Am I the BIGGEST TRAVELLER of 2022? And other stuff (more Fiji)
Day 3,340 since October 10th 2013: 200 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).
Recognition and a sense of belonging
This is a fast summarization of past weeks events as last week’s entry didn’t say much about last week and I never shared the “kava story” from the week before. I hope you’ll enjoy.
Last week’s entry: The Salomon entry (filming a documentary during transit in Fiji)
Early Monday morning, I sat before my laptop here in Fiji, wearing my trusty old hat, and received the very prestigious and coveted travel award: Biggest Traveller of 2022. It was announced that I won during this year’s NomadMania Travel Awards (available on YouTube). That is definitely a great honor!! NomadMania is an online hub and database for the most travelled people in the world. Or as NomadMania puts it: Travel community with 1,301 world regions. How many have you been to? 100% free membership with exclusive benefits. 10K+ members. The three most notable online travel communities I’m aware of would be TCC (Travelers' Century Club), MTP (Most Traveled People), and NomadMania. On MTP and NomadMania you can create a free profile and measure yourself against the “best travelled” people in the world. “Best travelled” is a phrase I’ve chosen to borrow from NomadMania’s founder Harry Mitsidis, who is arguably the most travelled person in the world. I recently read an interview about Harry and found it interesting that he rejects the title of “Most Travelled Man” or “biggest traveller”. Harry states: “There are at least 10 people out there claiming to be the world’s biggest traveller – that means at least 9 are delusional. I will not join any of these people in such statements. You cannot measure travel and the experience.” This year I won the title of Biggest Traveller 2022 in direct competition with five other nominees. Five formidable travelers. I don’t know how to feel about that? But I do know one thing for sure: it feels wonderful to receive recognition for my efforts from some of the best traveled people in the world. Thank you.
Biggest Traveller 2022 – the one and only, whose travels in the past year, in terms of both quantity (days on the road and number of trips) AND quality (difficulty and variety of destinations), render them a truly big traveller even by the standards of the NomadMania Community.
Moving on. I had quite the kava experience shortly after returning to Fiji nearly three weeks ago. Kava is a slightly sedative, and highly popular, drink made from the roots of a plant which grows on some of the Pacific Islands. For the most part people call it kava or ava. But in Fiji they casually call it grog or refer to it as yaqona. Anyway, I’ve had it twice in Fiji before and twice in Vanuatu, where it is far stronger. I’ve never felt much of an effect apart from a little numbness on my tongue and in my throat – and that was only in Vanuatu. Well. Good old Oliver who works at NPDL (Neptune Pacific Direct Line) and whom I met in late 2019 felt that it was time we had some grog together. Oliver picked me up and drove me to a nice “Starbuck’s-looking” café called Mana Coffee. I had always imagined kava bars to be slightly shady and basic. I’ve seen quite a few kava bars from the outside where the wooden exterior looked derelict. But this was a really nice café. Oliver then bought a packet of kava powder which was wrapped in an industrialized package such as a chocolate bar would be. With nutrition facts, instructions, a barcode and all!
I've now been told that this contains an extraction of the active ingredient.
Oliver and I sat down at a large clean table and waited for a handful of Oliver’s friends to arrive while the staff prepared our kava in a traditional “tanoa” (wooden kava bowl). The seats around the table filled up and we had a great evening talking and discussing while slowly drinking “shells” (kava cups) until there was nothing left in the tanoa. Then someone ordered more and the evening continued. At some point I had to visit the restroom and noticed that I was “intoxicated” with a slight lack of control over my body. I could also just have been tired? I couldn’t quite tell. But at 9:00pm when Mana Coffee closed, I was definitely feeling something. Oliver estimated that we might have had around twenty shells each. I noticed that one of Oliver’s friends looked relaxed/disoriented as he sat there across from me. Okay – so it wasn’t just me. Because I was most definitely feeling something which resembled the feeling of having had too many beers on an empty stomach. We said farewell to each other at the parking lot and Oliver gave me a ride back to where I was staying. I wasn’t sure what to do? I wasn’t sure how long it would last? I wasn’t sure if some sort of hangover would follow? I tried to eat some food and drink a lot of water before I went to bed. The following day I felt a little “dumb”. My brain wasn’t at full speed but I wasn’t feeling ill and there was no headache. As the day progressed, I felt more and more normal. Wow!! I did not know kava could do that!?
