‘Confused and frustrated’: How a world traveler nearly came unstuck getting into New Zealand

At 10am on Tuesday morning, a Danish traveler will leave on a container ship from Melbourne, Australia, sailing to the next stop on an incredible world journey – New Zealand.

Torbjørn Pedersen, who is also known as Thor, has been traveling the globe for nine years with a mission to visit every country in the world and doing it all without ever taking a plane.

New Zealand will be number 197 out of 203 countries visited, with only stops in Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu ahead, before a trip to Sri Lanka and then on to the final destination in his epic journey, the Maldives.

If he completes the odyssey, he will be the first person to visit every country in the world on a single journey without catching a flight.

Thor has been enjoying his time in Australia.

Once Upon a Saga / Instagram

Thor has been enjoying his time in Australia.

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But all his plans nearly came unstuck a week ago.

First, the container ship which had pledged to bring him across the Tasman from Australia said it would no longer carry him, then Immigration New Zealand said he couldn’t enter the country due to Covid regulations. While Customs here had given him the green light, the reversal by Immigration had left him “confused and frustrated”.

He had started to plan alternative routes to pick off the Pacific Islands but many of those still remain closed to foreign travelers and he had an added wrinkle of a new Danish passport which was waiting for him in New Zealand.

“NZ Customs provided me with a very professional and very well researched answer which confirmed that I could arrive on board a container ship. But days later NZ Immigration sent a separate reply stating that I could not, ”said Pedersen.

But after sharing the Customs response, Immigration reversed its stance. In the meantime, the ship also changed course to allow him passage on board.

Megan Harvey, Customs maritime manager, said that all cargo ships, their crew and passengers were permitted to arrive into New Zealand under the Maritime Border Order.

“Following changes to the Maritime Border Order (which came into effect on May 2, 2022), the passenger would not be subject to isolation but would be required to undergo day 0/1 and 5/6 testing if they wished to disembark and enter the community, using self-administered rapid antigen tests [RATs]”Said Harvey.

The Dane said he couldn’t be more relieved.

Torbjørn Pedersen, aka Thor, is a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross.


Torbjørn Pedersen, aka Thor, is a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross.

“There is nothing I would like to see more than a successful and rapid end to this project. And I know that I have hard times ahead of me with tough bureaucracy and hardcore logistics. I thought I had secured the ship as well as entry into New Zealand. When both were reversed I felt like the ‘house of cards’ was coming apart.

“I have been wanting to quit and go home since 2015. So this was a slap in the face. I am happy to see that I was eventually supported by New Zealand authorities. “

Pedersen has been using all his previous life skills on his journey. The former soldier in the Danish Army spent 12 years in shipping and logistics, and finances his trip through Danish companies and contributions from supporters.

Along with his “ no plane rule ”, Pedersen survives on a US $ 20 a day budget. He said some days proved more expensive than others when having to apply for things like visa extensions but there were other days when he lived very frugally, so it balanced out. Thankfully, he is rarely charged for the cargo ship journeys.

He acknowledges he will be going over that daily budget in New Zealand but “over the course of more than 3000 days it will not move the average much”.

The pandemic has obviously played a major role in extending his planned journey, including a two-year stint in Hong Kong due to travel restrictions.

On his stop in Australia he finally managed to meet his father after more than four years apart, as well as catching up with his wife. The couple had planned to get married in New Zealand but had to change plans due to the pandemic.

Sadly his trip to New Zealand this time looks like it will only be short.

“I have been to New Zealand before and spent 14 days on both islands touring it all. I bungy jumped, I went skiing, explored caves, had good food, went to a unique cinema, visited Arrowtown and much, much more.

“I have always said that New Zealand is one of the most picturesque countries I have ever been to and I still think so. But I really want to get home. So I might leave New Zealand after only two-three days if I can get away with it. “

As a goodwill ambassador for the Red Cross, he is hoping to meet up with volunteers while in Aotearoa, as well as catching up with members of the Danish community here.

“If I am around for a while then I will do much more exploring. Let’s see how it all plays out. “

For more information go to Once Upon a Sagaor follow Thor on Instagram and YouTube.

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