I wonder if hell is really that bad

Day 2,521 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador). 

When nothing is what it seems


Life is simple - we make it complicated. We assume this and that. Imagination runs off with us. Perception is reality. It always was. It always will be.

Last weeks entry: The is always something to be grateful about - Hong Kong continued

I bet that if I had to start all over from the beginning and visit every country again, then I would see incredible progress in nearly every country compared to years ago. Because in large things are getting better. You may look around yourself and wonder if I lost my mind?!? And I may have lost my mind long ago. However facts are facts and personal opinion and feelings do not change them. Every day some 200,000 people around the world are lifted above the two USD a-day poverty line and more than 300,000 people a day get access to electricity and clean water for the first time. Globally life expectancy continues to rise, child mortality continues to fall, families are getting smaller, income inequality has gone down, more people are living in democracies and conflicts are on the decline. It’s hard to believe that it’s true if you follow the news - but it is a fact. And if you lived for a thousand years then you would probably just shrug your shoulders over this pandemic as it would simply be yet another one in your lifetime...and you would know that it would pass and that we would be fine.


One day this week I just let my feet lead me about and walked for hours in central Hong Kong.

We can’t really brag about our global position when it comes to climate change and the doomsday clock is dangerously close to midnight. In fact, I don’t believe the doomsday clock has ever been measured in seconds before 2020. Nobody said that everything is good. There’s plenty of trouble in the world and lots of work to be done. However on most accounts we are doing better than ever before. I was warned about entering certain countries but it all went fine. I have found that nearly every time I crossed the borders somewhere, the conditions were far more ordinary than advertised or even downright prosperous. And that has me wondering: if people are so wrong about countries they have never been too, then how bad can hell really be?


Thankfully we are living in the future. Go back too far and a dinosaur would end you. Go back a bit and it could have been the plague.

I found my personal hell in Central Africa. There are a handful of countries in that region which made my life miserable for many months. But I also met nice people in those countries. And all them were beautiful. One of my all-time favourite foods was a common street dish in Cameroun, Gabon and Congo. The history of the region was interesting. Not just the colonial era but even long before that with cities greater than London and Paris. Parts of the culture is spectacularly charming however corruption and distrust is rampant. Corruption is a global problem. Not just a Central African one. Perhaps it is true that power corrupts people... The corruption in the region was choking me!!! It did not matter that I had all my paperwork in order. It was never enough. I had recovered from a hard case of cerebral malaria, I had lost weight, I began to get severe migraines. I did not understand the severity of migraines until it happened to myself! It felt like my brain was being ripped in two parts and there was nothing I could do to ease the pain!! My grandmother passed away. My fiancée and I were having a hard time with the whole long-distance thing. I was let down by people I trusted. As oil prices continued to be low the Sagas financial partner had to withdraw and the project became unfunded. Nobody seemed to care about what I was doing, the complexity or my struggles to accomplish. I felt alone. I felt like a failure. My life was at risk a few times within this same period of the Saga. That was my hell!!! On and off I lived in slum. I ate whatever I could get my hands on. My brain was on overdrive!!! Those were hard days. There was a way through it though and after a very long time, much more hardship and a few lucky breaks the visas were eventually obtained, checkpoints and borders were crossed and the Saga continued.


Round, round, get around, I get around...

Back then social media was declining and I learned that some people aren’t with me. Some people just want to see a man go from country to country and have little interest if he gets stuck. They left and moved on. It is true that a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. And I have met an ocean of people who have gone way beyond what I ever expected in order to accommodate and help me. However, the numbers I see on social media are hardly much more than that. 27,000 followers on Instagram? That recently dropped to 26,000. Instagram has always been like that for me. Two steps forward and one backwards. The following usually grows after great media exposure in one form or another. So, I guess it’s the journalists story many people are attracted to and not the reality of what the Saga is. They like a polished version of the truth and hope to find something on the Sagas social media which reflects their expectations. I’m not very good with social media. If I was then the Saga would have millions of followers and engagement would be high. The story is great. The adventures are surreal. My delivery of it across social media is so-so. I reason that it must be the case because if I was good at social media then it would simply grow on its own. Social media is important. It is important because it has become a tool to relay messages to the world and this world has a lot to learn. I imagine that sometime after the Saga has been completed the social media will begin to grow exponentially. So, losing a thousand followers now is irrelevant in the big picture if it will someday count hundreds of thousands or millions. Yet I would rather not lose anyone at all. And besides, the Saga has some incredibly loyal followers as well who would never go anywhere because they are invested and a part of the story. Well, social media is declining again and I don’t blame people. Anyone can share photos of Hong Kong. It’s the progress which is exciting and there hasn’t been much of that for a while.


So far only Mira has replied regarding the 1 mill. step challenge to raise funds for the Red Cross. But she replied that she is game! Such a lovely woman. Lets see about Courtney and Kilian.

What can I say? I try to keep myself busy with side projects and I personally think I have done a pretty good job of getting the most out of this standstill here in Hong Kong. Behind the curtains I am constantly looking into ways the Saga can continue to move on but if you haven’t noticed then there is a global pandemic which has cases of the virus popping up now and again. Most of the western world is in the northern hemisphere which means that winter is coming. That is flu season and if you combine that with COVID-19, which we still haven’t figured out, then I guess the worst is still to come. I’ve been wrong before. Let’s hope I’m wrong again…I just don’t think so… As I have often mentioned I am a firm believer in: healthy body, healthy mind. I have not been this fit throughout the past six years. I may have been more fit than this just before the Saga began on October 10th 2013. But not within the past six years. All the hiking, the running, the step challenges and the push-ups. I’m a lot closer to being 42 than 41 and still managed to run 2,570m (1.6mi) in a 12-minute Cooper test the other day. That placed me in ‘excellent’ condition within my age group and ‘above average’ among those in their mid-twenties. For that reason, I thought I was quite strong and fit. But I was in for a surprise. Lately my calendar has been quite free and last week I managed to occupy some of that free time with sleep and diving deep into the endless pit of YouTube. This week I decided to get more reading done and start using a fitness program I haven’t used since 2012. It was developed by the Danish Defense and translates to: “exercise with the defense”. It initially tests your physical condition through a number of exercises and then generates an 8-week program for you. After completing the first day of my 8-week program I was sore in body parts I had long since forgotten that I had!! Healthy body, healthy mind. I’ve got to do whatever I can to keep my mind strong. Because…well…how do I best express how I feel about this long involuntary stay nine countries before completing a project which began in 2013? Oh, I know: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I wanted to get a yoga mat for all my new strength exercises but that was before I knew that they are just a thin piece of paper. This pilates mat does the job! :)

In other news I have naturally also been looking into a variety of different solutions of getting my fiancée into Hong Kong. I’m almost stepping on my beard at this point! She’s quite amazing and recently had to defend her PhD which she brilliantly did. So now she isn’t “just” a medical doctor anymore, she is also PhD! What an amazing woman! During these crazy times it had to be done via a Zoom call. So proud of her!! Her dissertation was on the topic of optimizing 2-[18F]-FDG-PET in the diagnosis of dementia disorders. Yeah, so, neuroscience. Getting her to Hong Kong is unfortunately a complicated matter as all non-residents are turned away and have not been able to enter Hong Kong since March 25th. And at this point there is no indication that it will change until December 31st at the earliest. Not that Hong Kong isn’t doing well…because it is. For a very long time COVID-19 had only claimed 4 lives in Hong Kong but that number climbed to 93 during the most recent wave which began in early July. In total Hong Kong has had 4,839 cases and 4,431 recoveries. Astonishing considering this is one of the most densely populated places on earth and home to 7.5 million beating hearts.


My goodness I love this woman! And here she is the moment she completed her defense of the PhD (but before she knew if they would approve it. They did!).

Yes, I could have had it much worse. I could have become stuck on board a ship or a small pacific island. I was fortunate to get stuck in Hong Kong. Things are slowly easing up again. It is no longer a requirement to wear a mask while exercising. Why do people by the way say ‘face mask’? Where else would you put a mask if not on your face? Oh, sorry…I got side tracked. We are also free to enjoy Hong Kong’s many nature trails without having to wear a mask. And cinemas are now permitted to open up again! With a limited number of seats available - but still! I went to see ‘Unhinged’ which stars Russell Crowe as a complete psychopath who heads out on a scary road rage rampage! It was okay but not for the faint hearted. And the cinema was prohibited from selling snacks and drinks due to COVID-19 regulations. What I really wanted to see was ‘Tenet’ which was released on August 13th in the UAE but will not be released in Hong Kong until September 10th. No worries…I’ll be here.


The seventh month of the lunar calendar is upon us and you know what that means!! Oh, you don’t? Well, out here it means that the gates of hell are opening and restless spirits are out to haunt us. Apparently, some spirits are benign and will just visit their relatives for a good time. The Festival of the Hungry Ghosts is known as ‘Yu Lan’ and it is far from something everyone participates in or believes in. And there are many different accounts of what it all means and how it should be handled. A way followers of this 2,000 year old tradition go about it is by making sacrifices to appease the spirits. This is done by burning stuff and leaving the ashes overnight. I gather that a lot of different things may be burned but I haven’t observed anything but fruit and nuts. The only reason I know about this at all is because Patrik (Visualtraveling) invited me to join him and his lovely wife Phoebe on a hunt to get a good photo of it. Patrik is from Hungary and is a highly impressive photographer and filmmaker. Patrik also took part in the Ultimate Step Challenge HK. We didn’t really get lucky spotting any significant sacrifices but we did end up at a nice Vietnamese restaurant for dinner and conversation.


Yeah, so how bad can hell be? I found my personal hell in Central Africa but would be happy to return to the region under different conditions. The description of the Christian hell matches the one of the Islamic hell as both religions share the old testament but those are old stories and nobody alive can confirm the truth of it. Since I have heard multiple accounts of false country descriptions which all turned out far more pleasant than promised, I don’t see why hell should be any different. Afterall some of the spirits that leave hell in the seventh month of the lunar calendar just want to visit family and have a good time. Nah, not interested…it’s Valhalla or nothing for me. Make sure to check out this new 6 second video intro for upcoming YouTube videos! The video footage was filmed by me but the Viking themed music came from Lance in the USA and it was all assembled here in Hong Kong by Kinny! Do you know how that happened? Because a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before ;)




I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop


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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - wondering if heaven is worthwhile?
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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