Traveller returns home after 10-year journey to every country in the world without flying

Taking container ships, buses, trains and rickshaws, the Danish adventurer visited 203 countries and territories without flying

Torbjørn Pedersen
Torbjørn Pedersen arrived home in Denmark six years later than planned
(Image credit: James Brooks/AFP via Getty Images)

A Danish man has become the first person to visit every country on Earth without flying in an epic 10-year adventure.

Setting off on 10 October 2013, Torbjørn (Thor) Pedersen left behind his job, family and girlfriend. He had two rules: “He’d spend at least 24 hours in each nation and resist returning home until he finished,” reported CNN. He also aimed to keep his costs low and lived off a budget of “roughly US$20 a day”.

He initially believed the trip would bring him home to Copenhagen in just four years. But he marked the final chapter of his journey by reaching the Maldives in May of this year, returning to Denmark via ship late last month, “having completed his objective six years later than anticipated and feeling fortunate to be alive”, said The Washington Post.

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Along the way he encountered “hundreds of challenges, including visa problems, war zones and near-death scares”. Yet he still returned with a “reformed confidence in himself and in the world”, said the paper.

The Covid-19 pandemic became his most significant hurdle, forcing him to remain in Hong Kong for almost two years, where he considered abandoning the project altogether, said ABC. “This was before we had the vaccines, we didn’t know where it was heading, we didn’t know how dangerous it was. And it was just taking up more and more time,” he said.

During his trip, Pedersen generated some “incredible” statistics, said CNN. He took 37 container ships, 158 trains, 351 buses, 219 taxis, 33 boats and 43 rickshaws during the 3,576 days he was travelling, covering some 223,000 miles “or the equivalent of nine journeys around the Earth”. The United Nations recognises 195 sovereign states – but Pedersen included disputed territories and visited 203 countries according to his tally.

But for Pedersen, it was “not about the numbers”, but celebrating the kindness of people across the globe. “I set out on this journey with a motto, ‘A stranger is a friend you’ve never met before,’ and I have been shown time and time again that this is true,” he said. “If you engage with people, they’re usually all in.”

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 Sorcha Bradley is a writer at The Week and a regular on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. She worked at The Week magazine for a year and a half before taking up her current role with the digital team, where she mostly covers UK current affairs and politics. Before joining The Week, Sorcha worked at slow-news start-up Tortoise Media. She has also written for Sky News, The Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard and Grazia magazine, among other publications. She has a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London, where she specialised in political journalism.