Torbjørn C Pedersen, a Danish Red Cross Goodwill Ambassador, is travelling since 2013 without a break and planes. He travels around the world by road and sea.
If he succeeds, the Dane will be the first person in history to have visited every country in the world without flying.
Pedersen names it ‘Once Upon A Saga’ as he hails from Denmark, the country who gave us Hans Christian Andersen and his fairytales. Travel is in his heritage as Vikings used to explore the world and made it to North America, North Africa and even Baghdad. Their stories were written down and called sagas which he fused and named it ‘Once Upon A Saga.’
The Sultanate was Pedersen’s 150th stop as part of his odyssey in July. He again returned in August to meet with Le, his Danish fiancée, and depart the Arabian Peninsula from Salalah.
‘Oman is an amazing country,’ he says, offering a lot to visitors. Pedersen recalls his exciting road trip from Salalah to Yemen through the beautiful green mountains during Khareef. It was however quite often extraordinary foggy and he often couldn’t see what was ahead. Cows and camels kept him alert during the three-hour drive.
Inspired by Ibn Battuta and other adventurers, Pedersen says “Oman is world renowned for its hospitality and kindness towards strangers. The country has history which stretches back to the earliest days of travel and I very much enjoyed exploring the heights of Jabal Al Akhdhar and the shores of Muscat and Salalah. I find the latest 50 years of Omani history to be especially interesting as it showcases how the country could flourish under the right circumstances.”
In an interview with MBC’s Haya Yasmeen during his stay at Anantara Jabal Al Akhdhar, Pedersen reveals how he survives on a daily budget of mere $20 covering his accommodation, meals, transport and visas. He stays with families, sleeps on buses, trains, even on streets and at times is invited to resorts or hotels.
‘The saga inspires, according to Pedersen, as it educates, entertains and motivates people all over the world.
“I want to show people that you can succeed in reaching tough goals by being kind, persistent and thinking out of the box. I want to show people that the world is full of good well-meaning people who are ready to help when in need. The Saga serves as reminder to people about the world being far safer, friendlier and normal than what most media portrays it.”
Wearing a boater hat and a Red Cross pin on his shirt, he goes about learning about culture, people, geography, language, religion, geopolitics, personal limits, history and making new friends.
Initially he began this as a country project however weeks later termed it a ‘people’s project’ as he realised that countries are not very interesting without people. Besides, he quickly began to receive a lot of support from strangers all over the world.
“It is nearly impossible to visit every country in the world without flying and it would be completely impossible to do it without the support from strangers and friends. The motto of the Saga from the beginning is a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before, Pedersen says.
Asked why he took up the challenge, Pedersen who can endear the worst says, until today less than 200 people have been to every country in the world.
“The only reason I have come this far is because of the many people who have pushed me forward and of my reluctance not to give up and go home. It’s important to push on and stay optimistic in relation to what we want in life. The moment we give up it is off the table and no longer ours,” he says prophetically.
Born to Scandinavian parents, Pedersen was brought up in North America and later in Denmark. A management graduate, he served three years in the military and later worked for 12 years in shipping and logistics sector. His job took him to 20 countries including Libya, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, the Arctic Circle and Greenland.
By 2020, when he finally completes the saga, Pedersen plans to raise a family after marriage. He also has plans to write books and hope to begin an international career as a motivational speaker.
His important message: “Do not give up, if you want anything in life, the moment you give up everything stays the same.”
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By Liju Cherian