Thor (Torbjørn) Pedersen is trying to become the first person to ever visit every country in the world completely without flying. He only has 9 countries left to visit but is currently stuck in Hong Kong due to COVID-19.
How many days have you approximately travelled?
2,600 days yesterday. And today (time of the interview) marks 300 days stuck in Hong Kong.
That is in Thor’s project alone. Before that, he has travelled and lived in countries such as Libya, Bangladesh and Kazakhstan.
What are three of your favourite countries and why?
I love Iceland because of its raw nature, modern lifestyle, remoteness and open-minded approach to many things.
I love Iraq for its history, its ancient culture, its beautiful nature, the good food, its geographical location and not least its amazing people.
I love Senegal for its diversity, for the food, for the chill vibe, for its magnificent coastline and for the friends I made.
These three countries are by no means my favourite three. I could never pick three from nearly two hundred. However, these are among my many favourites.
Are there any countries you don’t enjoy travelling?
Yes, I found that Vatican City was a strange and unfriendly country which didn’t do much to accommodate visitors. I found the Vatican City really interesting, but I could hardly claim it is an enjoyable country to travel. No hotels, no restaurants, they close at night, and it is nearly impossible to meet the residents.
What are three of your favourite cities and why?
My fiancée and I fell in love with Valparaiso. It sits beautifully on the Pacific shore and offers great food. We loved the open art museum of the murals and the friendly ownerless dogs. The rich colonial culture is visible across different neighbourhoods, and the few remaining funiculars add character along with the trolleybuses.
Istanbul has a special place in my heart due to its incredibly influential impact on history. I remember visiting Istanbul for the first time and thinking: “I could easily spend three months here and not run out of stuff to see”. Again I must mention food, culture and the people.
Copenhagen is also a clear favourite for me. It is not just that I am Danish, but I generally find it to be a top-class city. Copenhagen is clean, efficient and safe. The city offers everything I could dream of, and it even looks nice.
What are three of your favourite hotels or places you’ve stayed and why?
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
I was fortunate to be offered two nights at the Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong. It is the highest hotel in the world, and the views across the city are phenomenal. The hotel even smells nice as they scent it with black orchid. I loved being up there “in my ivory tower” and hardly wanted to leave. It was luxury at its finest.
The Chedi Muscat
While in Oman my fiancée and I were invited to spend a few nights at The Chedi, which is probably the nicest hotel and resort I have ever come across. If I should ever find me in a position where money was no object, then I would love to design my home like that. It really felt like it was the best of the best in every regard.
The Bus Hostel
The Bus Hostel also comes to mind. It is in Reykjavik, Iceland, and I had a rather long stay there while searching for a vessel to move forward. The dorm rooms were large, clean and modern. The showers were good. The staff was kind, and I loved the lobby area, where I could just sit and hang out while listening to cool music. I made several good friends there and that ups the value as well.
What are the three worst places you’ve stayed?
I slept on a bench at a bus station in Honduras
That was quite miserable.
I slept on the ground at a gas station somewhere in Liberia’s rain forest
It was pretty miserable and also more than likely the night I contracted cerebral malaria, which broke out more than a week later.
I was seasick for four days on a sailboat heading from Senegal to Cape Verde
I was so sick and miserable that I could not go inside and had to suffer under the sun in the daytime and being struck by buckets of ocean water during the night. I was very weak after three nights and could barely walk without getting out of breath when we reached land. Not recommendable.
What are three of your favourite restaurants and why?
My favourite restaurant is Allegretto in Valparaiso, Chile. It is an Italian restaurant, and it is perfect. It looks and feels nice, the music is great, the food is amazing, the service is top-notch and it is affordable.
Home Noodles, Hong Kong
I’ve found a noodle shop in Sai Kung, Hong Kong, called Home Noodles. It is cheap, the soups are spectacular, and the service is fast. All I want in one place.
Unknown Restaurant, Cuba
And then there’s a restaurant in Cuba which I do not know the name or location of. It was amazing, though. I met an Italian man in Cuba who invited me, and once we sat down at the table he asked what I wanted? I replied that I had not received a menu yet. The Italian man then looked at me and said: “I asked you want you want”. The chef was Michelin rated and ready to make anything. I had an amazing pasta dish and would love to return.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
While in Florida, USA, I met a man who brought me to a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. I have never seen anything like it before!! It was night and dark. But when the rocket began climbing night turned to day. The sound was overwhelming, and the ground was trembling. The most amazing thing about it was that the rocket left earth. I had never before seen anything leave earth. Everything stays: birds, airplanes, bullets, fireworks. But that rocket left.
Then there’s the time I had some extra time in the Solomon Islands due to a ship being delayed
I took a friends advice and travelled to the west of the country for a few days, and on my way there I met a village elder who invited me to his village. A few days later I reached out to the village elder, and he came to meet me on a nearby island. We then proceeded to his little village with about one hundred people, no electricity and no running water. But they would catch fresh fish every day and collect rainwater. One night I experienced around seventy of the villagers watching “The Thin Red line” on my laptop. Priceless!
Another good memory is “escaping” the referendum in Brazzaville, Congo, on top of a truck
All other transport was gone, so that was my only option. It was a slow journey out of the city and on some very dusty dirt roads through the surrounding nature. We might have been around 65 people on the truck. 65 highly miserable people. It was hot, dusty and uncomfortable. And time was moving painfully slow. Then just before sunset, a woman began to beat a rhythm with a plastic bottle. She soon began to sing. For a long time, she was singing alone, but then another woman began singing, and before I knew of it, everyone was singing. The sun was gently setting, and the rural landscape around us was beautiful. After the sun had sat, the singing stopped, and we all went back to being miserable. But what an experience.
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
Being seasick for the entire four-day journey from Senegal to Cape Verde. That was horrible. There are very few good memories from that.
Being sick with cerebral malaria in Accra, Ghana, while my girlfriend visited me
I was worthless, and it was supposed to be a time where we should have explored Ghana together.
Sitting on top of a truck for two days in Congo
While the experience had some good moments, it was mostly misery. It was hot, tiring, painful, dusty, and it felt endless.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Learn and use some of the local languages. Just a few words can make people smile.
Bring a pen. You can use it for writing down an address, a number, make a drawing or even poke something.
Trust people, but don’t be a fool. Most people are kind and helpful, and it is among people I have found my best memories.
Do you have any little known travel tips?
No, I don’t think so. You should stay positive, open and smile a lot. I guarantee you that it will change your world! Try local food, learn bits and pieces of the local language and use it every chance you get.
Thanks so much to Thor for the interview with EveryCountryInTheWorld.com. He is in my opinion, one of the best travellers out there. His story stands out and he has been through a lot to get to where he is today. It’s not a nice enjoyable holiday, it’s an extreme travel project with a lot of challenges!
Interview: November 2020.