No – I’m not quitting. Not yet. (Hong Kong day 486)
Day 2,787 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(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).
Once Upon A Saga day: 2,787
Well, it has become Friday once again. Which means that we survived another week on this planet. Congratulations! You’re alive! Make the best of it.
Last week’s entry: Closing in on 500 days of being stuck – Hong Kong
Burn-out. It has always been a risk within a multiple year journey. I found the following on WHO’s website:
Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
So, do I think I have reached a state of burn-out? Do you think I have? I don’t know. I don’t really want more followers, I’m not particularly interested in fame, I’m not interested in having more interviews, and I’m not interested in money. I would very much like to see the end of Once Upon A Saga and I prefer a successful completion but let’s see. My goodness it has been a long time since we crossed the border from Denmark to Germany and began this epic journey. The Saga is host to more than 100,000 online followers. We have delivered interviews across more than 160 countries. The financial status is stable thanks to Ross DK and Geoop along with the many generous donations from friends, family, followers and fans (FFFF). Hong Kong can be a very expensive place but I have been fortunate to have a roof over my head throughout the entire pandemic by the good grace of several kind people. Most of my meals are home cooked and hiking is a highly cost-efficient activity. After years of living on a USD 20/day budget I have learned how to live on a rock. I don’t need much and I put an honor in repairing stuff. I’m happy to use the same teabag 4-5 times. I don’t mind walking but, in any case, public transport is reasonably affordable in Hong Kong. When will we be able to leave Hong Kong? I have no clue!! However as always, I’m working on a few things. Wifey is leaving Hong Kong on June 20th and we are grateful for the time her workplace has permitted her to work remotely. At this point we are trying to guess if I will see her in Hong Kong once more three to four months down the line, or if we will be separated for another nineteen months due to Pacific logistics and a global pandemic. Nobody can say if this pandemic will be over next year. Plenty of people will however quickly offer their opinions.
Photo by Andy Malhan.
The Savagars are a wonderful family and you may remember that they hosted me for a full five months when the Saga first reached Hong Kong in January last year. They recently gave wifey and me a wedding present consisting of a photographer who could do a series of wedding photos for us. A while ago wifey and I headed out to Sai Kung where we met with the photographer (Andy Malhan) and did the photoshoot. Andy is a really nice guy and he snapped some really good shots. After they had been processed, we got to pick our ten favorites and have them printed. When I met with Andy to collect the printed versions, he told me that we had made some curious choices. Andy explained that his clients usually chose photos of themselves in which they look at the camera. Wifey and I had chosen ten photos in which we never look at the camera. It had not been a conscious choice. But yes, quite curious. One of the pictures which wifey picked is a close up of my face. I recently made it the profile picture across all Once Upon A Saga social media. It’s an interesting photo as you can read a lot into it. You can see some of my hair and beard turning grey. You can see the lines in my face. You can read a variety of emotion within it. I’m not smiling in it. Many saw sadness. I don’t remember being sad while it was taken. Probably I was just tired. I have plenty of reasons for being tired. In any case we are grateful to the Savagars for the fine gift and to Andy for his keen eye.
For a while I have felt that there is a complete mismatch between what many people think the Saga is and what it feels like. I often read comments from people who envy me and I often meet people who think I am living “the dream”. More often than not I smile on photos. But perhaps not before nor after. These Friday entries have always been more honest than social media posts. Some people realize that what I am doing is hard. Some certainly do not. Reflecting this I made a post last Wednesday with this photo and this text:
Looks nice…doesn’t it?
Well, it is. And that’s my wife over my right shoulder.
This is what social media often looks like. Nice pictures. A split second of a full day or even a week. Behind the scenes I work a lot. Far more than most people know. I guarantee you that we did not reach 194 countries in an unbroken journey completely without flying…by accident.
It took a lot of effort. And so do many of the benefits I reap today. Once Upon A Saga was intended to be over within four years. We will reach eight years by October and it’s not because we’ve been hanging around “enjoying life too much”. Generally, the Saga has moved forward whenever it was possible.
Few enjoy travel beyond six months. After that they look forward to going home. Bureaucracy and logistics quickly becomes work. At some point you will have tried enough foreign food, seen enough waterfalls, met enough people and visited enough temples. Then you go home, digest, reorganize and - perhaps, start planning for your next adventure.
The reason why I’m still out here after more than seven years isn’t totally clear. I have been wanting to go home since 2015. But I set out to do something and I’m not done yet. This pandemic sucks!!! Once Upon A Saga could have been over by October 2020 if it hadn’t been for the pandemic. Now - who knows?!?
As long as this planet sees the pandemic as a local problem and not a global problem it will continue to drag on…
Reaching the final nine countries without flying will take no less than ten months under normal circumstances. Distance, frequency, speed…it’s just math and schedules.
Every day I look myself in the mirror and wonder if I should quit. I was 34 when I left home. Now I’m 42. My priorities have shifted. If this project is to be completed then I will be 44 before I see home.
But here’s the thing. Nobody ever achieved anything by quitting. I can become the man who quit or the man who accomplished it. And I much rather prefer being the latter…
Some 40+ orders ready for collection at Danish Room at the Danish Seamen's Church in Hong Kong.
