In October 2013, Torbjorn "Thor" Pedersen left his native Denmark to embark on a "saga".
His mission? To visit every country in the world, in a single journey, but with one major catch – he wouldn’t be using a single flight. Instead his journey took him across the globe via land and sea, using car, ferry, boat, bus and train.
Seven years later, Thor was only nine countries away from his mission when the coronavirus forced him to change plans. The Dane was meant to be in Hong Kong as part of his transit on the way to Palau via ship when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, tightening travel restrictions everywhere.
The 41-year-old has been stuck in Hong Kong for more than 85 days now – a far cry from his average of 12 days in a country since he began his journey in 2013.
Nonetheless, Thor seems to be remaining optimistic. He’s been hitting Hong Kong’s myriad hiking trails, working with the Red Cross Society, and documenting his experience through social media. In his own words, he’s “just trying to make the best out of a bad situation.”
The adventurer has also been putting positive messages on his social media. “I understand your fear and confusion. I understand your frustration. I understand being powerless in the turmoil our planet has been sent into since COVID-19 appeared to knock on our doors. Some doors were open and this unwanted guest stepped right in," he wrote.
"Who has not become an “expert” in the recent months and doesn’t hold an opinion? I have personally chosen to lean on the opinions of experts and no one else... I have hope. Hope for the future. I believe these terrible times will one day be behind us and that life will continue. I have hope due to the magnificence of how so many are adapting and coping," he has since posted.
Thor started his no-flights adventure in an effort to make his journey "unique and ambitious," he told The National in 2019.
Formerly a logistics professional, he has always had a penchant for adventure, having previously climbed Kilimanjaro and backpacked across Asia. However, this one-of-a-kind world trip was not just for fame but to show people a different side of the world.
He has also voiced his desire to return to normal life when he is back in Denmark, with the hopes of becoming an author and motivational speaker.
His experiences will certainly make for a unique story.
When he spoke to The National last year, he told us that there have been moments on his journey when he wasn't sure if he would survive.
“It’s a tie between being on-board a container ship in a storm for four days near where the Titanic sank and being on a dirt road in the middle of the night in a Central African jungle, while being interrogated by three very drunk, very armed, very hostile soldiers,” he said. “Every second felt like it could have been my last.”
He insists, however, that there are more positive experiences than negative – like the woman named Maria in Poland who invited him into her home during a snowstorm. She cooked and offered him a place to sleep without knowing who he was. The next day she drove him to the bus terminal and wished him a safe journey.
It is small acts of kindness such as these that illustrate why Thor’s slogan is “a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before”.