Torbjørn (Thor) Pedersen stands on the dock at the Port of Aarhus in Aarhus, Denmark on July 26, 2023, and smiles as he stepped off a large Maersk container ship, after visiting his 203rd country and final country -- the Maldives -- in late May 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Aarhus, Denmark: A Danish man who claimed to be the first to visit every country in the world in a single trip without flying landed home Wednesday after 10 years away.

Torbjorn Pedersen stepped off a Maersk container ship in the Danish port city of Aarhus, after visiting his 203rd country and final country - the Maldives - in late May.

"I've been dreaming about coming back home and having it over with and done. So that's today. At the same time, I'm anxious about the future," Pedersen told AFP, describing the return as bittersweet.

"A lot of things are up in the air and in the unknown, mixed emotions," he said while listing concerns about restarting his career and trying to adjust to everyday life.

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Known as "Thor," he has travelled by train, bus, boat or even on foot on the voyage he set off on October 10, 2013.

The 44-year-old - who previously had a career within the shipping sector - is the first to make the feat.

Leaving Micronesia in January 2020, he continued to Hong Kong, where he found himself stuck for two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Once the borders were open again, he set off for the island country of Palau, then continuing the countries of Oceania and the Pacific islands.

Took longer than expected

"Three have been to every country twice. Two have been to every country without returning home in between. And now, one has done it completely without flying. What can I say? Good luck to the second," he wrote on his blog.

Keen to meet new people, the former UN peacekeeper never hired a car, preferring to instead to travel on public transport.

Despite the geographical distance, Thor and his partner have managed to keep their relationship alive.

During the decade of travel, she travelled to visit him 27 times. On the 10th occasion, he got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage - but unfortunately the pandemic forced them to get married online.

His wife Le Gjerum said she found his stubbornness in completing the task admirable but added she was looking forward to having a "daily life together."

The inspiration for the trip came from an article his father emailed him.

He was first apprehensive but didn't want the regret of not doing it, he however conceded that he originally thought the trip would be completed in less than half the time.

"I thought it would take a maximum of four years in total, maybe three and a half if I went a little fast."

Thor, who documented his journey on social media and in a blog, was also an ambassador for the Red Cross.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Britain's Graham Hughes was the first person to circumnavigate the globe without a plane, but his journey was interspersed with two returns home, which Thor did not do.