Sunk cost and the Saga (from Hong Kong)

Day 2,920 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).

Two days away from being eight years away from home


The kind journalistic work of Reto Fehr brought a lot of readers up to speed on the Saga in a recap which most people who found the Saga within the past few years have missed. I will include a link for those of you who have interest.

Last week’s entry: A week in pictures (from Hong Kong)

Let’s open up with a reminder to all that the world is in fact gradually becoming a better and better place. Not for everyone of course but for the majority. And not across the board because we certainly have issues – but still. In some of the latest news, WHO recommends a groundbreaking malaria vaccine for children at risk. And that is GREAT NEWS!! The vaccine is thought to have a 75% efficacy. A word I suppose we all have learned by now. More than 400,000 people die from the mosquito born decease every year from more than 200 million cases globally. I was treated for cerebral malaria back in 2015, which is the kind that goes to your brain. It could have been the end of me within a few days had I not received treatment. But ultra-wifey (back then my girlfriend) was by my side when I got sick and she forced me to see a doctor. I might have avoided visiting a clinic under the belief that it was just something benign which I could treat with rest, water and painkillers. It turned out to be a heck of a thing! After about ten days on medication, I was treated, but still so weak that I couldn’t carry my bags and keep on travelling. So, I had to stay another week to regain strength. And what a vacation for ultra-wifey that was. Well, now we have a WHO recommended vaccine. I wonder if they will run into yet another antivaxxer storm with this one? A lot of malaria death’s take place in children below the age of five.


Nice to see a driver with a living plant within his vehicle. Go green ;)

Chinese National Day came and went. It was the 1st of October and the first day of a week-long holiday. While Hong Kong is a part of China there is certainly a bit of “crowbar separation” and a reluctance to celebrate the day which marks the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Personally, I did not observe that anything was closed or different in Hong Kong compared to any other week of the year. The seven-day holiday from October 1st to 7th is called 'Golden Week' and generally a time during which a large number of Chinese people go traveling around the country. But if you’re in Hong Kong then where are you going to go? You can literally run from one side of Hong Kong to the other in less than a day. Traveling internationally comes at a great cost as a 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine is enforced on your return. Quite problematic for a lot of people to say the least. Travel for a business meeting: 14 days quarantine. Travel for a funeral: 14 days quarantine. Travel to meet a siblings first born: 14 days quarantine. You get the picture… Well, the Savagars invited me to join them for dinner during the ‘Golden Week’ and that’s always well worthwhile. Especially if Cassie is cooking. The Savagars were the family which hosted me for my first five months in Hong Kong back when we were all hoping that the virus would go away much sooner. They are a family of four, plus a domestic helper, so five familiar faces which very much feel like family to me. We had homemade pulled pork burgers which were fantastic. The boys were busy with friends and parties while Cassie (China), James (UK) and I sat and talked. At some point the conversation landed on the Saga and the big investment in getting this far. In almost unison I heard Cassie and James utter the words: ‘sunk cost’.


This is okay. But five people sitting at the same table isn't.

It seems like a term I would have read about more than twenty years ago while in business school. We spoke a bit about sunk costs and once I got back home, I looked it up to do a bit more research. And that lead me to the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’. Sunk cost is everything you have invested in something which you will never get back e.g.: time, effort, or money. The sunk cost fallacy relates to continuing on the same path for no other reason than that you are invested. It could relate to staying in an unhealthy relationship simply because you have already spent years together. It could be finishing a bad book or movie only because you have already endured 20% and might as well keep going. The sunk costs fallacy is often used within business cases when e.g., weighing out whether or not to keep some equipment, an employee or an investment. The fallacy comes into play when the investment which cannot be recovered overshadows the decision to cut loose and move on. And this is naturally quite relevant to me and my personal investment of time, resources and emotions to be where I am today. It is not a joke when I say I have been wanting to return home since 2015. It may have been as much as 80% adventure, thrill and enjoyment when I left home in 2013 and 20% work, disappointment, pain and misery. But the balance gradually shifted. I’m lucky if its 20% adventure, thrill and enjoyment by now. So, should I just cut my losses and go home? The time spent is never coming back. All the energy I have spent is also not coming back. Those are sunk cost. If I take that into account while making a choice to stay within the Saga or go home…then that would be the fallacy. I have invested more than 600 days of my life hoping to see the pandemic ease up and find an opening to reach the final nine countries. That time spent is not coming back and I should not consider that investment in relation to how much longer I am willing to wait. At least not in a fashion which reflects that I might as well wait a little longer because I have waited this long already.


Click HERE or on the image to read Reto Fehr's powerful article.

What I need to consider is the potential value of completing the Saga while weighing out the potential loss over the next likely two years to get there. Could I return home now, write a book and inspire people by telling them about my story? Yes, I could. Would the story be much better if I reached the final nine countries? Probably not. Will it have a huge impact for me or anyone else whether I reach every country completely without flying or not? Hard to say – it could inspire generations to come. Will the Red Cross benefit from a completion of this project or take a loss if I gave up? To be honest…I don’t think the Red Cross could care less. I mostly feel like I’m completely forgotten and of no importance to the movement…so no, I do not believe the Red Cross would care if I went home. What about my family, friends, followers and fans? Well, they are a mixed lot and some would certainly be upset if I quit but everyone would find a way to continue their lives. So…why I am I still out here? To potentially inspire a few people in the future? Nah – I think it’s for a few other reasons. Since 2013 I have been promoting countries positively across various platforms. Something I believe is dearly needed to contrast much of the negative news. This is however something I could easily do for the final nine countries by flying to them. So, the “every country without flying” element is not a necessity. And neither is the completion of the Saga to draw media attention (to promote values) as the Saga would likely receive plenty of attention in the event it was aborted. Finally, I could weigh in the historical element of doing something which has never been done before. But again, we are not exactly curing cancer, with the exceptions that fighting for the overall completion might inspire a student to fight harder for an exam, graduate and discover the cure for cancer? Hmmm…it’s odd with inspiration, isn’t it? Is the world a better place because mountaineers successfully reached the peak of Mt. Everest in 1953? Who’s to say? No – important elements of completing the Saga lie primarily in two aspects: 1) there is no telling what the potential could be of inspiring just one individual, and 2) on a personal level, when I look at myself in a mirror, I would much rather be the man who completed what he set out to do rather than the one who didn’t.


Enough about the sunk cost fallacy. I believe I’m still fighting for the right reasons and not to compensate for what has already been lost. Let’s instead move on to the annual occurring ‘National Collection Day’ (landsindsamling) of the Danish Red Cross (DRC). Because that took place last Sunday. It’s a unique event where the DRC mobilizes THOUSANDS of extra volunteers to go from door to door nationwide, asking for donations, within a span of just THREE hours. And the results speak for themselves, although they have been declining over the years:

2020: DKK 13.5 million (USD 2.1 million)

2019: DKK 16 million (USD 2.5 million)

2018: DKK 16 million (USD 2.5 million)

2017: DKK 18.4 million (USD 2.9 million)

2016: DKK 19.4 million (USD 3 million)

2015: DKK 25.5 million (USD 4 million)

The money goes to support the most vulnerable people within several of the world’s hotspots. On the day itself siblings, friends, couples, relatives and even first dates, get out into the streets, knocking on doors and chiming doorbells. The following day (last Monday) volunteers received an email thanking them with information of the amount they individually collected while providing links to share on social media. So that’s an all-round good event which raises funds for humanitarian work, offers a nice day with loved ones, and generates a lot of visibility for the DRC. In case you are Danish and missed it then you still have a chance to place a donation: SMS - send GIV250 til 1290 (kr 250) or MobilePay – 91345 or Bank - 4183 6275400. One of the last things I did before leaving Denmark was to volunteer for the DRC National Collection Day together with my sister and we had a really nice time. There are undoubtedly many reasons why the collected amount has been declining over the years and I could probably mention a few. But I would much rather inform you that this year broke the trend as the DRC raised: DKK 15.5 million (USD 2.4 million). Let’s hope they make it back to 2015 levels soon.


On a rooftop in Hong Kong with the worlds most traveled collection canister.

