He invited me over for steak the other night and afterwards we sat down in his living room and talked about everything and nothing. You remember Raymond? He was the first person to welcome me to Lebanon and he set me up in his friend's apartment. Later on I made a presentation at his school. A great man and friend to me. The world is full of strangers waiting to become a friend. Go out and meet someone ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Waiting etc...
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga