In an extraordinary feat, Torbjorn ‘Thor’ Pedersen has captivated the world by circumnavigating the globe without the use of airplanes. In the past ten years, Thor has managed to journey through 195 countries without getting on a plane. The Danish explorer’s journey shattered records and encouraged sustainable travel, while showcasing the boundless potential of perseverance and creativity.
In 2013, Thor set off on a global journey of around 420,000 kilometers. He departed with a suitcase packed with his most bare necessities. His expedition garnered global attention for its audacity and unique approach to travel. He has been traveling as a goodwill ambassador for the Danish Red Cross.
The traveler left behind a career in shipping and logistics, and that expertise proved to serve him greatly during his travels. His journey included 3,576 days, 37 container ships, 158 trains, 351 buses, 219 taxis, 33 boats and 43 rickshaws.
By choosing not to use air travel, he not only reduced his carbon footprint but also discovered the genuine essence of travel by engaging with the diverse cultures, landscapes, and people of the world in a way that people often overlook. His rule was that he spends at least 24 hours in each country.
His desire to set a new travel record inspired him to begin planning his trip. A Danish geothermal energy company offered him funding for his trip. The rest of his trip was self-funded, and he was going off of a rough budget of $20 a day.
His first leg of the trip found him on a train from Denmark to Germany. He commented that moving through Europe was the easiest part of his trip. In 2015, two years into his trip, Thor caught an infection in Liberia, leading him to be diagnosed with cerebral malaria in Ghana. In 2016, gunmen cornered him in the jungles of Africa, sending a wave of fear through him.
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He noted that at many times, he was ready to quit. The exhaustion and loneliness were hard to subside. However, he continued to find kindness in every nation. His determination was so unwavering that he managed amidst the challenges of a world grappling with pandemic-related restrictions.
He expressed, “I set out on this journey with a motto, ‘A stranger is a friend you’ve never met before,’ and I have been shown time and time again that this is true,” he says. “If you engage with people, they’re usually all in… Either I’m the luckiest man on the planet, or the world is in a much better place than most people are led to believe by the scary, dramatic news on social media and news channels.”
Thor’s decision to forsake airplanes was driven by his desire to truly experience the world’s diversity, rather than merely crossing borders. His interactions with locals, the varied landscapes he traversed, and the unexpected friendships he formed along the way highlighted the intangible rewards of his chosen path.
His journey wasn’t just a personal achievement; it sent a powerful message about sustainable travel and the importance of cherishing the Earth’s natural beauty. He hopes to carry this message forward, and plans on writing a book documenting his travels and what he learned.
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