Yeah – it’s been a week. There is no news in relation to Palau but I have confidence in Roel who’s our man on the ground. He keeps telling me not to give up. I look forward to meeting him some day. New Zealand is now saying what many of us have known for a while: a zero-tolerance strategy is not feasible with the Delta variant in play. So now New Zealand is working towards getting more of their population vaccinated and opening up internationally by early 2022. That sounds a lot like Australia’s strategy, only they announced it a little earlier. Australia is going to be really interesting as it’s down to state level when they will open up, effectively meaning that an Australian from one state could travel internationally but might not be able to cross certain state boarders domestically. What a strange time we are living in. Waiting to see the end of this pandemic has been no picnic. 600+ days on top of all the years which preceded our arrival to Hong Kong has been a huge mental ordeal for me. And it continued to be. Furthermore, a great investment in how my life is spent. But we are now well into October and if Australia and New Zealand are opening up in January then there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel.


I trail ran this a few days ago. It is about half of this years HK50 race which takes place on Sunday. I'm participating and not feeling confident at all.

And spending all of this time in Hong Kong has far from been bad. Hong Kong is arguably one of the very best places in the world to ride out a global pandemic. I understand those Hongkongers that are wary about the Hong Kong National Security Law which was passed on June 30th 2020. Nobody wants to lose any of their rights. Reality is however, that we all lose rights all the time as society moves forward. There was a time when you could simply build a house in any remote spot and declare it your home. Try pitching a tent most places today and see what happens. Well, fair enough – Hong Kong’s case is special. But there is still much to be appreciative of within Hong Kong and most normal lives go on completely unaffected by the National Security Law. On another note, Hong Kong is the kind of place where you can get nearly anything. And it’s also a place with good movie theaters and the latest movies. Last week I found time to go and see ‘Dune’ which blew me away. I was suddenly a ten-year-old kid again wanting to be a Jedi. Only Frank Herbert’s novel of six books does not relate to Jedi’s at all. It is a story told 20,000 years into the future long after humanity agreed never to develop artificial intelligence again. It tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis. While the planet is an inhospitable and sparsely populated desert wasteland, it is the only source of melange, or "the spice," a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. Melange is also necessary for space navigation, which requires a kind of multidimensional awareness and foresight that only the drug provides. The 2021 film is astonishing! And I somewhat felt at home on the desert planet which in many ways had me thinking of my years in Libya and the Berbers. Oh well, my friend Thomas enjoys science fiction and I was happy to see it again with him. We also invited Jessi. You might recognize Jessi as the woman who opens the door for me 30 seconds into this short video I made at Anantara, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, resort back in 2018. That was when Jessi and I first met. A lot of water under the bridge since then.


At the movie theater with Jessi.

You know what? I actually found time to catch two movies this week. The latest James Bond had its world premiere and I couldn’t pass on that one. Jessi joined me and together we sat through what I think was the best Daniel Craig Bond movie since Casino Royal. And it contains a truly powerful love story. At least for me. It’s not your typical James Bond and I can see why the movie might upset a great deal of people. But it is however a great action movie in my opinion, it contains a lot of great scenes and it plays tribute to many old Bond classics. Yeah – Jessi and I watched James Bond and then a few days later Jessi, Thomas and I watched Dune. After the movie the three of us were looking for a place to sit down and talk about the movie. Thomas (of the Andersen Clan) has lived more than half his life in Hong Kong and suggested we would head up to ‘Felix’ which is a bar and restaurant which sits on top of the historical and prestigious Hotel Peninsula. And that was a real pleasure. Thomas told us that ‘Felix’ would usually be full of people. But we were the only ones there. Pandemic or timing? Who is to say? We had a good time before I went home to get some sleep.


A 4.5 million USD Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Continuation car at display at The Peninsula Hotel. 


Thomas and Jessi chatting away at the very empty 'Felilx' after the movie.

Last night I met up with the nutcases for our weekly two-hour hike. We had received monsoon warnings and the ‘My Observatory’ app also warned of a nearby typhoon which was heading close by but turned off in direction of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.  For the first 80 minutes we had a nice dry hike but the rain caught up with us towards the end. A lot of it! Poul, who’s now back in Hong Kong after a trip to Denmark, was ready with dry t-shirts for all of us and a spectacular home cooked meal. It’s always good to see the nutcases. And today, Friday October 8th 2021, is the day of the Hong Kong Hot Wings Experience!! I will be joined by 11 friends in our attempt to each eat ten chicken wings which each get progressively hotter until the last one which has been seasoned with a 3 million Scoville hot sauce. To be continued…



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

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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - really, really, really tired.

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