The long game – sticking it out in Hong Kong
Day 2,682 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).
Let’s get real about it
Hi, I’m Thor from Denmark. I’m among the 300 most traveled people on earth and I am nine countries from becoming the first in history to reach every country completely without flying. I’m an accomplished goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross, and have paid a visit to the movement in 189 countries, raised awareness, raised funds and have symbolically connected the world’s largest humanitarian organization throughout the past seven years. My determinism, positive demeanor and ingenuity has been an example, inspiration and motivation for thousands of people. And I am tired.
Last week’s entry: Another story of endurance and teamwork – Hong Kong continued
I do not want to be in Hong Kong. There’s nothing wrong with Hong Kong – or, well, you know…there isn’t a perfect place on this planet. However, Hong Kong is not the reason why I don’t want to be in Hong Kong. I HAVE VERY LITTLE CHOICE! If we are to complete this project then the choices are as follows: get on a small boat and head into the enormous Pacific Ocean and chance it, or wait it out in Hong Kong. I’m not much of a “chance it” person unless the odds are in my favor. My only other option, as I see it, is to quit and head home. Whether you believe in the pandemic (which I think you should) or not, then there is no dispute that parts of this planet are locked down and that life is globally affected. And eight of the final nine countries, which we have remaining within Once Upon A Saga, are locked down. The Maldives is open for tourism and can be found slightly southwest of India in the Indian Ocean some 4.257km (2.645mi) away from Hong Kong. The Pandemic sucks!! It has robbed us of lives, jobs, freedom, dreams and plans. Do not let it rob you of hope! This is temporary. Play the long game!! Sure, the vaccines are rolling out later than promised and sure, we have been stuck in limbo for more than a year. And sure, there are other important issues across this planet which must be addressed as well: a lack of clean drinking water for millions, hunger, poverty, armed conflict, malaria, dengue, AIDS, pollution, global warming, climate change, natural disasters, corruption, injustice and much, much more. The world is NOT a perfect place – but I can guarantee you that it is far better than what you what you could possibly imagine. Many things have improved over the past twenty years but thats for a different entry.
What the heck are we going to do about this stupid pandemic? And know that it is not the last one we are going to experience! In my parent’s lifetime the population has risen from three billion to almost eight billion people! This planet is literally covered in bacteria and viruses are plentiful. According to scientist there are diseases deep inside forest which we have not even encountered yet. And as our population grows, we find ourselves in closer and closer contact with the animals we coinhabit this planet with. Viruses will jump. And with billions of new human hosts, viruses have a much higher chance of mutating. Some mutations will be benign while others will be harmful. In less than thirty years we will be ten billion people on this planet. Of course we are going to see more pandemics. History is full of them and that represents a time with far fewer people. Well, to answer my own question in relation to what we are supposed to do: we are supposed to take it seriously. The vaccines will eventually reach us and we are supposed to take them without a fuss. I personally cannot wait until I get my chance but so far Hong Kong is waiting for peer reviewed clinical trials of phase three (or so I have heard). Meanwhile we are supposed to stick to what we have been told to do for more than a year: wash hands, wear mask, keep social distance, follow the rules and use common sense. Your mailman, carpenter, office colleague or best friend might be smart. But unless they have a formal education in a relevant science, then they might not be the right ones to trust when it comes to COVID-19. To me it seems that there is an overwhelming consensus amongst epidemiologists, researchers, doctors, virologists and generally people in lab coats, that we should take this virus seriously. And while we have not experienced more than a few million deaths at this point, I think it’s safe to assume its because of all the things we have done to delay and combat this stupid virus.
Yeah – it is frustrating. People find it a lot easier to wait five minutes for a bus if they know it will arrive after five minutes, than waiting three minutes but not knowing how long they will have to wait for. We do not know how long we will have to wait for before COVID-19 is defeated and the world will return to normal (whatever normal was). It is stressful to wait without knowing for how long. People snap. It is understandable. Parents love their children – but being locked into a house with them is something else. Nobody said this was going to be easy and for many it surely isn’t. So, what do we do? We follow the guidelines, we respect the restrictions (even when they don’t make sense) and we try to make the best of it. The worst thing you can do to yourself is look back at the pandemic and see it as a couple of years lost. The best thing you can do is look back at it and see it as a time where you grew as a person, developed skills and became more accomplished. Especially in spite of the adversity we face.
Personally, I am sick and tired of all of this. I have mentioned it many times before and I’ll mention it again: I have been wanting to head home since 2015. I did not need this pandemic to come in and delay the Saga further. Without the pandemic I could possibly have been home by October last year instead of in…well, who knows now? 2021 is out of the question. We need a minimum of ten months to reach the final nine countries under the best of circumstances. Australia and New Zealand, two wonderful countries, may not even open their borders this year. In fact, it is likely that they don’t. I left home in 2013 projecting this project would be accomplished within four years (seven days per country). It has now cost me seven years of my life and I am frankly in doubt how much more of my life I am still willing to pay for it. I’m older, my fiancée is magically not older (but still). Will we be able to start a family? Is it already too late? Was that a part of the price? The border into Hong Kong has been closed since March 2020. Where there is a will, there is a way – right? I’ve been “looking for an unlocked door along an endless wall” for so long now. The difference between success and defeat is sometimes just a question about when you give up. There’s a TV series called “Alone” in which contestants need to survive individually on their respective islands in the wild. They do not have any form of outside contact and cannot know if anyone has given up. The one that survives for the greatest number of days is the winner. While on your island you cannot know if you are competing against one person or ten. And you cannot know if the other contestants are ready to give up or are as strong as a rock. Not knowing is sometimes a horrible state of mind. Not giving up is sometimes the key to victory.
Why am I stressed out over Once Upon A Saga? Well, first and foremost: it is not a holiday. The Saga has for years been a job with a multitude of obligations. And it keeps on going with an unknown end date. I manage everything from social media to visas and everything in between. I do get some help for somethings though. There is no real “holiday” from this project as any time off will be an extension to the end date. I have tried taking a break but it doesn’t help me relax. I’m virtually in a tunnel of countries always heading for the light which is often not visible. If I stick it out then there is a chance that I will become the first in history to reach every country completely without flying. It will however not land in my lap and it requires a lot of work. If someone is out there in an attempt to accomplish the same, then there is another unknown timeline I’m fighting against. There is also the timeline of my friends and family’s patience with me and the Saga. It his all good and well to accomplish something ambitious and unique, however if it means not being there for birthdays, weddings, graduations, bad days and good days…well… Finally, the entire weight of Once Upon A Saga is carried upon my shoulders. Now, with a hundred thousand online followers, interviews across more than 150 countries and the promise I made to the world of always keeping on keeping on. What happens if I cannot keep on keeping on? The choice is mine. But once you build something which is bigger than yourself, then it no longer comes without a responsibility. And that means I will have to reach the final nine countries completely without flying no matter if I want to or not.
The Church Council of the Danish Seamen's Church in Hong Kong. I knew most of them before I became an assistant. The job is going well.
I do not want to be in Hong Kong. I also do not want to be stuck due to a pandemic. However, the pandemic was not a matter of choice and in the light of that, getting stuck in Hong Kong has been nothing short of a blessing. The kindness I have received all across Hong Kong, the friends which I have made, the doors which have been opened to me, the experiences I have gained, the opportunities I have been offered, the things which we have accomplished – Hong Kong may very well be the very best place to be stuck during a pandemic. The virus is well under control and numbers are going down again. We may even see restrictions easing up after Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, Lunar New Year…a dear child has many names. It begins today – so: HAPPY NEW YEAR! Nobody can default me for not making the best of this year in Hong Kong. It has by no means been a year wasted. The past year has been the year of the Metal Rat which was said to be a year of new beginnings and new opportunities for finding true love and earning more money. Oh well, I guess it was in some ways. This new year is that of the Metal Ox. In the Chinese Zodiac, the Ox is very hardworking and methodical. 2021 is going to be a year when work will get rewarded, and those zodiac signs who are lucky in terms of money this year will be the ones that will make a considerable effort. Let’s hope that will come true. I have been working hard on something for a long while and hope to see it rewarded this year.
My final words to you this time will be this: do not despair. Take the example of the ox and work hard and methodical. Stay on track. Treat a stranger as a friend to be. Remember that the pandemic has touched us all and that everyone is affected by it. People are just people and together we will keep on keeping on. This is day 2,682 of Once Upon A Saga. Do you remember the time I quit and went home? No, neither do I because it never happened.
Thanks for the wine Mr. Söderberg. Much appreciated! :)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - just a guy.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga