Ross DK has been supporting the intrepid traveller since he set out on his epic journey at what seems to be aeons ago. Torbjørn came to us in the most surprising way and we couldn’t help by being struck by how audacious his proposal was. We were soon convince that if anyone was to carry out such an adventure, it had to be him.
Q: Do you remember that August day back in 2013 when you came to us on a blistering hot day when we were preparing for the Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix (we had a car -yes, we are petrolheads- entered in the category pre-1986 cars)? When you look back to these days just prior to departing,. do you remember what your expectations were for the journey?
A: Yes, indeed I remember and have told the story a thousand times!! At least my version 😉
I sent you guys an email to say that I was planning to go to every country in the world completely without flying and wouldn’t be available to work on any geothermal projects for the coming three to four years. In response, I received an email to come to your office!
On arrival, I was sat down at the table and furiously asked if I had hit my head?!? I desperately began to explain my idea for the project, and after about 40 seconds (which felt like an hour) everyone at the table began laughing, and Lars said: WE NEED TO BE A PART OF THIS!!
The rest is history as they say 🙂
Back then I thought it would be a 3.5 to 4-year project and expected some complications, but overall that it would be a fun adventure with interesting food, amazing sites, incredible people and unforgettable experiences. I wasn’t wrong except it has turned out to be FAR MORE work and A GREAT DEAL more complicated than what I assumed.
Q: You took on Europe then crossed over to Greenland and North America, down to South American west coast and up through the eastern side ending up in the Caribbean. You then crossed back to Europe for a brief visit before going down to Africa, travelling down the western side and up the eastern. With Africa done, you crossed back into Europe and tackled the Arabian Peninsula and ventured into Russia and Caucasia and then towards Asia, taking Pakistan and India on the way. You are currently in Hong Kong awaiting a suitable travel solution to the remaining countries, which are in the Austral/Pacific region. That is a lot of countries! Can you single out say two or three experiences which are memorable?
A: Wow! Yes, it has been quite a ride so far!
I was fortunate enough to see a rocket launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. I was awestruck about the incredible power, the night turned into day, the ground shook, and the noise was deafening!!! Soon after I realized that I had never before seen anything leave earth! Everything that takes off lands again: airplanes, birds, fireworks… But that rocket just kept going until it had left us all behind. What an amazing thing! I have almost made it 42 times around the sun within my lifetime and everything I have ever experienced, touched, smelled, heard or tasted was and is still here on earth in one form or the other.
I proposed to my girlfriend on top of Mt Kenya in East Africa. I was thinking “The Lion King”, but it was a crazy snowstorm with zero visibility! Fortunately, she said yes, and we are hoping to get married the next time we see each other.
Last year I got delayed for a while in the Solomon Islands due to my upcoming ride on a container ship being delayed by a typhoon which was ravaging Japan. It turned out to be an opportunity in which I ended up in a small village with no electricity or running water. One night the village elder asked if the children could watch a movie on my laptop? That evening while the stars stood bright on the sky, some 70 villagers sat huddled in around my laptop! What an amazing experience! I never looked at my laptop the same way again.
Q: Sitting on the back of taxi motorbike, in a tuk-tuk or jammed into a minibus, have you ever felt unsafe? That your ‘tushy’ could be worse for wear.
A: I was stiff from fear for about an hour on the back of a motorcycle in West Africa! It had rained, so the dirt road was muddy and slippery. It did not bother my driver who raced ahead at incredible speed!! No helmets, no safety! He was either a madman or a genius!! After the first hour, I began to relax. The ride took three hours, and it was a spectacular workout for my entire body.
Q: You have been through countries, which from a media perspective, seem dangerous. Are they?
A: Yes, and no. I don’t believe in dangerous countries. But there are dangerous people, and some countries have more than others. My overall experience with such countries is that people are kinder. They do not expect to see a foreigner and do their utmost to apply as much hospitality as they possibly can. Around the world, people are just people trying to make the best of what they have. And every country is loved by someone.
Q: What is the best way to travel? Bus, train, ship, taxi or …? And where have you felt that you just blended in as one in the crowd?
A: When I’ve been on a lot of busses, I begin to dream about trains. After a bunch of trains, I dream about busses. Personally, I really value getting onboard containerships as they provide me with a break from the project. When I’m on board, we are moving from A to B so I need not worry about transportation. I’m provided with meals and a cabin of my own, so I have privacy. Often I don’t have internet access so it’s limited what I can do other than relaxing, read and relaxing some more.
Q: You are a goodwill ambassador for the Red Cross Red Crescent. You have seen many Red Cross Red Crescent societies and the work and commitment they represent. What is the driver for these societies to tirelessly pursue their mission?
A: It is all about humanity. The movement works tirelessly to ensure people’s safety and dignity. The world is not a perfect place although I stand by that it’s better than most believe. Everyone deserves a fair chance or two. Not everyone has it from the beginning, and you cannot count on governments in every country to get you back on your feet. We are all human, and the Red Cross Red Crescent does a phenomenal job in picking people up and giving them stability wherever it is needed.
Q: You must be a people person – meeting and greeting thousands. Are there individuals or groups that stick out particularly in your memory?
A: I believe I have a solid social intelligence and that it has developed further over the years. Maria from Suwalki in Poland is unforgettable. On a cold December night in 2013, I was standing on a quiet street wondering where the heck the address was where I was booked to spend the night. A door opened, and she appeared. I ran over to ask for directions, and with minutes she convinced me to spend the night in her house. She spoke perfect English as she was a teacher and made me a midnight meal before showing me to a bed in the basement. The next morning Maria and her daughter made me a cup of coffee to go with my breakfast and then Maria drove me to the bus, which was to take me to Lithuania. That’s when I knew the Sagas motto was true: A stranger is a friend you’ve never met before.
In the same breath, I can mention Abdul Karim in Cameroon. I was ready to give up on the project and return home, but he appeared and saw that I was down. We only knew each other because he was a motorcycle taxi-driver who had transported me a few times near the border to Gabon. We did not share a language, but he picked me up and got me a cup of tea. Within fifteen minutes, he had changed my mood, and the Saga continued that night on an 800km drive to another border. The Saga got FAR MORE hellish after that for several months to come. But eventually, things worked out, checkpoints and borders were crossed, and here we are today four years later.
Q: At Ross, we have a company value which is to ‘add-value’ to the projects we are involved in. We strive to go the extra mile for our clients. Have you reflected on what value or perhaps do-good your adventure has had?
A: First of all, I love Ross and all its employees!! You have generated more value across the world through Once Upon A Saga than most will ever realize!
I have been through thick and thin throughout the years, and my grittiness and determination have inspired others to pursue their dreams and realize their plans. I regularly hear from people who thank me for how I conduct myself and my determination to find a solution to every challenge. Apart from that, we have successfully opened up the world to many people who now perceive many countries in a different light. And the Red Cross Red Crescent has received donations, volunteers and visibility across the globe due to the stories I’ve shared and the work I’ve delivered as a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross.
Q: Food! Tell us some food stories. The memorable ones, the best to-go ones, the ‘did I just eat..’ ones or ‘it is stereotypical to assume..’ ones?
A: well, at this point I’ve had goat brain, snake, mystery meat, insects, cow skin and lots of “exotic” food.
I have yet to come across a country where people do not like good food and do their best to make their meals as delicious as possible.
I look back at the costal countries in Central Africa and dream of the grilled street-side dish served with manioc which is devoured with your hands. I love the hummus and baba ghanoush dishes of the Middle East which is served with fresh vegetables. Italy is a clear favourite for me with all the Italian dishes! The meat culture in South America and Southern Africa is superb! The soups across southeastern Asia are just amazing! I love the stewed dishes in Eastern Europe. The coconut flavours across the pacific are mouthwatering. Sushi in Japan!! The world is full of good food!
Q: Following that train of thought, what food/drink just seems to be everywhere?
A: If you are a chicken, then you are fresh out of luck. As a cow, you can hide in India, and pigs are safe in the Middle East. But everyone loves chicken! And Cola is/are to be found in every corner of our round world.
Q: Last one, what’s with the hair and the beard?
A: Yeah! That’s a story within itself. I’ve been growing a bald patch on top of my head for at least a decade. However, as I reached Africa, I thought, just for fun, that I would grow my hair until I left. Africa has 54 countries, so that ended up taking two years and four months! I’ve never had hair that long before!!! I had it cut when I reached Algeria and left the continent. When I reached Lebanon a very old and very professional hairdresser decided my hair should be ultra-short with a small “Tin Tin” patch on top. I liked the look and stuck with it.
My beard comes and goes whenever my fiancée visits. She has been out to see me twenty-one times and hates my beard out of fear of what might live within it 😉 So I clean shave the night before she arrives. Due to the logistics of the Pacific, followed by the global pandemic, we have not been able to see each other in person for more than a year. So now the joke is on me! The beard reaches my chest, and it takes forever to dry when I step out of the shower. People stare at me on the street, and it is all over the place when it is windy. I’ve now decided that it needs to go soon, but I have been asked to colour it and be Santa Claus for the Danish Seaman’s Church, Hong Kong’s, annual event in December – so I guess it gets to grow a little longer.