Since October 10th 2013: 142 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Somebody is wrong
I’ve always, or at least as far back as I remember, been told that I think too much. Reaching every nation on 4 continents without flying or going home must indicate that I act as well ;)
I’m pretty much drained for energy. I feel a heavy weight upon myself and I wish for the rain to come and wash it off me. It’s been a rough and yet amazing past few weeks. I fell in love with Bulgaria but had to leave. I did that on an overnight bus and only caught 2 hours of restless sleep. The bus got me to Istanbul in Turkey, where I caught another 90 minutes of cold napping in a park before giving a 1 hour presentation before Maersk Line’s Eastern Mediterranean cluster management at a 5 star hotel. I was then given a 2 nights complimentary stay at that hotel. I met with a Norwegian friend and world traveler, got invited to speak at a travelers conference, was treated to a boat trip on the Bosporus, moved into the apartment of Perçin who arranged for the conference, met with the Turkish Red Crescent, caught a cold from Perçin (thank you), picked up my sister from the airport and the wheels go round and round and round...
Parth Nilawar has been developing a new chest emblem for the new uniform. This one is a favorite.
Meanwhile I’m constantly thinking about the crowdfunding campaign, social media, learning as much as possible, delivering as much as possible, maintaining a long distance relationship with my wonderful fiancée, working out the logistics, replying to emails, creating blogs, eating right, getting some sleep, managing the budget, remembering who I am, staying neutral from politics and one day getting home. I do want to go home you know. For years now I have been in a tunnel of countries. There was no light to begin with. Just a dark endless tunnel. There is light now. It’s quite faint but it’s there and it will get brighter.
Crossing borders at 02:30am is more fun with family :)
My sister had hopes of reaching Cyprus with me but it’s easier said than done. Politics and opinion come into play. Cyprus is a Mediterranean island nation which has a capital divided by United Nations forces. On one side you have the Cypriot Greek and on the other side you find the Cypriot Turkish. And they all lived happily ever after... Well, I’ll go into more depth next week but for now you should just know that there is a division and that is followed by opinions. One opinion was that I would do some long term damage to potential influential friends on the Cypriot Greek side if I took a boat from Turkey to the Cypriot Turkish side of Cyprus. If you’re confused now then just know that the Republic of Cyprus gained independence in 1960 and joined the European Union in 2004. The division kind of resembles a “Berlin Wall scenario” although not really and far more peaceful with several open checkpoints open since 2003, which people can easily cross. So here’s my point: I’m a public person with social media, a blog, a mission and media attention from around 100 countries in the world. I’m certainly not famous and I’m hardly known but I am publicly available. My sister (lovely as she is) remains a tourist and can pretty much do what she wants. My sister could have boarded a ferry from Turkey to Cyprus but I was advised to head back to Greece and board a vessel from there. Sure why not? That “only” added an additional 1,144 km (711 mi) to an already 185,000 km (114,954 mi) long journey. In the big picture it doesn’t matter much. Not for nothing but I’d just like to boast that my traveling hero Ibn Battuta (1304-1369) is Said to have traveled 130,000 km (114,954 mi) over land and sea. So we’ve got him beat by now ;)
White Tower, Thessaloniki, Greece.
My sister was running out of time as she had to get back to work and probably more importantly to feed her 2 cats before they chewed themselves through the wall. So we ended up traveling to Thessaloniki in Greece which was my set off point for reaching: Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Turkey. Nice to be back again. We had our fair share of wind and rain but still managed to get the best out of it. Temperatures dropped to 10 degrees (50 Fahrenheit) which didn’t improve much on my cold (thank you Perçin). Especially as I went out without a jacket thinking that it would “warm up soon”. Good thing I’m not a weatherman! I’d rather be freezing though than being in my sisters shoes. She was unlucky and got a bed at the dormitory which was full of bedbugs - only we didn’t notice until the next day when she was able to count 125 bites!!! I’ve had my share of bedbug bites over the years but she caught up to me in a single night! Sorry sis! That’s no way to end an adventure with your brother...but it does make for a good story ;)
I said farewell to her on at the airport in Thessaloniki and then I caught an overnight bus straight to Athens. In Athens I was exhausted but “soldiered on” towards my hostel during the early morning hours. While minding my own business I approached the National Archeological Museum I saw 2 bright flashes followed by 2 loud blasts. Then 2 more. Then a cloud of tear gas hit me. It took about 30 seconds before it began to sting! All I saw was a bunch of combat dressed policemen walking peacefully at a distance from me. No riot. No nothing. It was 05:00am and you could hear music from late night parties and see a few vehicles on the streets as Athens was waking up.
