Blah, blah, blah (from Hong Kong)
Day 2,948 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).
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
After eight years “on the road” you know who your friends are. Fortunately I have many. I still have some left in Denmark. I have new ones across the world. I have friends in Hong Kong. And hopefully I will win back some of those which have been lost.
Last week’s entry: An Ultra Distance Race, an Antibody test, worshipping mice and more chili!
There isn’t a traveler in the world who has not dealt with sacrifice and turmoil among the many wonderful experiences which come with crossing the border from home and stepping into the world. Those very few whom have reached every nation have likely dealt with more bitterness than most. I’m aware that there are people who look up to me and dream of having my life. It does sound wonderful to be “free” and travel for a living. The assumption of who I am differs from one person to the next. The Government in Palau seems to think that I am a blogger. I am. To some I am “the Red Cross guy”. I am. To others I am an influencer. I am. To some I am family. I am. To some I am a friend. I am. Some see me as an inspiration, a source for daily motivation, a bright light in an, at times, dark world. This I will let others to judge. To one amazing woman I am a husband. I am. And a lucky one at that. To some people I am sure I am ignorant, stupid, arrogant, longwinded and hopeless. I am at times for sure. Some see me as an environmentalist but for most (I think) I’m the man who doesn’t fly. Once Upon A Saga is a project which encompasses a lot and it comes with an immense workload: make everyone happy.
Having roasted goose with friends at Yue Kee Restaurant in Sham Tseng. The go to place for roasted goose. Photo by Rose. She's good with that stuff ;)
Blogging: the Friday Blog is (usually) delivered every Friday. Has more than a thousand subscribers and is read by few. You can find a positive story about each country I have been to. The most popular one has had more than 73,000 hits.
It is almost time to donate blood for the 3rd time in HK.
“The Red Cross guy”. I’m a loyal goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross who as the first in history has paid a visit to, and has promoted, the movement across 194 countries. I have written 133 unique “always present” stories and sent them to the Danish Red Cross – often with photos attached. I have with help from my family, followers, fans and friends raised more than DKK 100,000 (USD 15,000) for the humanitarian work carried out globally. Promotional post on social media are found every Sunday. And we are far from done.
Yes - this is Hong Kong.
Influencer: With nearly daily post across social media and with an online following of more than 100,000 beating hearts I receive feedback from people who now see the world in a more positive light, from people who have started to exercise, from people who dream of visiting new destinations and from people who changed their lifestyles in various ways. Thank you.
Most people saw a dinosaur.
Family: I have family across the world. But primarily in Denmark and Finland. I rarely wish people happy birthday and for eight years straight I have not participated in any family events. I have family I have never met because they were born after October 10th 2013. I’m regularly in touch with my mother, my father and my two siblings. My parents are proud of me. I think my siblings are too.
The average guess came to 42.2 years :) Poul is a good friend and one of the first Danes I met in Hong Kong. He has been in great support of me and the Saga. We will be hiking together again on Saturday as we set out to beat his best time on the Hong kong Trail.
A friend. There are friends that can deal with sparse communication and those who crave it more often. I have met more people than most and try my best to stay in touch but it is increasingly difficult. But my friends know that I’m there for them when they need me.
A husband. My girlfriend in 2013, my fiancée after 2016 and my wife since December last year. One of the worlds strangest relationships and a monster of a long-distance relationship. In spite of the distance, we are strong together. I love her and she has been out to visit me twenty-two times across the world. We aim to spend the rest of our lives together and she knows I have her back. And I know that she has mine.
Do you feel more like a Charlie Chaplin or a Marilyn Monroe? Or perhaps something in between? It is after all 2021 now and apparently there are all sorts of people out there.
Ignorant, stupid, arrogant, longwinded and hopeless: well, I certainly don’t know everything. But I do know a lot. I share much less than what I know about the places I go. Media has bad news and injustice covered in excess. Within Once Upon A Saga it has been decided to cover the other side of life. Much of the normal or common aspects. It has always been the focus to show the beauty, the kindness, the interesting, the real, and that which there is most of: good, kind, well-meaning people. Stupid is what stupid does. Forrest Gump taught us that. Arrogant? Perhaps – I’m aware that I have achieved much within my life but my arrogance could surely be worse. I’m also really busy so I rarely have time for everything. And sure, at times I write a lot. Some would say too much. Some would be right.
A tough question for most. Mr. Beast and Mark Rober are two YouTubers. They have organized to have more than 20 million trees planted and are working towards removing 30 million pounds of garbage from the sea. I figure Mr. Beast could get me from Hong Kong to Palau if he wanted to. So I dropped him an email. It's like playing the lottery as he has more than 70 million subscribers.
Environmentalist? Well, the reason for not flying is not related to the environment but to making world history. Having said that I think there can be no doubt that Once Upon A Saga is one of the greenest “every country in the world” projects. All transportation has been conducted by public transportation or scheduled transportation as it is with containerships. My carbon footprint is incredibly small. I have been eating locally most places, I live a financially simple life and aim to avoid plastic. I have helped to clean beaches and on one occasion the ocean. I promote alternative green fuel sources and the Saga’s financial partner is Ross.dk and GEOOP which both aim to develop green energy from geothermal resources. If I had walked or been on a bicycle it would have been even greener. We can always do better.