Well, on with the show. Work within the Danish Seamen’s Church has certainly ramped up lately. A long-expected shipment with a variety of Danish food, sweets and specialties arrived. The Seamen’s Church has an online shop and as soon as we announced that it had been restocked, people went bonkers!! Hong Kong is certainly host to some shopping-happy Danes! It’s the pandemic. For a very long time Hong Kong has had a mandatory three-week quarantine period for anyone entering Hong Kong. Something which has limited most travel to absolutely essential journeys. You certainly wouldn’t fly home to see family for a week if you need to spend another three weeks locked into a hotel following your return. It is two weeks now if you are fully vaccinated. Still a stark deterrent. For the same reason a lot of people haven’t been able to buy Danish products for a while. It has been interesting in a way. Wifey has certainly enjoyed giving me a hand in packing orders. And I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people as they came to collect their orders. Within my job as the assistant within the Seamen’s Church I also run the Facebook account which has roughly 1,600 followers. It has far less traffic than the account of Once Upon A Saga which now counts 56,000. And I run it in Danish which is nice for a change. Because I run the Seamen's Church account, many Danes in Hong Kong have become familiar with me and feel that they know me to some degree. It offers an interesting dynamic when I meet someone for the first time. While the online shop has kept me busy there hasn’t been a single ship to visit throughout all of May. April had nine Danish flagged ships call Hong Kong but May only had two. And the two did not require any assistance.
Together with Wifey and Mardelaina at Crown Wine Cellars.
You may or may not remember Mardelaina of Learn x Travel. She’s a highly spirited Hongkonger who I’ve met with a few times. Not long ago she took wifey and I golfing. Earlier this week she had organized that the three of us could get a guided tour at “Little Hong Kong”. Hong Kong has plenty of WWII history for anyone to behold. There are several bunkers and tunnels which were once used by the British and the Japanese. “Little Hong Kong” is a bunker complex which once served as the central ordinance munitions depot. It has since been turned into a members only club and private wine storage operated by Crown Wine Cellars.
"The Library" at Crown Wine Cellars.
It was as always good to spend some time with Mardelaina and to see something new in Hong Kong. The overall experience of visiting the bunker complex wasn’t very inspiring. We were afterwards joking that the tour should be added to the “must do” list for people only visiting Hong Kong for a day. A bit of sarcasm for you there. Yet, it was interesting to see what you can do with an old bunker and I had no idea that the old bunker complex was located there – and now I know. I could however have lived a long and happy life not knowing at all.
Showing our dog's teeth on the East Dog's Teeth Ridge! Thanks to Salomon for the new gear.
Wifey had an idea for a couple’s goal even before she arrived to Hong Kong. The two of us were to complete the MacLehose Trail together. It is a 100 km (62 mi) long footpath which runs across some mountainous terrain. Across the entire section you will hike the equivalent of going halfway up Mount Everest and down again. Wifey is strong but this is quite a challenge. We want to do it in one go and think it might take about thirty hours in total. As such I have been pushing wifey to grow stronger and get ready for the challenge. Together we have been adjusting to perform in the hot and humid conditions which are now an everyday reality of life in Hong Kong. 80% humidity and temperatures above 30 degrees Celcius (86 F). In the course of just three days, we managed three tough hikes: East Dog’s Teeth Ridge (elevation gain: 986m/3,235ft), Sharp Peak loop (elevation gain: 994m/3,261ft) and an improvised hike across Needle Hill (elevation gain: 632m/2,073ft). Our attempt is set for the weekend of June 5-6th. It will be interesting.
East Dog's Teeth Ridge. It's among Hong Kong's hardest trails.
Taking the gondola down from Ngong Ping 360. The airport still looks like a parking lot.
Ready to climb Sharp Peak!
Wifey heading up Sharp Peak.
Hong Kong has about 100 beaches. We tested this one during the Sharp Peak hike.
On June 14-15th we have been invited to spend a night at Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel. Ocean Park is one of two amusement parks in Hong Kong and the local favorite. It’s a proper Hong Kong amusement park while Disneyland is an import. Emotions run deep for many in relation to Ocean Park and I’m very happy that this gets to be a part of wifeys exit. Furthermore, the added bonus of staying at the Marriott is just amazing. This came into place after our friend Jessi connected us with the hotels communications manager who immediately agreed to welcome us. Fantastic! Hong Kong is truly a great part of this planet and the opportunities are nearly limitless. The kindness of the Hongkongers is heartwarming and the beauty of the region is stunning. Yet – I wish for nothing more than to leave. However, as long as we’re here we might as well taste the fruits! This is one fruit I am particularly looking forward to biting into.
Jessi joined us for a home cooked meal! Spicy pasta! :)
And there you have it. Another entry with both highs and lows. As I wrap this up, I’ll tell you a little something about last night. I joined the weekly Thursday evening hike with Poul, Thomas, Jesper and Jakob. Kenneth will soon be out of quarantine and ready to join us again. This group of ours is one of my favorite things within Hong Kong. We do a rather highspeed but flat two-hour hike and then end up around a table for a homecooked meal and some beverages. Sometimes the “afterparty” gets a bit out of hand but it’s usually just a nice evening together as people need to work the following morning.
Well! This one was a bit different. Because it was Jakob’s birthday! Happy birthday Jakob! Jakob’s wife is from Thailand and makes the most delicious larb! That is lettuce with spicy ground pork and it is bonkers good! Jakob had also arranged for a Danish specialty which we call ‘tarteletter’. I found an English translation of the dish which went like this: ‘Danish Chicken and Asparagus Tartlets’. My goodness!! I have had a variety of Danish food all around the world but these might have been the first ‘tarteletter’ I’ve had in eight years!! Later on, we had Danish red sausages with remoulade. Remoulade is a special condiment which kind of resembles tartar sauce although not quite. We might have had something to drink as well but I’m sure we all behaved and were back in bed early.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - not always smiling
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga