203 countries in 10 years: Meet 'Thor' who travelled world without taking a single flight

Pedersen, 44, documented his whole journey in his personal blogs and on social media as he travelled by foot, bus, train, car, and container ship

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Published: Sun 6 Aug 2023, 8:11 PM

Last updated: Sun 6 Aug 2023, 9:18 PM

Travelling and visiting new countries is fun for most of us. But a Danish man, Torbjorn “Thor” Pedersen, took globetrotting to the next level when he visited every country on the world map without flying. Pedersen kicked off his ambitious 10-year journey back in 2013 and returned to his home in Denmark last month.

Pedersen, in an Instagram post, dated July 27, expressed his heartfelt gratitude to everyone for the “unwavering support.” He added that the “project was a resounding success when we reached the final country, the Maldives…Today marks its completion as I return to Denmark.”


Pedersen added that he also received a grand welcome from his family and friends. “More than a hundred people showed up to welcome me home on this historic day. Family, friends, fans, followers. What a welcome!! A live band played “When the saints come marching home. I am overwhelmed by the gifts, hugs, applause, and love. Thank you.”

Pedersen, 44, documented his whole journey in his personal blogs and on social media as he travelled to a total of 203 countries by foot, bus, train, car, and container ship.


While the United Nations recognises a total of 195 countries in the world including two non-member states, Pedersen said he also visited disputed territories. “The world is a political place and while some countries claim to be sovereign states other dispute the same,” he wrote in his blog ‘Once Upon a Saga’.

The decade-long journey

According to Pedersen, he left Denmark, his home country, on October 13, 2013 with a goal to cover every country in the world, but without taking a single flight. “Not many people have actually reached every country in the world in their lifetime. Far less people have done so than people who have submitted Mount Everest. I find that to be an interesting thought. Interestingly nobody has ever travelled to every country in the world completely without flying,” Pedersen added in his blog.

Pedersen, who has worked in shipping and logistics, said he spent “many hours” planning the route. According to the order mentioned in his blog, Pedersen first went from Denmark to Germany and then travelled to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The last country Pedersen visited on May 23, 2023 was the Maldives.

It took Pedersen more than 3,500 days to traverse 203 countries across the globe, reported CNN.

Challenges

Pedersen’s journey wasn’t that smooth sailing. When the pandemic hit the world, he got stuck in Hong Kong for two years. At that time, he was left with just nine more countries to visit. “I look back at Hong Kong, and it’s a bit of a paradox,” he told CNN.

Pedersen added that it was “the worst time of my life and the best time of my life, somehow". He said he thought of abandoning the project and asked himself, “How much of my life will I give to this?”

The avid traveller said that as he waited for the world to reopen, he “made a life in Hong Kong and forged so many special relationships.”

Besides the pandemic, Pedersen also faced other hurdles such as bureaucratic and logistical issues, civil unrest, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, according to ABC News.

The rules

Pedersen said he decided to not take a flight to anywhere during the journey because he wanted the experience to be “unique and adventurous”. He also restricted his daily expenditure to $20 (Dh73) which covered the cost of travel, meals, accommodation, and visas. “It's possible because a lot of the world is pretty cheap to live in if you buy local food and travel like the locals,” said Pedersen was quoted as saying.

He added that he did not exceed the $20 per day limit to show that one doesn’t need to be a millionaire to “travel, cross borders, discover cultures and make new friends”. Pedersen also noted that “it is however also true that $20/day is a fortune for some people”.

Throughout his journey, Pedersen did not buy, borrow or rent a vehicle and instead opted for trains, buses, and boats to make sure that he spends more time with locals and other travellers. Pedersen also planned to spend at least 24 hours in each country and did not return home before achieving his goal, stated his blog.

A full circle

After travelling to every country, Pedersen still did not take an aircraft and chose a container ship to return to his home nation. “There’s a historical sense of returning home by ship – people can see it on the horizon and stand and wave as I come down the gangway,” he told CNN.

“And, that seems like an appropriate way to complete the project,” he added.

Pedersen boarded a massive container ship, MV Milan Maersk, and it took him another 33 days to reach his home, Denmark. He celebrated the feat in the Maldives and went to Malaysia via Sri Lanka to get on the ship. “In my cabin, I looked out the porthole in Malaysia, and it dawned on me that every day the view would gradually change until it finally became Denmark,” Pedersen said.

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