Torbjorn Pedersen’s Extraordinary Journey Around the World
In 2013, Torbjorn Pedersen embarked on a historical journey with the goal of becoming the first person to visit all 195 countries without flying. Packed with a suitcase containing essential items such as shirts, jackets, shoes, a first-aid kit, and a laptop, Pedersen anticipated returning home to Copenhagen as a record holder within four years. However, his adventure took an unexpected turn, and he recently arrived in Denmark six years later. Despite numerous challenges, including visa problems, war zones, and near-death experiences, Pedersen feels fortunate to be alive and has gained a renewed confidence in both himself and the world.
The Start of an Ambitious Quest
It all began in January 2013 when Pedersen stumbled upon an article about travelers who had visited every country in the world. Motivated to accomplish a similar feat, Pedersen, who had a background in shipping products and planning construction projects worldwide, started planning a route that would allow him to circumnavigate the globe without getting on a single flight. He received funding from a Denmark geothermal energy company and withdrew money from his savings account and took out loans to finance his endeavor.
A Journey Filled with Challenges
Starting in October 2013, Pedersen embarked on his travels, beginning with a train ride from Denmark to Germany. He aimed to spend at least 24 hours in each country, often opting for affordable accommodations such as dormitories, hostels, or utilizing the Couchsurfing app. Traveling throughout Europe proved relatively manageable, but Pedersen encountered his first major hurdle when he struggled to find a boat to take him from Norway to the Faroe Islands. Eventually, a shipping company allowed him to board after three weeks of searching.
More significant challenges awaited Pedersen during his journey. In May 2014, he found himself on a boat battling storms and navigating past icebergs while traveling from Iceland to Canada. He feared for his life as he believed the boat was on the verge of crashing and sinking. In June 2015, Pedersen was diagnosed with cerebral malaria in Ghana, having likely been infected two weeks earlier in Liberia. It took months of treatment for Pedersen to recover, and his hands shook for nearly three months afterward.
Amidst the hardships, Pedersen experienced moments that reaffirmed his purpose. In the Republic of Congo, he found himself sitting on the back of a truck with fellow travelers, singing and bonding over an impromptu chorus. However, there were times when Pedersen contemplated giving up, feeling exhausted, lonely, and not taken seriously by others.
Perseverance Amidst Life-Threatening Situations
During the course of his journey, Pedersen encountered life-threatening situations that tested his resolve. In January 2016, while traveling through an African jungle at night, he was confronted by men wielding guns who questioned his presence. Pedersen feared for his life but managed to escape unharmed. Just weeks later, he averted disaster when a driver fell asleep at the wheel, risking the lives of Pedersen and seven others. Pedersen’s quick reaction saved them from potential tragedy.
Motivation from Kindness and Shared Experiences
Despite visa rejections from some countries, Pedersen found support from taxi drivers and mutual friends who helped him reach his desired destinations. Along the way, people he encountered offered him hospitality, hosted him, and even bought him beer. Pedersen noticed common threads connecting people worldwide, such as conversations about popular shows like “Game of Thrones,” shared interests in soccer and fidget spinners, and discussions about political figures like Donald Trump.
The Impact of the Mundane
Arriving in Hong Kong in March 2020, Pedersen had nine remaining countries on his list. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted international travel, leaving him stranded. Pedersen managed to find work at a church that provided housing during the uncertain times. Despite numerous challenges and opportunities to quit, Pedersen forged ahead.
A Journey’s End and the Beginning of a New Chapter
After living in Hong Kong for nearly two years, Pedersen finally completed his journey by visiting the final country on his list, the Maldives, in May. Following his arrival, Pedersen embarked on a two-month sail across multiple oceans, eventually reaching Denmark. Upon his return, around 150 people, comprising family, friends, and social media followers, warmly welcomed him on Denmark’s eastern coast on July 26.
Back in Denmark, Pedersen is now seeking a new identity. He aims to share his experiences by giving speaking engagements about his extraordinary voyage and writing a book. Most of all, he desires a quiet place where he can reflect upon the valuable lessons he learned during his incredible journey. Pedersen discovered that despite the differences in people and places, the mundanity of people’s lives remains remarkably consistent across the world.