Are influencers always meant to smile and be happy?
Day 3,130 since October 10th 2013: 196 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).
Australia is great and the Saga is complicated
A very common question I get is: “could you see yourself settling down in any of the countries you’ve visited?” And the answer is yes. I have often come across such countries and Australia is another one. However, that is not what we are here for. There are seven left. Let’s go!
Last week’s entry: Somehow ultra-wifey survived Australia! Now let’s go.
The past seven days have been something. So has the past many years. “How are you Thor?” The answer isn’t simple. On one hand worn down by a many year-old struggle against bureaucrazy, high level logistics, and many, many impressions. On the other hand, praised and supported by a lot of people and often surrounded by friends. I thought the final countries would be much easier simply based on synergy and global support. I mean; who wouldn’t want to see this project come to a successful end at this point? Well, the struggle continues. And I thought I’d start this entry with a very contemporary example of what kind of decisions I need to make.
Our friends at Swire Shipping are supporting actively. They have a ship which departs Melbourne (where I’m at) in 36 hours. I can join this ship to Vanuatu, which is one of the remaining seven. Vanuatu is relatively near three of the other countries but timewise far from New Zealand. New Zealand is relatively close to Australia. It would take about three days to reach New Zealand and perhaps two weeks to reach Vanuatu as there are several port calls on the way. Last month I applied for a new passport at the Danish Consulate in Sydney and requested it sent to New Zealand thinking I would be there by now. It is now in New Zealand and I am not. Everything is set up for me to go to New Zealand: Red Cross, media, contacts, visa, new passport… Nothing is set up related to Vanuatu. But if we did reach Vanuatu next then it would make sense visiting Tuvalu, Samoa, and Tonga next. Samoa still keeps its borders closed though. So does Tonga, Tuvalu, and even Vanuatu for that matter. But let’s say we worked our way around it and reached Vanuatu. Being in that region we would still need to come back down to New Zealand eventually. So timewise the most optimal solution is New Zealand first, and then the small Southern Pacific Islands. There are plenty of ships which head to New Zealand from Australia. Swire offers the service but the ship they are using is not theirs. Therefore, they need to ask the owners for permission which makes it harder for me to join the ship. There’s a company called ANL which operates under CMA CGM, and they have ships making the passage. However, they do not know Once Upon A Saga and relations need to be built up from the bottom which is often hard.
It was so nice to see Brett (Melbourne), Emma (Perth), and their lovely daughter Grace again. We became friends in Hong Kong but have relocated back to Australia. They've been a huge support. I like how they aim for a more sustainable lifestyle trying not to buy new items, and grow their own vegetables and spices. And checkout little Grace looking up towards the stars :)
The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much alive in the world. In Australia it is hardly felt and life seems quite normal in most cases. But shipping companies are still adhering to strict COVID-19 precautions and regulations. In some cases, such as with our friends at Maersk, they do not accept any nonessential personnel onboard – no exceptions! In other cases, such as with PIL or Swire there are COVID-19 protocols in place which make it possible. That is how we reached Palau and Australia this year. MSC is also a friend of the Saga and has helped out several times. They have a service which left Brisbane a few days ago to go to New Zealand. That’s also a possibility but they have requested that I seek confirmation which supports that no New Zealand authorities, such as immigration or customs, will deny my entry and cause delays to the cargo operation. That is very reasonable. Unfortunately, it is really difficult to have it confirmed. It generally seems like I would be able to enter New Zealand as a passenger (not crew) on a container ship. However, New Zealand Immigration has proved ridiculously hard to reach. No email addresses, no straightforward way to reach them on social media, and phone numbers with long waiting times (45min or more). I asked people on Facebook and Instagram to help out and the support was overwhelming. New Zealand Immigration has certainly since received many phone calls on behalf of the Saga :)
Chris (Venezuela) is a long time follower and friend. We met in Dubai about 3.5 years ago and he has since moved to Melbourne. We met up for a delicious Greek dinner and some good conversation. He has been to 98 countries.
The New Zealand High Commission in Australia asked me to send an email and I immediately received an autoreply stating I should expect at least a week before receiving a reply. The problem with doing something which has never been done or perhaps only rarely been done is that people don’t know. Many are quick to assume that arriving as a passenger onboard a containership shouldn’t pose a problem. In reality it is sometimes not possible. China will e.g. not allow a passenger to arrive onboard a containership. Back in late 2016 immigration in Beirut, Lebanon, turned me away on two separate occasions while arriving onboard container ships. And on both occasions the ships agent had confirmed it would be no problem. Cruise ships and yachts are currently not permitted to arrive to New Zealand. Fishing boats and cargo vessels are.
There is another possibility. A good friend in Hong Kong reached out and connected me with Goldstar, which is a company operating under ZIM. I have never sailed with ZIM but I gave a talk at their office in Hong Kong and I have good friends working at ZIM. Goldstar also has a service which connects Australia with New Zealand. So, we are working on that. Several friends from Hong Kong have been reaching out with contacts and helping me make connections. Some fairly high-level connections as well. Who knows? Now, the hard choice is, that the ship to Vanuatu leaving in 36 hours, actually continues to Suva, Fiji, where I could transit to New Zealand. It might take a month or more to get there. Meanwhile we may be able to make a direct Australia - New Zealand connection with either Swire, MSC, Goldstar, or even ANL if they come around. What to do? Join the ship to Fiji and hope for the best or stay in Australia and hope for the best?
The Train Gang was formed after the four of us shared a train ride on the US West Coast back in 2014. We became friends and have since stayed in touch. Adam and Art live in the USA. Sara is from Sydney. The photo is from San Francisco.
For me, time is of the essence. I do not want to spend one minute longer in this project than what I have to. I want it over as efficiently as possible. That is not new. Not at all. I have, as mentioned often before, been wanting to go home since 2015. I always thought that if I push just a little harder, work a little bit longer, then it would all work out. And here we are. Having been stuck in Hong Kong for two years, and now in Australia with “only seven countries to go”. Push a little harder? Work a bit longer? If we had full support from shipping companies and government authorities then the Saga could maybe be completed in about seven months. But the Saga is rarely any ones first priority. So, while the Saga enjoys a lot of support it is likely to take more than another twelve months. That is painful knowledge for me. I don’t know how much I have left in me. But I do know that I still have more.
I had the pleasure of reuniting with Sara from The Train Gang :) She has moved from Sydney to Melbourne. How unique to meet up again after seven years. And 12,000km (7.500mi) later.
Yeah – so that’s a bit about the inner workings of the Saga. I often find it hard. The reality is that if I do nothing then nothing happens. I need to stay active to keep the project moving forward. It has been more than eight years of keeping the project moving forward. And then meanwhile, especially here in Melbourne, I have been fortunate to reunite with several good people this past week. It wasn’t easy to part with ultra-wifey last week (it never is) but it freed up time to meet with people. And I had the chance to meet with Ken who’s been following the Saga since 2014!! Ken lives in Melbourne, is retired, has worked as a chemist for many years, loves science fiction, reads around forty books a year, and invited me out for a hike and some fish & chips in Geelong at the coast.
Flinders Peak. The keen eye may be able to spot Melbourne CBD in the far background.
Fish & chips and good conversations. Really good fish & chips I might add.
He picked me up and off we went. We first drove out to You Yangs Regional Park and hiked up to Flinders Peak. From there we had a marvelous view of the surrounding landscape and Melbourne’s CBD could faintly be seen in the horizon. After the hike, Ken presented me with a small white box which contained two cold beers. This is after all Australia! We then continued to Geelong, parked the car and went for a stroll along the Bollard Trail Walk. We stopped at Geelong Boat House for fish & chips and continued talking about anything and everything. Toward the late afternoon Ken offered me a ride to Cam and Justine’s home. That was a 1 hour and 40-minute drive! Such kindness and hospitality. Ken did not have to do that but he wanted to. I have been met with such kindness all across Australia and it certainly did not stop with Ken.
Well Ken, I know you follow the blog and will read this! So I would just once more like to say thank you for a great day exploring some of Victoria's beauty. And thanks for the ride back.
Having left my base in Melbourne CBD and later on in South Yarra, I have now relocated into the loving home of the Brookes family. Cam and Justine have three wonderful children, a dog and some chicken. Last week ultra wifey and I stayed two nights with them and I introduced you all to Cam and my story, which began in 2016. I’ve now been staying with them for a few days and can’t help to envy them a bit. Justine is a wonderful and very attentive mother who keeps the home while Cam works at a nearby school. It is clear to me that they love their children very much. And the kids are great. Ellya is the oldest at five, Lyla is four, and Darcy is just two. A handful when they are at their worst behavior and such a delight when they are at their best – which they most often are. Cam and Justine have said I’m welcome to stay as long as I like. I have told them about the Savagars in Hong Kong who expected me as a guest for four days and ended up hosting me for five months! Cam and Justine just laugh at that.
Smith Street in Melbourne has been voted the coolest street in the world. Okay.
Another great get together!! Carman (Hong Kong) and Phil (Melbourne) now live in Melbourne. We met up several times in Hong Kong. Phil works for Pacsafe, which has sponsored me with masks and a really cool backpack. Carman and Phil treated me Italian food on Lygon Street. SO GOOD!! And then Italian sweets before driving me back to Cam and Justine's place.
It's good to be staying with them and Cam is even fixing up a room for me in his workshop in case I end up staying forever. My days are mostly filled up: logistics, bureaucracy, endless transportation, accommodation, meals, coordinating with the Red Cross globally, feeding social media, daily social media management, interviews, long distance relationships, health, mental health, aging, memories across 196 countries, people, names, places, speaking engagements, partnership management, fundraisers, motivation…yes, the list goes on and on. Yet – with Cam there is also time to fool around and be silly. And when the children have gone to sleep it’s not uncommon that we chill with a glass of red wine and The Voice Australia on TV. A show I knew of but which I had never seen. And I have to say, I think it is quite good. Well, I guess they have had time to develop it as they are 11 seasons in now.
It may be tough times for me. But Cam can usually make me smile :)
I’m hanging in there. The ‘Keep on Keeping On’ should make good sense to most of you by now. You are special. You read the Friday Blog and most people do not. Thanks for reading along. And as a special treat to you I let you in on some good news before I share it elsewhere: I am now officially a Salomon Ambassador! And happy to be one. I love the brand. While some would be aware that I have traveled to 196 countries in their footwear, I have actually been wearing Salomon from the waist down for several years now. So, it’s very cool to be a brand ambassador for them. See you next week.
Someone liked my new Salomon SONIC 4 Confidence running shoes. I get why! :)
If you enjoyed this blog or find that I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga welcomes funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - still haven't quit.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga