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Over the years I have been fortunate to have travelled a fair bit. I am proud of having been to every country in Europe and my total country count of 107, has many memories. Last week, however, I was quite humbled when I saw a series of articles on Torbjørn Pedersen, a Dane who has been to 194 countries, without ever setting foot on a plane.

Known to his followers as Thor, this 41 year old, a goodwill ambassador for the Red Cross in Denmark, decided in October of 2013, that he was going to do something a little different. He learned there were 203 countries in the world, and Thor thought he would visit each one. The difference was, he would do it all without ever using an airplane. In fact, Thor said he would not buy, borrow or rent a vehicle during his quest.

There are discrepancies in the number of countries in the world. The United Nations has 193 member states with 2 observer states, but some countries claim to be sovereign states. This makes for a total of 203, fairly legitimate nations. Oh, and the one rule he has is that he has to spend 24 hours in each country.

His project is mostly self-funded, and his current country count is at 194. So, how does one travel the world without the use of planes? Thor has worked on ships, slept in cargo holds, sat on hundreds of buses, trains and even a shrimp trawler.

“I was on board a working ship in the Caribbean,” he explained. “The captain didn’t like me, so I had to sleep on the floor in the kitchen. It was greasy,” He is currently stranded in Hong Kong, due to COVID, and plans to continue, as soon as he is able to travel. The remaining countries on his list include New Zealand and Sri Lanka, but the other seven are small islands, which will be challenging to get to. He has given himself 10 months to complete his mission, once the pandemic is over.

Although he is eager to continue on his trek, he could be in worse places. “Hong Kong is the best place to be in,” Thor said in an interview. “They have handled it well. We are free to walk about; cafés and shops are open. They shut cinemas and museums for a couple of weeks, but are opening up now.”

His project is partly financed through personal funding, partly by generous donations and partly by engineering giant, Ross DK. He is asking people to make donations to the Danish Red Cross, and can’t wait to get back on the road and finish his quest.

I for one am very impressed with the challenges Thor must have faced. Travelling is great, but travelling in the manner of Torbjørn Pedersen is simply amazing.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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