A “World Traveler”, when you think of that image, what comes to mind? Indiana Jones, Nicholas Cage in National Treasure or Torbjørn C. Pedersen? Like the two human characters with cartoon characteristics I described before him, Torbjørn is also trotting around the globe. Unlike Cage and Jones, Mr. Pedersen intends to visit every nation on earth during his journey and, oh yeah, he’s doing all that travel without using an airplane at all. Whilst on the Caribbean leg of his quest around the earth, I contacted Mr. Pedersen for a brief interview that’s below.
Evan: Hello Mr. Pedersen, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me, I want to begin by asking about your background, what’s your personal story if you will?
Torbjørn: Thank you for having me. Well, to start off, I was born in Denmark on December 19th 1978. Soon after we left for Canada where I spent the first 4 years of my life, followed by 2.5 years in the US. At around 7 I was back in Denmark and had a more or less normal life. I was drafted for the army and spent 12 months as a royal guard. After that I became a peacekeeper within the UN and was deployed to the African horn. After 3 years of military service I decided it was time for my career within the shipping and logistics industry to begin. I have been tied up to shipping, transportation, logistics and management jobs for the last 13 years leading up to Once Upon a Saga, which took off on October 13th 2013.
Evan: Interesting, interesting. Now, shifting forward to Once Upon a Saga, I have to ask, what was the spark that began this project? It’s not every day that someone decides to go spend 4 years of their life visiting every single nation on the planet.
Torbjørn: I suppose I always wanted to travel to every country in the world but I never thought it would be possible without being a millionaire or having eternal life. When I realized that it could be done I only had to make up my mind and get out the door.
Evan: Right on, right on. Now, you mentioned money. For a trip like this, I’m wondering how you cobbled together the cash needed to make it work. Did most of it come from friends and family?
Torbjørn: The $20/day budget covers everything and is meant as an average over the entire journey. In some countries I’m above while in other countries I’m below. My current overall average is above but so far I have covered most of the expensive countries. I see it coming down and believe that the budget will stick (more or less). It’s sponsored by Ross Offshore and Ross Engineering.
Evan: Wow, so you live on about $20 per day, with a small budget like that, how do you handle encountering some very poor people and staying on budget? Is it not tempting to give away some of your money?
Torbjørn: It’s always hard. On this journey I hardly hand out any money to anyone. Even a dollar is a hard cut into my budget. But I see them and I see that they are there. I always try to smile, shake hands and look them in the eyes. Most poor people do not ask me for money. They ask me where I am from.
Evan: Interesting, that’s really a different scenario than what most media depicts people in tough parts of the world as being likely to do. Staying on this conversational area but shifting gears a bit, I want to ask you, what nation that media often depict as troubled turned out to be quite nice when you visited? I’m curious as I once went to Africa and found things to be not frightening like many people on television made them out to be.
Torbjørn: Regarding Africa, I can guarantee anyone that “Ebola countries” are not as terrifying as they’re made out to be. There are 3 countries in Africa with Ebola outbreaks. Africa is a continent with 54 countries and some people are in fear of any African country. It’s ridiculous. It’s like hearing of a man getting shot in Greece and fearing for your life in Spain. Ebola is a very serious and very deadly decease which we need to deal with. But the fear spreads a lot faster than the virus. And once we have dealt with Ebola the world should know that the same countries have much bigger problems to fight like the Lassa fever or malaria which is responsible for much more death even today. I believe that people are scared regarding Ebola in a similar way to how people feared HIV/AIDS back in the 80s when people didn’t understand it. It’s unfortunate.
Evan: Good answer. Now, we’ve covered a lot of interesting ground here, so before I let you go, I’ve got to ask one final question, what do you intend to do once this journey ends?
Torbjørn: I will give my girlfriend the world’s biggest hug!! And then I will sleep for a week!
And with that, our conversation ended. Speaking to Mr. Pedersen, I got the sense that this man and other Europeans like him still have something that most Americans lost a long time ago, our sense of adventure. If I told people today that I wanted to go to Afghanistan and open a restaurant, they’d tell me I was insane. I miss the time in the world when my peers would have told me to go for it. People with Mr. Pedersen’s attitude about doing bold and grand things are sorely needed in America today, more than ever before.