Once upon a saga...
And that saga's main character is Thor Pedersen from Denmark, who is on an impressive journey, visiting every single country in the world in an unbroken journey - without flying! So far it has taken him around 7 years, but as the quest is coming to an end, hopefully soon, he's reflecting back on the journey it has been! This is his story.
The status of the journey today
Thor left Denmark on OCT10 2013 and has since then been on the move. As of today he has visited 194 out of a total of 203 countries, but has since he arrived on a container ship in January been stuck in Hong Kong. He still misses 9 countries in his quest to visit all countries in the world without flying. Those are Palau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Let's go back to the day it all started
If we tune back to 2013, Thor had a good job in the shipping & logistics industry. One day he was reading an article where he discovered that nobody has ever visited every country in the world without flying. For a man who has traveling as his biggest passion that was very intriguing, but at the same time, there was something inside him that told him that he was too old to start a journey like this at the time.
Thor did some thinking, and one day he came to the conclusion that he wanted to be the first to do so. He initially estimated the trip to a duration of 3-4 years, and he got some good friends on board as support right from the begining. Support that has been crucial in order to get to where he is today, and support that he is grateful to have received.
The purpose of the project - and how that purpose changed on the go!
The purpose of the project was from the start to visit every country without flying, and of course have a great adventure along the way. It very quickly went from being a 'country-project' into a 'people-project', where promoting people, culture and beauty in it's various forms became the highlight. The purpose increasingly turned into showing people that there's much more to the world than what we see in the news.
Thor's project has simultaneously turned into a 'motivation-project' that aims at motivating people to not give up on their dreams, but rather follow their passion, whatever that might be. And that's very much in harmony with Thor's general values in life.
How is everyday as a full time solo traveler?
Thor likes to keep his options open when traveling. Though he is, per definition, traveling solo he is rarely alone. Often he finds fellow travelers on the train, in the bus or at the border. They usually travel together for half a day, a full day or even several days before heading in different directions.
In Hong Kong, where he is currently situated, Thor mentions that a lot of people are reaching out to him and asks if he wants to go hiking with them, eat dinner or join them for a party and basically just hang out, have a good time and exchange knowledge. Luckily Thor is very social and outgoing. You need to be, when you're traveling for 7 years straight - most parts on your own.
He has also been blessed by visits from his friends back home at several occastions. Oh yeah, and then his wife-to-be has joined him 21 times during his time abroad - more on that later.
But it's not all fun and games when you're a full time traveler
Thor explains, that besides the obvious upsides of traveling the world, there is a lot of administration to take care of. Things that would drain most people in the long run. He mentions: Planning bus rides, purchasing train tickets, creating timeplans, align budget, find accommodation, visit embassies etc. and all those things takes up a significant amount of hours. And his conclusion is that most people probably would pass on a project like this, if they knew how much administration there's to it.
But Thor is a man on a mission. A mission he has no intention of not completing, and that requires discipline and overview. He has both.
"I think most people would prefer to go sightseeing, to the beach or to the casino, if they knew how much administration this project requires!"
How to keep a budget when traveling for 7 years?
A classic question you're asked when traveling for 7 years straight (haven't we all?) is of course how it's possible to keep a budget for that long.
Thor has a budget of 20USD per day which covers transportation, food, accommodation and visas. Yes, you read that right! 20USD - it doesn't sound of much, and it definitely isn't suited for a flashpacker.
But if you're strict with you budget, this actually works. Thor elaborates that some countries of course are more expensive than others, but as a rule of thumb he has 20USD per day for the entire journey - and through sponsorships and help from friends and family, this has worked out so far. It doesn't mean that he can't go for a beer or pay the cinema a visit once in a while, but in that case he just saves money during other days. He has a few good tips to how you can remain within the budget, though.
When traveling with local transportation you simply choose the "chicken bus" instead of the high end bus. That means no aircon, most likely no windows, a lot of noise, stops a million places along the route and often takes 3, 4 or even 5 times the amount of time compared to the luxury transportation... but it's cheaper!
In terms of food, Thor has a crystal clear recommendation: Eat street food! It's much cheaper, and if you happen to be in a more expensive country, go to the supermarket and buy bread, cheese and some tomatoes and go for a picnic in a local park.
Accommodation can be done cheap as well, if you're not too picky with where you sleep. Couchsurfing is one thing, while hostels is another thing. Often you get breakfast and WiFi included when sleeping in a hostel.
Visas on the other hand are often a more costly affair, and they can easily cost between 15 - 200 USD, but the frequency of getting those (when traveling for 7 years) is of course not high, which gives it a low average cost per day.
"Wherever there's people in this world, there's a mean of transportation, and you can always get from A to B. Even in expensive countries, there's local people doing things cheaply. And yeah, that has been my life for almost 7 years..."
That one time in Congo...
Speaking of transportation, Thor has experienced his fair share of randomness when trying to make his way from A to B, especially in the African countries he found himself in some odd situations.
For instance, there was this one time in the Republic of Congo where he had decided on a day to leave for neighboring country, Gabon. Unfortunately for him, that same day saw a referendum which led to a "panic-ish" feel amongst the locals as they feared for unrest in the cities, and without him knowing, all means of normal transportation were completely booked. As he says: "It's in a situation like these, that the cargo trucks are rolled out!"
Together with a fellow traveller they got 2 seats in the back of a cargo truck, driving along bumpy dust roads covering them all in dust till they looked like ghosts upon arrival. But even in a miserable situation like this (his words, not ours!), something beautiful can occur. Out of nowhere a woman on the truck started clapping her waterbottle while singing and soon after the entire truck with 40-50 people found themselves contributing to the sing-along song to the sight of the sun setting in the horizon. A beautiful moment in a beautiful surrounding, that was quickly replaced by that same feeling he had 30 minutes earlier. Because once the sun set and everyone stopped singing on the truck, "everything was miserable again". And that went on for 2 more days before he reached his end destination.
This anecdote really shows much about Thor and his project. Where he could have chosen another day and another option of transportation, he chose to follow his original plan and he got himself a story for the books.
When you embark on a journey like thise, there are obvious downsides as described above. It's uncomfortable and takes forever. But the upsides (yes, there are those as well) of traveling slow like this, is that you get to absorb much more of a country, than you would normally do. You also spend more time on traveling, which allows you to digest the surroundings at a more convenient speed - often accompagnied by a stranger who's basically just a friend you haven't met yet.
Traveling has been a lesson in life
Thor has not traveled pointless for 7 years. During his time abroad he has absorbed a huge amount of knowledge of each and every country he has visited. This knowledge and these experiences helps him relax when different events from around the world hits the media, because as he states:
"I know that even though some people are affected by events around the world, most people in those countries are actually living a normal life every day. I have been to the countrysides of those countries and people are more or less the same everywhere. Mothers still love their children, people are still falling in love, some people are still taking images to post on social media..."
On top of him expanding his mindset, he has grown a HUGE network of people, who can count on him helping out every way possible in the future, just like they have helped him out during his travels. What goes around, comes around.
The big question: What's going to happen once the project ends?
Not surprisingly, after being on the road for so many years, Thor's ambition is to settle down once he's back. Either he is already married, or about to be. He is longing to be surrounded by friends and family, and perhaps even to start his own little family is a dream of his.
Basically, the aim is to return back home, take a deep breath and enjoy that the long, long journey is over. That there's no more pressure on his shoulders to complete this madness of a project. That he no longer need to figure out where to go next, and that he doesn't have to wait months to get a visa to a certain country.
That will, obviously, not pay the daily bills, so for that matter, Thor hopes that the project eventually can turn into a book. The book should more or less write itself, as he has tons of stories to tell from his adventures abroad. Besides the dream of turning the saga into a book, he has an ambition of doing motivational talks and public speaking on schools and universities. Of course that would ideally include som traveling.
Although Thor very soon wil be the first person in history to visit every country in the world withour flying, he admits that he hasn't seen it all. There are still plenty of places to visit, plenty of things to see. On his bucketlist you'll find Galapagos Islands, Easter Islands and Alaska. So if you think, Thor is fed up with traveling, you're absolutely wrong.
A patient woman waiting at home
Despite being on the road for almost 7 years, Thor is actually not single. That might come as a surprise, taking into account that the journey has evolved from a projected 3-4 years of duration of almost 7 years (and counting).
But despite that minor detail that he has been gone for nearly a decade, Thor has a fiancé waiting for him in Denmark. She has been visiting him 21 times in total, and Thor has a very specific rule. A rule that says that he shaves every time she's visiting him (neatly portrayed right above), but as you can see in the top image which is recently shot in Hong Kong, the beard is almost reaching his chest currently. He hasn't seen her for almost a year. Deprivation aside, Thor is not giving up on his dream! Because, as he usually communicates to his followers: "The saga must continue..."
Want to see the full travel talk with Thor?
We were so lucky to have Thor as a part of our Travel Festival, and if this article is not enough, you can check out the full webinar right here. All you need to do is to sign up (it takes 5 seconds, we promise) and then you get immediate access to the webinar on-demand.