A bit of background for those who do not know Thor. Thor is a 40 year-old guy going to every country in the world (193+2), plus some more, he decided on 203 countries. His gimmick is he is doing this without flying. Ever.
Why did I need to add that “ever”? Because there is already Graham Hughes who is on the Guinness World Records for travelling the world without flying. However, Thor argues Graham flew a couple of times, back home and back to the place he left off. Even though Guinness had no objections to that and approved Graham's record, Thor says that does not count.
Where is Thor now?
In Hong Kong.
Stuck in Hong Kong.
How far is he into this project?
You want to know time-wise, distance-wise or country-wise?
Well, he left in October 3, 2013. So that makes 6,5 years.
He is in country number 194. That is he has 9 countries left.
Seems sort of the end of the road is close. Not really. All those countries are islands and with this coronavirus outbreak, every gate is closed; be it the countries closing their doors or cargo ships, the only alternatives to flights, not accepting any passengers who are not essential for running of the operations on the ship.
Thor is also trying to promote the message. “Keep on keeping on” and that you'll get where you want to be if you never give up.
That is a good motto.
Unless of course you are stuck somewhere where you don't wish to be, when you've got better things to do. When life is going on without you, passing by in front of your eyes while you wait for things to change, biding your time... No, it's not so good.
Biding your time when you are mentally at the end of your limits, when you have been like that for such a long time. Nopes, not a good idea.
You see, Thor has been stuck in Hong Kong for two months plus.
He's been stuck in Lebanon and other places too before. Waiting for visas. Hoping to get some access to some hard-to-get-in country.
He has had to deal with bureaucrazy too many times. He has had to do turn arounds and retrace his steps for tens of thousands of kilometers because there was no overland access to the place he wanted to go from the place he was.
I wouldn't want to be in Thor's place now.
Well, even he doesn't want to be in his place either.
But isn't it funny?
He has put all these restrictions on himself. 24 hours in every country. It doesn't matter if he has to sleep like homeless people out in the cold on the street, twisting and turning.
Here are two screen-shots from his blog:
Ah, and of course no going back before the trip is finished. Well, this one he has to keep because he wants to be unique. He wants to be above Graham. He wants the grandeur. He wants to bask in the glory of being the one and only. Well... Even if not one and only he will always be the first. That's what he is after.
At the end of one of his posts, Thor says he did a Skype call with students in Hong Kong and he got asked the question “Is the journey more about experiences or setting a record?”
Thor just says: “Brilliant!!”
Doesn't answer the question directly. But I suppose when he says “Brilliant” he implies that it is about experiences. After all, we all know that that is the “correct” answer!
However, I'd say, if Thor was honest to himself, he'd admit that it is more about the record or at least finishing up what he started rather than experiences at this point. As it is obvious he doesn't enjoy being out there and would much rather prefer to experience a different life after so much time on the road.
But he will not tell you such a thing.
Actually, he will tell you he is doing other things with this project. He is inspiring people, he is showing people that you'll reach your goal when you keep hanging on. Like he answered the person who labelled his saga as a vanity project.
Well... I'd ask him:
“Thor... You want to give the lesson that it is ok to torture yourself by self-impositions which aim at grandeur??”
You know what would be so cool and really shoot Thor up to respectable status for me (not that he'd care to be respected by me of course but still...) If he could just go to every country and skip the last one. Even find the boat or transportation to the last one and not go. Or go and not stay 24 hours.
Like the great sailor Bernard Moitessier did in the “1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first non-stop, singlehanded, round the world yacht race. With the fastest circumnavigation time towards the end of the race, Moitessier was the likely winner for the fastest voyage, but he elected to continue on to Tahiti and not return to the start line in England, rejecting the idea of the commercialization of long distance sailing.” (From Wikipedia)
“One of the world's most famous ocean sailors, Moitessier had sailed for more than a year from Plymouth, England to the Indian Ocean when he inexplicably abandoned the lead in the 1968-1969 Round-the-World single-handed race. He sailed to Tahiti, dropped anchor and dropped out.” BoatUS
Sailing Inland & Offshore writes:
“For Moitessier, the race finished in mid-Pacific after he had passed the three Capes and crossed his outward track, leading, and with the hardest sections behind him, he decided to forfeit the race and continue into the Pacific again, to anchor finally among friends in Tahiti. His actions were never explained by the news media; they could not have been, for the voyage had always been seen by Moitessier as something other than a sponsored, publicized, competitive event. It was on the ocean, alone with his boat, that Moitessier began to regard this as a voyage that could not end for him with the reward of those whose values were not his.”
A voyage that could not end for him with the reward of those whose values were not his.
Yes, this is the important point. What are your values?
Unfortunately, for Thor, the values are his too. That's the trouble; that's the dilemma.
I wish he could be strong enough to give up these values.
It really would be to his advantage/profit. As a person. Make him grow as a person.
Sunk Costs Fallacy- Escalated Commitment
I know Thor is never going to do that.
But apart from that, he should still be giving up the project. If only to cut his losses.
On one of Thor's posts, Ric Gazarian commented:
“Keep up the good fight! Your patience is amazing!”
"It's not patience, it's having no other choice!" I replied.
"Going back at this point after investing so much time and effort would be such a downer that it is not really an option. Plus, obviously, having the right to brag about being to every country without flying is such a big deal to Thor to pass up."
However, if Thor knew any better he'd give the sunk cost fallacy some deep thought. Sunk cost fallacy makes you act stupidly. There is something called Escalation of commitment related to that. Which is "a human behavior pattern in which an individual or group facing increasingly negative outcomes from a decision, action, or investment nevertheless continues the behavior instead of altering course. The actor maintains behaviors that are irrational, but align with previous decisions and actions."
One can never get back the time, nor the money spent on some dream to pursue. So people keep playing, they keep on keeping on to avoid the pain of loss. Negative impulses are greater than positive ones. It is so designed for our survival.
However, for Thor, he shouldn't feel it as a loss. As he has greatly benefited from the experience already. In fact, he has benefited enough. But now, it is just costing him, taking away from him. Without adding any more value.
On his “You Are Not So Smart” website, David McRaney writes about the sunk cost fallacy:
“It is a noble and exclusively human proclivity, the desire to persevere, the will to stay the course – studies show lower animals and small children do not commit this fallacy. Wasps and worms, rats and raccoons, toddlers and tikes, they do not care how much they’ve invested or how much goes to waste. They can only see immediate losses and gains. As an adult human being, you have the gift of reflection and regret. You can predict a future place where you must admit your efforts were in vain, your losses permanent, and when you accept the truth it is going to hurt.”
There is merit in giving up. When you realize that what you are after is not worth it. It's called cutting your losses.
IT IS OK TO QUIT!
I believe Thor is now at a point where whatever he does, he'll be regretting it later in life. He will always wonder what if he had taken the other road, done the other thing.
If he goes on, he'll regret it:
I suppose by now it is clear that this Covid-19 is not as innocent as Thor was claiming at the beginning. Someone in his family or his circle might get sick. He'll be feeling the guilt of not being there for them.
Or suppose he completes the project and returns, but they have trouble having a child. Thor will be blamed. “You and your stupid saga...” I can hear his now fiance, future wife if be, saying.
Perhaps I am too pessimistic. I am a doom's day scenarist.
I really hope he doesn't hear these words but if he does, they will definitely hurt. They'll hurt much more than a stranger calling his project vain.
He will wonder if he should have gone back. Gone back when he was stuck like this. Instead of trying to push it through, waiting a pandemic wave to pass.
He will wonder if it was worth giving up his personal life for the glory of that Guinness World Record he craved so much.
Upon return, he will realize most people do not care at all. Even the ones who followed him back then, that is those who are applauding him now... They'll be long gone too, gone after their own life, or following a new traveller guru after Thor has finished.
At that point Thor will realize the meaninglessness of it all, he'll find life empty once again. He will realize that all these “rewards” he was after were not worth. That they do not give satisfaction.
Yet I know... If he returns home now, he'll regret it too. He'll always wonder what would have happened if he had grit his teeth and endured, what opportunities he missed.
I, of course, wish none of this happens. That the road is cleared soon, even if a month or two, and he goes on to complete t/his project.
It means so much more to him, I know that very well. I wish he finishes his saga, returns and has a happy life, basking in the glory and reaping the rewards of his efforts and “patience”. Unfortunately, real life rarely works that way. It never runs smoothly or as we hope it to. The repercussions, the unintended consequences of our actions follow us.
Life never matches with our expectations.
Even though, of course, it sometimes does surprise us and exceeds our expectations. Mind you, that usually happens when we listen to what it is telling us to do instead of persisting stubbornly on the path we are obsessed with.
The question is... Which one you will regret less?
It is said that at the end of your life, you regret the things you didn't do, not the ones you did. But here, Thor is not doing one thing when choosing to do the other.
Another thing that is said is that you never think "I should have worked more" at the end of your life. You wish you'd have spent more time with your family and for yourself.
So for Thor, I think the choice is obvious.
I know you want to keep on keeping on but life has a way of letting us know when to stop. It guides us, if only we should listen.
We are human beings who should be capable of weighing situations and changing plans.
As in Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”
"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run..."
PS: Actually, this piece was meant to be written privately to Thor. However, I couldn't find his email address on his website (he doesn't have it). So I changed all the second persons to third person and published here thinking it is also good advice or good food for thought for everybody.
PPS: Of course, for Thor to give up at this point, it would mean such shame and feeling of failure. So how to deal with that? How to get over that?
The Way Out... is hidden in the wind.
PPPS: If you think what I write is worth something, please support me on Patreon