So in other words: I cried when I returned to Athens :)
Throughout all of this I never stopped walking. I kept the same pace as my eyes teared up and my throat got sore. Eventually I was struggling to look out of my eyes but I managed as I kept walking. 5 minutes later I was in the clear and I was back to normal albeit an experience richer. Not the first time I experienced tear gas but a definite first in Athens. Imagine that? One of earths most popular tourism destinations. Go figure? Anyway...life went on, people are just people, nothing really happened and I eventually reached my hostel. They couldn’t check me in at 05:30am but I was permitted to go up on the rooftop. I did and I pulled out my sleeping bag and slept right through until 1pm. Then I was given a bed and I continued sleeping until the sun set. I got up to hunt down some dinner and afterwards I slept through the entire night. The following day I got on a bus to Lavrio from where I would catch a boat to Cyprus.
As it turns out I already have several friends in Cyprus. Or at least the Saga has. Our friends from www.beflexi.com got in touch with www.salamisshipping.com which is the dominant shipping company in Cyprus. Apparently dominant in other areas too but I’ll need to learn more about that. Salamis Shipping permitted that I could come onboard their cargo vessel “Alexo”, which used to be Finish a long time ago. That’s not important except that my mother and therefore half my family is Finish so I rather enjoy that :) I reached the ship on time and met the chief officer who instructed a seaman to show me to my cabin. I really didn’t do much onboard the “Alexo”. I managed to read a couple of illustrated science magazines I’ve been carrying since forever. I replied to whatever emails I could offline. I did a few preparations and spoke to a few of the truck drivers that were onboard. However I mostly just slept and slept and slept... I have given more than 50 presentations of this project and commonly I’m asked afterwards, what I intend to do when I one day return home? I usually smile and reply that I will sleep for a month, wake up and shave and start a family. I guess the sleeping part is less of a joke than I thought? :)
The good ship "Alexo" carried a lot more than trucks. We offloaded a selection of nice rides in Cyprus!
Welcome to Cyprus!! By sheer coincidence Cyprus became a lot more than country no 142. As planed it also became the last country within Europe but it just happened to be on the 4 year day of when I left Denmark! So in reality it has taken exactly 4 years to complete a visit to every nation on the first 4 continents: Europe, North America, South America and Africa. 4 years - 4 continents! Now that in itself is nothing remarkable but when you add to the equation that I haven’t flown a single time, that I have spent more than 24 hours in each nation (including the Vatican), that I haven’t returned home since we began, that I haven’t paid out any bribes, that the project budget is $20/day...well I guess it’s a pretty good story ;)
A few numbers for you:
- 142 countries visited
- 61 countries to go
- 185,000 km traveled already
- 1,465 days
Average time/country: 10.3 days
Average speed: 5.3 kph
Calculated end date: July 5th 2019
Lets see how it goes. All I can do is keep on keeping on ;)
Somebody is definitely wrong. That goes for several things but I’ll just bring up two:
1) has every country already been visited without the convenience of flight or are we getting closer to creating history?
The answer is definitely debatable but I feel we have a very strong case against anyone who claims that it has been done. If we keep the Saga as pure as it has been thus far then it proves as a clear definition on what it means to go to every country without flying:
- No return home: it’s undebatable if it was 1 or several journeys.
- No flying: it seems obvious but some would argue that flying could be permitted under certain circumstances.
- No less than 24 hrs in each country: it becomes abundantly clear that a country was visited once you’ve spent a night and not simply crossed the border and returned immediately.
The above will prove a lot more valuable later on. Sometime around July 5th 2019 ;)
Slowly but steadily conquering the world one friend at a time.