The tanoa. I don't mind the taste. But wow!! I better be careful next time. Good company though :)
Last week was packed! Mike Douglas and I spent the entire week filming for the Salomon TV documentary about me/Once Upon A Saga. Mike rented an apartment for us with two bedrooms to make it all as efficient as possible. I occasionally had a moment to look at my phone but for the most part the days went sharing stories, exploring angles, and filming. We recorded an additional six hours of interview, which often involved diving deep into memories, emotions, and the reasoning behind all of this. Why am I visiting every country in the world in an unbroken journey without flying? Go past the superficial answers to why you do what you do and you will eventually be questioning your entire persona. It quickly got existential and was very tiring. I have several traumatic experiences behind me from the Saga and it became emotional diving deep into such memories. Sure, I can rattle off a superficial version of a great story – but we dug deep and I didn’t really like what I found.
Mike filming me on a bus.
Apart from the interviews we also needed B-roll material of me running, me hiking, me working on my laptop, me walking about, me visiting places…and we needed a lot of that to be filmed in slow motion too. Then there were the drone shots, there was the city environment, the nature environment, the rain footage etc. It was a full week for sure!!
It’s easy to be around Mike. He’s a great guy with a lot of life- and professional experience. Mike has a history as a professional athlete and is nicknamed “the godfather of freeskiing”. Mike is also credited with having invented the twin tip ski, which was first commercialized by Salomon, and has brought a lot of joy to me and my friends during winter months in Austria. Mike’s collaboration with Salomon (and Salomon athletes) is age old. For many years now, Mike has managed Switchback Entertainment and champions POW (Protect Our Winters) in Canada, where he is from, and lives with his family. Yeah – it was a hard but also fun week. And from Monday until Monday I did not need to worry about any costs relating to transport, accommodation or meals. I might even have gained a little weight.
Mike filming the Fiji Flying Fox (Mirimiri acrodonta) between takes of filming me in Thurston Gardens.
Apart from the pride and joy I have in getting the raw side of the Saga documented in style, I also got to experience a lot more of Fiji through our multiple shooting locations. Fiji truly is something special and could be mistaken for many places around our pale blue dot. I wrote “raw side” because the Saga most definitely has a face which is rarely shown. My style of running social media combined with most interviews being lighthearted often gives the audience a touristy version of traveling the world. Reality is, as many of you loyal readers already know, a lot more demanding, complicated, risky, lonely, tedious, and at times depressing. There have been a lot of tough years within the Saga. 2020 and 2021 were mentally tough beyond what most realize. And our (so far) six new countries of 2022 have been hard earned to say the least. Reaching the final three is nothing but straight forward. But we will get there. It was really good to have Mike by my side for a full week and I miss him. Not in the same way as I miss ultra-wifey every time she returns home to Denmark…but yet something similar as I walk past a restaurant where Mike and I had lunch or a street where we took the same shot over and over again. Memories attached to places. Memories with people. It’s a lonely project full of people.
Last night with Mike. Good food and good company at Manu, Suva.
Mike dropped me off where he picked me up a week earlier: at Joji’s house which he shares with Lisa. Two wonderful people who have opened their home to me. I’m back in the same guestroom I had nearly two weeks ago and it’s good to have company around me. I dread thinking about what it would be like sitting alone in a guesthouse every night. By all likelihood NPDL is not going to invite me onboard their container ship to Tuvalu. They changed management during the pandemic and the new management is in the USA. In my experience that complicates things far more than need be. In this case the company is furthermore very concerned about getting COVID-19 onboard the ship as it will lead to an expensive quarantine for the entire ship. Nah…its far more likely that Tuvalu will send one or two of its government owned ferries (Nivaga III and Manu Folau) to Fiji to ferry Tuvaluans home for Christmas.
The ferries usually operate in Tuvaluan waters where they connect Tuvalu’s nine islands. “Everyone” says they think the ferries are coming to Fiji in mid-December. Nobody knows anything for sure (ships agent, Tuvalu High Commission, Tuvalu Ministry of Transport, Tuvalu Red Cross). Fortunately, I’ve been able to take my mind off it. This week most evenings have been spent with Joji and Lisa watching Netflix’s 2022 horror/mystery called 1899. What a series! Interesting, compelling and super confusing. Both Joji and Lisa are very likable and easygoing. A stranger is a friend you’ve never met before.
Hashing in Suva.
And then there’s my involvement with the Hash House Harriers (HHH). It’s a social club which is found globally after it originated in Kuala Lumpur back in 1938. I first got invited to join a “hash” in Khartoum, Sudan, back in 2017. It’s a really nice social club with the perfect amount of rituals, rules and silliness attached to it. They call themselves “a drinking club with a running problem”. Once the Saga reached Brunei back in 2019 I was once again invited. As such I recognized the name when I saw it on “Sir Big Ben’s” t-shirt a few weeks ago here in Suva. I was out walking Mudu (Joji’s dog) and struck up conversation with Sir Big Ben for a few minutes and took his number. They meet up in Suva every Monday around 6pm and walk/run a part of town before looping back for dinner and drinks. The non-alcoholic version goes for 5 Fiji dollar (USD 2.20) and if you want beer then its 20 Fiji dollar (USD 9).
Hashing through a very local neighborhood in Suva.
I’ve joined Suva HHH the past two Mondays and it is a great family friendly crowd with some interesting people. And with some silly HHH names such as: Sir Big Ben, Humper, Miss Piggy, Bone Crusher, Shat on, Tats, Sarai, Slippery Spear, Jailbreak, and many more. People are referred to by their HHH names. I don’t have one yet. A great thing for me, apart from the social aspect, is that I get to see some new areas of Suva, which I would otherwise never come to. Sir Big Ben is the Hash Master and coordinates for all of us. It is so cool that I can just show up on a Monday if I feel like it and pay for my participation. Last Monday was the 2,500th Hash Run in Suva! And last week marked 48 years of continuous Hashing for them. Well done. Top marks for that! On on!
At the former harbor masters residence which now belongs to a Hasher. Sporting my Suva HHH t-shirt.
That brings us to the end of this entry. This week I’ve been looking into getting an extension for my Fijian visa which does not come as easy as an extension in Hong Kong. For starters a passport copy of my entry visa stamp must be verified by a solicitor! I visited three law firms before I found one with a solicitor in the office. The verification came easy and was free of cost. Long live bureaucrazy. I’ve also done more research on potential ships to Tuvalu but I think there’s just NPDL and the Tuvalu ferries. And I have received my 4th Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine jab. I went to the Ministry of Health (MOH) to enquire whether I could get one as a foreigner, what it would costs, and which vaccines they had? I was told to come back the following day at 07:00am to talk to the clinic staff. I showed up the following morning and 15-minuttes later I had received my jab. The three I got in Hong Kong were all Pfizer BioNTech so I was happy that Fiji could offer that too. Free of charge. I made a post about it on Facebook and Instagram and as expected it brought out some keyboard warriors who adhere to conspiracy theories. Regardless if you believe the vaccines are helpful or not in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, and I believe they are, you cannot get away from the fact that we would not have reached any new countries this year if I had not been vaccinated. There is direct correlation between COVID-19 vaccination and progress within the Saga. My last jab was given to me back in November 2021. Fun fact: this is the second vaccine I’ve received in Fiji. Can you guess what I got in late 2019?
Quadruple vaccinated with Pfizer. Let's go already.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - hoping to see a ferry soon.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga