He’s Traveling to Every Country in the World Without Flying: 195 Down, 8 To Go

In 2013, Torbjorn Pedersen left his home in Denmark to visit every country in the world. Pedersen had three rules for his journey. First, no flights. Second, he must spend a minimum of 24 hours in each country. Third and most challenging, he can’t return home until the journey is complete. He wanted was to do the entire project in a single journey, without flying: something that has never been done before.

Nine years later, he is still doing it. Rule number three means that he has not been home in all that time. He admits that this is something he has struggled with and that many of his friends and family do not understand.

At different stages, his fiancée, now his wife, joined him for sections of the journey. She also helped throughout with the logistics. They married in an online ceremony in 2020, when COVID-19 kept them apart.

In Palau. Photo: Torbjorn Pedersen/onceuponasaga


200 countries on $20 a day

He has now been to 195 countries and covered over 300,000km. He is currently in Hong Kong deciding on the best way to reach the eight remaining countries on his list: Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

For the entire project, Pedersen has maintained a budget of $20 a day. This has covered all transportation, accommodation, food, and visas. He has never rented a car but relies solely on public transport.

Pedersen had originally thought that the entire trip would take four years. He planned to spend seven days in each country. This would allow him time to explore and also to work out upcoming logistics. He admits now that he underestimated how complicated the logistics would sometimes be. Still, until 2020, he averaged 11 days in each country.

A number of situations he couldn’t have foreseen. He contracted both cerebral malaria and cholera during the trip. He was traveling through Guinea, Sierra Leon, and Liberia when the Ebola epidemic hit, and he was in Angola during a yellow fever outbreak. Then in 2020, his trip skidded to a halt because of the pandemic.

Photo: Torbjorn Pedersen/onceuponasaga


Two years in Hong Kong

His planned seven days in Hong Kong turned into 700. During this time, he often struggled with the temptation to go home for a while. Each internal debate ended with the same conclusion: He was not going to give up. So instead, he set himself a number of challenges in Hong Kong. He summited the region’s 20 highest peaks, completed ultra-distance hikes, and explored everything the place had to offer.

He finally left Hong Kong by ship in January to visit country 195, Palau. After 15 days at sea, Pedersen discovered that he had to quarantine for another two weeks in Palau. He was fully vaccinated, and he had been the only new member on the ship for four weeks. Twice-daily testing confirmed that everyone on the ship was negative for COVID. Eventually, authorities cut his quarantine time to eight days.

On the way to Palau after almost two years in Hong Kong. Photo: Torbjorn Pedersen/onceuponasaga


He returned to Hong Kong and had to spend another 14 days in quarantine there. This ended on March 1. He has now found a few commercial ships willing to take him from Hong Kong to Australia. However, he is struggling to get a visa. Visitors can now fly into Australia, but there remain visa hurdles for those arriving on a commercial ship.

How to get to Australia?

He hopes to solve those issues soon since the next stop on his journey has to be Australia. He needs to renew his Danish passport — his original is almost full because of so many visa extensions. The only places among the remaining countries where he can get a new passport are Australia and New Zealand. But New Zealand has shipping routes to Tonga and Samoa, so it does not make sense to tick off Australia first.

If he went to the Pacific Island nations instead, he would risk not having enough free pages in his passport to continue. He would then be deported and sent home on a flight. That would be a cruel end to nine years of discipline.

Graduation from quarantine. Photo: Torbjorn Pedersen/onceuponasaga