The guy who doesn’t fly: yes! That is certainly true for this project. As the first and only person in history I have reached 194 of the targeted 203 countries completely without flying. It has been incredibly inconvenient more than once and certainly a lot work. At times it has also been fairly easy. The non-flying aspect is what sets this project apart from any other. Less than 300 people have reached every country and all had to resort to flying at some point. Some barely did anything but fly. The other crucial aspect is that I have not returned home making this an unbroken journey. Every country in an unbroken journey has only been accomplished once before by an amazing Austrian by the name Sepp Kaiser. It took him ten years and when Sepp returned home, he nailed his backpack to his father’s barn.
Halloween came and went. I had a good time with my friend Jessi at a Middle Eastern inspired café in Mongkok.
Well, I guess a lot of you already knew most of the above. I’m feeling a little burned out these days. There is a lot of “behind the scenes” stuff going on with emails, calls, interviews, updates, research, networking, finance, bureaucracy, bureaCRAZY, logistics, family, housekeeping, events, planning, and work at the Danish Seamen’s Church. And social media also takes up a lot of time. The mental toll of being this close to the goal but yet so far. The frustration with the ease of travel for some and the near impossibility for me. It’s a nonstop “machine” which I haven’t had a break from for eight years. Perhaps except for the weeklong voyages onboard containerships with no internet. Those are my holidays and they are sought for! The crew works hard but I’m prohibited from working onboard and life becomes simple for me out there on the big blue. If we make it to Palau anytime soon then there will be work for me to do there too. Taking photos, meeting people, creating videos, sharing the experience, promoting the country, visiting the Red Cross, doing research, exploring and searching for “the eyes of Palau”. Let’s see. We are still waiting for Palau’s Government as well as Pacific International Lines (PIL) to get back to us. I have forwarded all the necessary paperwork to both parties and have followed up a few times. I fear that if I push to hard then they will back out – and if I don’t push enough then nothing will happen. It is a delicate balance.
The Danish Seamen's Church can be a busy place at times. Sometimes it is calm. I have some good "colleagues" via the Church Council/Volunteers. And as always its good to be able to support the seafarers.
COP26 is blazing ahead and runs until November 21st. Leaders have assembled to discuss the planets future. It is not looking good. Every single country I have been to has experienced abnormalities in the weather pattern. Warmer, colder, no rain, too much rain, more frequent and more powerful storms, extreme droughts – you name it. Welcome to the new normal. I think what we have left to do is make sure it doesn’t get any worse. When I traveled across southern Africa, they were experiencing the worst drought in thirty-five years. THIRTY-FIVE YEARS! I know that many people think of Africa as a continent which always has some flooding, some drought, some famine, some hunger or some armed conflict going on. It has – it is the worlds second largest continent and has a lot to offer. The full story of Africa is that the suffering makes up the smaller part of the fifty-four-country large continent. It is my favorite continent. It is also the worlds most diverse continent in more than one way which says a lot given we have continents such as the Americas and Asia. But the WORST in thirty-five years is headline news and should ring some alarm bells. Unfortunately, the press reported very little on it. The Pacific is full of low-lying countries and those which consists of atoll’s are by definition narrow and fragile. When (not if) the water rises and when (not if) the storms intensify then it will be game over for some countries. As a matter of fact, Palau’s President Surrangel Whipps (still a cool name) said this at COP26: “you might as well bomb our islands”. The context is that rich countries should keep their funding pledge and act to do more. I hold a lot of respect for the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She is the source of this entry’s title: “Blah, blah, blah”. The road to hell is certainly paved with good intentions. Actions speak a lot louder than words. By the way – COP26 is “Conference of the Parties no. 26”. In case you want to look into a specific country which has done very little to cause global warming but is feeling the full wrath of nature then look up our friends in Bangladesh.
Anders and I sat out to hike Sharp Peak from the ocean side. Turned out to be a tall order. You can spot Sharp Peak above Anders' left ear. So it was a bit of a hike.
And we ended the hike with some noodle soup at Home Noodles in Sai Kung which is one of my favorite noodle shops. I used to go there all the time when I lived with the Savagars. Coincidently it is also one of their favorite places.
Well – here we are. The job of an activist is to raise attention. The job of a politician is to implement change. The job for all of us is to make a difference. I’m not a climate activist. I am among the worlds 400-500 most traveled people counted by countries and regions. I was among the 300 most when we reached Hong Kong but the world has opened up and some parts never closed. It shouldn’t be my status on that list which matters to people, but how I got there, and how I have conducted myself along the way. I doubt that I will ever become the worlds most traveled person because that is a different game. When (if) the Saga is completed, I should comfortably be among the 200 most traveled people in the world.
Michael is a good friend and we caught up at the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) over lunch. He is arguably the person responsible for ultra-wifey's and my online wedding as he tipped me off on the concept. We had not seen each other for six months so we had some catching up to do. And we did it at the most famous press club in the world. Thanks for sponsoring my guess membership Tim Huxley!
Did you know that I considered the likeliness of loosing my life along the way when I left home eight years ago? Well, I did. It was a risk/benefit calculation and I knew the risk would be there for a variety of reasons. Somewhere along the way the risk got a lot smaller and the benefit greater. Our remaining nine countries are what stand between me and my way home. A ship could sink, a moment of being unfocused in traffic, a small virus…who knows what will be the cause of our exit from this world? All we can do is prepare for how we leave it.
Yes – blah, blah, blah. There is plenty of it in the world. I’m tired now. Thanks for reading along.
If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - trying REALLY hard!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga