Thor Pedersen wanted to travel the world, but flying seemed too simple. Opting instead for a real challenge, the 38-year old Danish citizen is visiting every country on earth, sailing between continents and islands via container ship.
Pedersen began his journey on 10 October, 2013, and over three years later he has visited 122 countries out of 203. He has outlined a few rules for his project: no flights, he must stay in each country for at least 24 hours, and he will not return home until he’s finished. Pedersen says fewer than 200 people have travelled to every country in the world, and none have done so without flying.
With a background in shipping, logistics, and transportation, the intrepid traveller had worked in 20 countries prior to starting his journey. “I came home from a project in the beginning of 2013, and at that time my father sent me an article which made me think about whether I could pull off an endeavour like this,” Pedersen told Lonely Planet News. “I was 34 and generally felt like I was too old, but a friend inspired me to go for it anyway.” After ten months of planning, he left Denmark for Germany, thus beginning his adventure.
Within a continent, Pedersen uses various modes of public transportation, including trains, buses, and ferries, in addition to a host of less conventional options. As a goodwill ambassador for the Danish Red Cross, this allows him to interact with locals and achieve his goal of positively promoting each country, sharing stories of his experiences on his blog, Once Upon a Saga. “Within Africa, with all its diversity from country to country, I have travelled with everything! Shared taxis, minibuses, on top of trucks, Uber, and motorcycle taxis.” And he doesn’t strictly sail on container ships. “The Caribbean was conquered with minibuses, banana boats, sailboats, freighters, cruise ships, ferries, a container ship, a high performance yacht, and a speedboat. At this point I have been onboard nearly anything which floats.” Pedersen said.
So far some of his biggest challenges have included obtaining both visas and permission to travel on ships. Traversing the North Atlantic in the winter was also a hurdle. “It took several months and I travelled on seven different ships: fishing boats, shrimp trawlers, and container ships.”
While Pedersen mentions missing the conveniences of home and the taste of Danish milk, the past three years have been filled with unparalleled experiences. “I was invited to join a wedding in Sierra Leone just one hour after I arrived! Nigerians are among the most humorous people I've come across. In South Africa they are not shy of putting meat on top of meat and serving great beer, and São Tomé has breathtaking beaches,” he notes. But the most memorable moment came recently, when his girlfriend visited him in Kenya. During a trek in Mount Kenya National Park to Africa’s second tallest mountain, Pedersen proposed.
Currently in Ethiopia, Pedersen plans to finish his journey in the Maldives in 2019.