Ver Angola


Traveler who visited 203 countries in 10 years passed through Angola and met “kind people everywhere”

Danish Thor Pedersen, 44 years old, is the first man to travel to every country in the world without using a plane, without interrupting his journey and without returning home, during the ten years in which he crossed oceans and continents. The traveler visited a total of 203 countries, with Angola coming in 102nd on the list, a country he considered “drop-dead beautiful” and with “kind people everywhere”.

: Instagram OnceUponASaga - Thor Pedersen
Instagram OnceUponASaga - Thor Pedersen  

His adventure began in October 2013, and it was only three years later that he passed through Angola. It was in March 2016 that the Dane arrived on Angolan soil, where he stayed for six days. About Angola, he said it was a "gorgeous country" and with "kind people everywhere".

In an interview with the Lusa agency, he confessed that the feat turned out to be an epic, and brought him a passion for São Tomé and Príncipe.

Thor Pedersen, who was in Portugal on the last weekend of September, says that he arrived 60 days after his biggest adventure.

During the trip, he suffered from cerebral malaria, in extreme condition, in Ghana, had guns pointed at his head in Gabon, and was caught by the covid-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, China, which kept him there for two years.

Still without his feet firmly planted in Denmark, Pedersen explains that his trip project was called "Once Upon a Saga", inspired by the phrase "Once Upon a Time" (once upon a time), with which the writer Hans Christian Andersen began stories for children, taking "The Little Mermaid" as an example. Saga, however, is the traditional designation for stories in Scandinavian mythology.

Asked whether he felt discriminated against because of the white color of his skin when he was in the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), Pedersen assured that he never had any problem with racism or xenophobia when he passed through the former Portuguese colonies.

Thor is now 44 years old, but he started traveling around the world at the age of 34, with the premise of never using a plane, not returning home during the project and spending at least 24 hours in each of the 203 countries in the world.

He started the adventure in October 2013, the year he was in Portugal, arriving on October 28th and staying for three days.

Thor wrote, at the time, that Portugal was "poorer than Spain" and that Lisbon needed a "good paint job".

"It's a really lovely city that was almost completely destroyed in 1755 by perhaps the biggest earthquake ever in Europe." Pedersen regretted, however, the drug dealers on the streets who tried to sell him drugs.

He arrived in São Tomé and Príncipe in November 2015 and stayed there for exactly 36 days, making that stay the longest of all the CPLP countries that Thor visited on his round-the-world trip.

After leaving Libreville (Gabon), boarding the ship Spínola Carneiro, Thor disembarked on São Tomé Island, the 99th country on his route. He spotted the Red Cross and met Julião, the man who helped him find a store to buy a SIM card to call.

"Something had changed. I can't pinpoint exactly why. But I knew I was in a special place," reads his "Once Upon a Saga" website.

The motto of Thor's journey is that "a stranger is a friend you've never met before" and Julião was proof that a stranger can be a friend for life.

Thor classifies São Tomé and Príncipe as a "magical" country.

"I can't stress enough how wonderful São Tomé is. I've seen many countries and I'm treated with kindness and respect wherever I go. But in São Tomé I feel welcome. And that's a different feeling. I had that feeling since the beginning and it persists wherever you go. São Tomé is a super safe place. You can sleep directly on the beach or take a walk in the park in the middle of the night without any problems. The island produces chocolate. For God's sake, the What else do I need to know?"

Before falling in love with São Tomé, Thor arrived in Brazil in September 2014 and stayed for 20 days, in what would be the 59th country in 12 months, since the beginning of the epic. Visiting Favela Parada de Lucas, in Rio de Janeiro, protected by Red Cross insignia, he felt no "hostility" or "fear".

Pedersen visited Brasília, Porto Velho and Manaus, in the Amazon.

In Africa, in a small sailing boat, Thor traveled from Senegal to Cape Verde, the country he arrived in in 2015, visiting only Santiago Island, highlighting the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, the oldest building in the archipelago.

"Cape Verde is not a financially rich country, but it has a great wealth of kindness, spectacular landscapes, fertile land, incredibly well-prepared tuna, music, love of football. It is a land that stretches from the very rich to the very poor and we can see both when walking through the streets".

He arrived in Guinea-Bissau in May 2015 and spent four days 'couch-surfing' in the home of a Brazilian woman of Japanese descent who worked in the United Nations delegation in Bissau.

Thor recalls a "simple capital", with a "humid climate", with construction taking place everywhere and highlights the "wild and spectacular" nature and cashew nuts, the major business area.

After leaving Kinshasa (Congo), he reached Angola in March 2016, the 102nd country on his route, where he stayed for six days.

Angola is a "gorgeous" country, "big", with "kind people everywhere", with "great" food and "unbeatable" music.

According to Pedersen, Angola was marked by civil war, which ended in 2002, with the topic still coming up in conversations with different people.

A month after Angola, in April 2016, she arrived in Mozambique where she stayed with a Danish family, in Maputo.

Pedersen says that "unfortunately" he had to change his initial itinerary through Mozambique due to terrorist attacks by armed groups, which were already evident at the time and which reached a greater scale in October of the following year, in the north of the country.

Thor planned to travel along the coast from Maputo (capital, in the south), to the city of Beira (further north), but he found it dangerous and returned to South Africa, to reach Zimbabwe.

Despite the conflict, the Danish adventurer highlights the "good" cuisine and culture, the "mind-blowing" history and the nature with "extraordinary potential" of the Portuguese-speaking country on the east coast of Africa.

"Mozambique could easily become the next hot tourist destination (...) But it looks like it will remain a well-kept secret for a while."

The traveler arrived in Timor-Leste in September 2019, where he stayed for 10 days, managing to meet his girlfriend for the 21st time since he started the project.

Timor was little developed touristically, but it had a lot to offer. An "extraordinarily friendly" and "completely safe" country.

After Timor, his 187th country, there were another 16 left for Thor to finish his trip to the 203 countries in the world, and be able to return home.

He returned just over 60 days ago safe and sound.

On May 24 of this year, he reached the Maldives, his 203rd country, returning to Denmark aboard a freighter, via Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Pedersen, who traveled as a goodwill ambassador for the Danish Red Cross, reached the port of Asrhus, Denmark, on 26 July.

The fact that he traveled through all the countries in the world – the 195 sovereign states recognized by the United Nations, plus eight partially recognized ones – without flying and without interrupting the journey, makes him a unique case, surpassing the British Graham Hughes, recognized by Guinness Book of Records, who visited 201 countries, without flying, on a trip that lasted around four years (2010-2014), but which he interrupted twice, for personal reasons.

Now, Thor Pedersen plans to write a book about the trip and produce a documentary, with Canadian director and producer Mike Douglas.

Thor was in Portugal last weekend, to participate in the travel festival, organized by the Association of Portuguese Bloggers (ABVP), in Guimarães.

Traveler advises young people to trust their intuition

Thor Pedersen advised young people who want to travel to believe in people, their own intuition and "smile a lot".

In an interview with the Lusa agency after returning from his 10-year trip around the world, the Dane said that the best advice he can give to young people who want to travel is that if they really have that desire, "follow the plan and make it happen".

"Many people find excuses. Once outside, you must remain positive, open and smile a lot. I guarantee it will change your world. Try the local food, learn a little of the local language and use it whenever you can", he said .

The first man to be able to travel to every country in the world without using air transport and without returning home also leaves other tips, such as trusting people, but above all trusting your own intuition.

"The world is not a completely safe place, although I maintain that the vast majority of people we know are good-hearted and well-intentioned people," he added.

Asked about the greatest lessons from the last ten years of traveling the world in contact with hundreds of different people, Thor highlighted the confirmation of the truth of the motto of his Once Upon a Saga project, which says that "a stranger is a friend you never you met before."

"Dealing with people from all over the world is like playing the reverse lottery, where you win all the time. It's possible to lose, but it almost never happens and it's totally against all odds. People are just people, concerned about ordinary things, like taking care of your family, getting involved in work, school, sports, music, food. I discovered that there is truth in Saga's motto: a stranger is a friend you've never met before", he considered.

Regarding whether he would one day recommend a similar adventure to one of his children, Thor Pedersen was clear and said he would not recommend it.

"My life was at risk several times and I wouldn't recommend that. The project was a lot of work, it was highly stressful."

However, he recommended that everyone travel as much as possible to meet "more people", "learn more about the world", "learn new things", "make new friends" and become "much more polite and tolerant of people and cultures".

Pedersen stressed, however, that he is "happy" to have decided to undertake the project of traveling to every country in the world without using a plane and to have completed the journey "successfully".

During the project, Thor suffered from cerebral malaria, had his life at risk more than once, proposed to his girlfriend who is now his wife and resisted the temptation to give up on the project and return home by plane. .

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