2) Is the world getting better or is it getting worse?
In the past 4 years I have built up plenty of proof to support that A stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. That is generally beyond reasonable debate. I have also traveled through regions and countries with Ebola, yellow fever, malaria, the plague, Boko Haram, Al Shabab and ISIS. I have visited slums and crossed areas tarnished by terrible drought. I have seen poverty and extreme poverty. I have looked into the eyes of the blind, I have listened to the rambling of a mad man, I have seen the legless crawl, I have felt the devastating effects of corruption in society as well as in power. I have seen the rotting flesh of boat refugees, I have been in bed with a life threatening decease, I have been robbed in a hotel and I have seen people all over 4 continents turn into zombies behind their smartphones. Is the world on fire? No it is not!!
Parth Nilawar has been developing a new chest emblem for the new uniform. This is another favorite.
I have played we children of all social classes, I’ve been next to people in public transportation for 4 years, I have dined with strangers, slept in strangers homes, laughed with strangers and converted more strangers into friends than I can remember. I have seen the prosperous development in undeveloped countries, I have seen people in love, I have seen people living, I have seen everything human you can think of! I’ve found WiFi in every country I’ve been to, people take selfies everywhere imaginable, people upload and watch YouTube, they complain about the weather, they talk about Trump, they have their favorite football teams, they do all sorts of things you see the n the street almost every day. E.g: I often see a a couple parting on the street. The girl wants a kiss before they go and the boy doesn’t really want to kiss in public...so she closes her eyes and leans up for a kiss and he quickly looks around and quickly kisses her :) How many countries have I seen that in? Or how about this extraordinary commonly human thing: I often see an adult pretending that the child is stronger than him. The child is so proud and the adult doesn’t break the illusion and keeps pretending the child is stronger! :) Have you never seen that? I’ve seen that on 4 continents so far and in most countries.
Science and knowledge are good supplements to life.
The truth is that people are just people wherever we go. And things are really getting better on this planet. Not everything but surely many things. Extreme poverty has been more than halved in the past 20 years. The Giant Panda is no longer endangered. Tiger populations are growing for the first time in over 100 years. We are experiencing far less fatalities from natural disasters compared to the past in spite of more disasters. We have medicine for HIV which will ensure you live a full life and die from other causes than HIV. Furthermore a pregnant woman with HIV who takes her medicine will give birth to a healthy child! And the medicine is in most cases available and reaching people. A zero fuel plane completed a trip around the planet. The Ocean Cleanup Project foresees that it will have cleaned up 40% of plastic waste in the next 10 years. China has ended their ivory trade. World hunger has reached a 25 year low! There is lots of good news and we mostly hear the bad stuff?
Now, how is it at all possible that I could go to every country in 4 continents and not get burned, robbed, stabbed, kidnapped, fatally ill, depressed and/or tortured? Well, perhaps the world isn’t on fire? Perhaps Africa is a lot more than what hits the news and media. Perhaps people are just people and the world is far more normalized than you would ever be willing to believe? I’ll give you Africa as an example. There are 54 African countries which is more than every 4th country in the world. I’d say there are 4 African countries you shouldn’t and possibly couldn’t go to right now. There are about 10 “difficult countries” which you would have difficulties going to or where you should have above average travelers experience. That leaves us with 40 African countries which you could go to right now and have a great time. You could go to the mall or cinema in all of them but that’s not why you’d bother traveling there. Go to meet the people, taste the food, hear the music, see the sunset, enrich your life!!
Alright now. The crowdfunding campaign has begun and you’ll find it right here:
People have worked hard on it. Friends in Denmark, Rwanda and Canada. I’ve worked hard on getting this far. If you can spare a few coins then please throw them my way. If not then lean back and continue enjoying the Saga. That’s how crowdfunding works. Nobody has to pay if they don’t want to.
I’ll end on a final note about Cypriots (people from Cyprus). They are soooo nice! I’ve been met with so much hospitality and kindness already. I’d be surprised if we didn’t find a way from here to Lebanon without flying ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - ready for the Middle East (after a nap)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga