It started in Madagascar.
Thorbjørn C. Pedersen was looking for a ship to the Seychelles and went to the A.P. Moller - Maersk office to ask about sailings. The financial manager found the project interesting and asked if he would make a presentation to employees.
"That went well, so we organised that I would speak at another two Maersk offices in the region. After that it sort of just caught on and I began to receive more invitations as I moved north through Eastern Africa," Thor says.
Once Upon A Saga
It was one step in a huge project called Once Upon A Saga – to visit every country in the world without flying. Thor has now reached 131 countries (he has a total of 203) and has just completed Africa, which he thinks could be the toughest part of the journey, with a visit to Algeria.
Thor started in October 2013 because no one had done such a journey before without boarding an aeroplane, and he believed it was a challenge he could take on thanks to his background in logistics. Several legs of his journey have involved travel on Maersk vessels, the latest from Egypt to Malta.
His biggest challenge in Africa, and the main reason the continent took so long, was visas. In two countries, Thor took special measures for his personal safety, and four of the island nations were nearly impossible to reach without flying.
"My best memory might be making it in and out of Equatorial Guinea. It took me three months to get my visa and another 26 days before I could cross the border. As I left I felt victorious," he explains. "I certainly hope the hardest part is behind me. Frankly I cannot imagine the journey getting harder than certain parts of Africa have been."
Where next? Thor has a few more European countries to visit, then it's the Middle East and Asia.
In every country so far, Thor has spotted Maersk – most often a container but also plenty of ships, ports and offices. It's a global project and a global company, and both have an extensive reach.
"Sometimes it takes a while. Like in Khartoum, heavy trucks are only permitted to go through the city after midnight, so you don't see them that often," he says. "I found a really old one in Eritrea which was more fun than the ordinary ones, which I also saw. It has been 131 countries so far and Maersk has had a box in each of them."
The presentations take a lot of time and energy, but bring plenty of benefits. Often, Maersk employees have offered Thor a bed or dinner invitation afterwards.
"The timing has been really good, because all our teams are stressed out with the recovery efforts from the cyber attack," says Marcos Eduardo Hansen, West Mediterranean Cluster Top. "So a good motivational speech has really come in handy, and people really engaged and got excited by Thor's project and the way he goes about achieving it."
Thor likes that employees are motivated and inspired, and it gives a direct link to local people in each country.
"It has been really positive. I strongly feel that I might still be somewhere in Africa, if Maersk employees across the continent hadn't helped me now and again."