Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Once upon a saga

Published:Sunday | February 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

An amiable, athletic Denmark national has taken the concept of globetrotting to fascinating dimensions as he attempts to be the first human to travel by sea to every country in the world.

Like Thor, a god of Norse mythology, the modern-day mortal with the same name is moving to attain what once appeared unattainable.

The Dane, attached for some time to the Red Cross organisation in his country as a logistics coordinator, is attempting to do what no other human has ever done - travel to every nation on the globe without taking a plane, doing the journey entirely by vessels rolling on seas and oceans.

Asked what inspired him to travel to every country on an unbroken journey without flight, Thor laughed and said: "A moment of insanity."

More contemplatively, he shared with Outlook: "I think it is most inspiring to try to go for something that, on one hand, has never been done before, and try to push that barrier, because it's a part of inspiring other people to do something new."

But there are added benefits for Thor, whose
full name is Torbjorn Cederlof Pedersen.

"I love to
travel. I love different cultures. I love to meet people. I want to go
and see things I have never seen before. I want to see people I have
never seen before, eat food I have never eaten before, and discover some
things I never knew before - things that can be done in a different
way," he asserts.

He added: "There are a million
reasons why one would like to do something like
this."

Goodwill ambassador

Thor
revealed that he has been given the honour of travelling as a goodwill
ambassador by the Danish Red Cross, and tasked with writing brief
stories on local activity of the 189 Red Cross organisations throughout
the world.

"So, I am always present at the Red Cross
locations," he said.

Thor does not have the stature of
a god. Rather, he has a slender frame, like a mere mortal with a big
heart and an adventurous streak. He said this was not always the case,
but the consequence of 15 months of travelling has stripped him of 10
kilograms.

It was at the Red Cross branch in Central
Village, St Catherine, that Outlook caught up with
Thor.

He started his journey on October 10, 2013 at 10
in the morning from Denmark, and, by all indications, he is succeeding.
Jamaica is the 73rd country he has visited on his global trek. He was
in Jamaica for a full 14 days when Outlook caught up
with him.

"I feel that I have a chance to inspire
people to go to new places," he declared.

His
girlfriend, Le Gjerum, a medical doctor, took time from her busy
schedule in Denmark to keep his company before he capers off to another
country.

Le Gjerum shares that she has been in Jamaica
for 10 days, having arrived four days after her
beau.

Asked how she copes with an absentee partner,
she said: "I miss him and I follow him and I try my best, but I have my
daily life in Denmark … . I have work.

"Sometimes I go
and try to find him wherever he is in the world and we communicate very
frequently."

The obviously delighted globe-trotter,
in response to his love's complimentary remarks, stated simply: "She is a
very patient girl."

Before Thor arrived in Jamaica,
he was in Haiti after completing the islands in the Lesser Antilles.
When he leaves Jamaica, he will travel to Cuba, after which he completes
his travels of the Caribbean and heads for the continent of
Africa.

But Cuba is presenting a major barrier to
Thor's exploits. "I need to go on a boat from here to Cuba and I
recently discovered that I cannot go by a cargo ship," he
said.

He notes that there is a container line that
goes from Jamaica to Cuba, but it does not allow anyone to disembark
cargo ships there.

Thor is, therefore, working on two
other options. "There is a cruise ship that goes to several ports in
Cuba. I might and I may be able to disembark on that one and there are
plenty of sailboats that go across," he said.

Thor is
still some way off on his four-year-long journey, with 130 countries to
complete his historic mission.

Etched on one side of
Thor's business card are the words: "I'm travelling to every single
country!" and on the other: "A stranger is a FRIEND you've never met
before." Then: "Countries travelled so far: '73' in reference to
Jamaica.

FAIRY-TALE COUNTRY

Thor
jokes that the project, dubbed 'Once Upon A Saga', has taken on the
flavour of mythology as its name was extracted from his homeland's
penchant for the famed 'once upon a time' fairy
tales.

"The Kingdom is sort of a fairy-tale country …
and the word 'saga' is a Viking term which means adventure and travel.
So we played with the words, debated it for a long time, and came away
with 'Once Upon A Saga'.

Thor is required to spend
$US20 per day for the four years he is expected to complete his
trot.

It will cost the Ross Offshore Company out of
Norway approximately US$29,200, or J$3.4 million, to finance the
offshore journey.

When Thor started his journey, he
travelled from Denmark, the most southern of the Nordic countries,
located southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, to neighbouring
Germany.

"If you pick up and read a newspaper today,
you are inclined to believe the world is on fire as you read about
Ebola, corruption, burning and conflict," said Thor. "That is a part of
the world, but that's the sensational part that scares people," he
added.

He suggested that the more significant and
larger part of the same world are the people who are interested in their
children having clean clothes, good food, and good opportunities in
life.

Thor recalls being asked when he landed on
Jamaican shores if he had heard media reports on the country. When he
responded in the negative, he was promptly informed that Jamaica was
replete with crime and violence.

"But all I saw were
the warmth of the people, the delight of the food, and amazing
historical culture that make Jamaica an amazing place," Thor
asserted.

"I heard about Usain Bolt, I heard about the
bobsled team, I heard of Bob Marley, and these are all good, so I will
stick with that," he added. "So while there are writings about crime and
violence, I feel that I have this small voice, where I get the
opportunity to take some pictures and say, 'Well, I met this guy on the
street and he gave me a ride but he didn't have to … ', and I can do a
short story about that."

MEETING FRIENDLY
PEOPLE

He told Outlook that, while
in Jamaica, he found the people very friendly.

"Caring, curious and helpful, and I think that's not
just a Jamaican thing but most countries I visited," he
asserted.

Thor uses a range of social-media platforms
to share his flightless journey around the world, which is not always
easy.

"When you are in Europe or if you are in North
and South America, it's easily done. When you come to a place like the
Caribbean, it (the flight structure) is more difficult," he
explained.

Which is the most fascinating of the 73
countries he has so far visited?

"That is a really
good question because I have been fascinated by so many things; it's
mostly people that fascinate me," said Thor.

"I have
been to mountains and cathedrals so many times that, with me, I don't
really remember the details or colours, but I remember the people and
their stories."

Thor added: "I might say Sangry in
Europe or Venezuela in South America, as I had so much fear going and
not knowing what to expect, and now I am in the Caribbean, I am deeply
fascinated by these 13 countries in a very small region where sometimes
we can see from one country to the
next."