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Around the world without flying: A journey with Thor Pedersen

Minseo and Katelyn, Grade 8 students, UWCSEA Dover
15 May 2023

Grade 8 Assembly with Torbjorn Pederson

On Thursday, 4 May, Torbjorn Pederson spoke to Grade 8 students at their Assembly on Dover Campus. He shared with the students the incredible experience of travelling to every country in the world without having ever got on a flight (9 years, a pandemic and 210 countries done, he is on his way to making a world record soon) and also about his role as a Goodwill Ambassador for Red Cross.

Thor Pedersen is a Danish ‘Modern Viking’ who is on a journey to become the first person to visit every country in the world without ever stepping foot on a plane. He left his home, Denmark, in October 2013, promising himself never to return home until he had completed his mission. At many times, it was challenging for Thor to encounter storms and get stuck in the 4000m deep ocean for several days without comfortably eating, showering, or sleeping. In late January of 2020, the Covid19 spread across the world globally, and Thor, with nine countries left on his list, got stuck in Hong Kong for four months – instead of four days that he originally had planned.

What was his motivation to embark on this journey?

First, Thor stated that he noticed how a lot of people had tried to travel the whole world, but had never tried to do so without taking a plane. He mentioned that he wanted to be the first one to accomplish it, and thus spread his name around the world, which would eventually spread his message; the motivation he had when he started this: To bring positive promotion of every country in the world, and find a silver lining in the most countries, even North Korea.

To our surprise, Thor told us that North Korea wasn’t all that bad and all the people there were indeed very normal, just like us. As South Koreans, this made us wonder what it would be like to visit North Korea.

Torbjorn Pederson sharing about his experience

In addition, we tried to think of other reasons, and we thought that he tried to spread the idea of being more sustainable in ways we could not imagine, such as travelling without flying. This inspired us in many different ways, because right now Grade 8s are doing a big project related to Sustainable Living, and this speech given by Thor would also help a lot during our Humanities lessons. Personally, we were amazed by how we could reduce our carbon footprint globally in such simple ways.

Thor pointed out that he appreciated new and unique experiences throughout his voyage, such as meeting new people who taught him diverse cultures and religions. “Stranger is a friend I have never met before”, he mentioned.

Furthermore, Thor was able to broaden his perspectives away from stereotypical ideas.  We found his recognition very interesting, the fact that Algeria in Africa is actually larger than Greenland, or that the country that has the most number of pyramids is Sudan – not Egypt!

While conducting a difficult task, Thor is spreading great influence worldwide by raising funds to support humanitarian work as well as donating his blood multiple times. He is engaged in collaborations and was selected as an ambassador to raise awareness for Red Cross, a charity organisation.

We were absolutely thankful and delighted to listen to the inspiring stories and acknowledgements of Thor Pederson and will be supporting him as he completes his long journey, which is currently only two countries away, and again, without a plane.

Torbjorn Pederson with Middle School Teachers