Around the World with a Travel Enthusiast

Per Christensson of Edina is part Swedish, part Danish and part Japanese. At least that’s what he tells his friends. His Swedish and Danish ancestry is clearly embedded in his DNA, but his linkage to Japan has more to do with heart—and a love of travel. In the past decade, Christensson has traveled extensively to many corners of the world, both big and small, and just added a seventh continent to his passport this past winter. From studying Swedish in Sweden to braving a polar plunge in Antarctica, and many more adventures in between, Christensson has opened his eyes, mind and soul to the wonders of the world.

Christensson didn’t particularly love travel as a kid. With parents from Sweden and Denmark, he travelled often to Europe to visit family. And although he enjoyed his time abroad, it wasn’t until 2010 when he took his first solo trip that he caught the travel bug. That summer he lived in Sweden taking language classes and working on his web and software development business. At the end of that trip, he knew this was really the beginning and made a commitment to return to Sweden annually, as long as he is able. Since then, he has kept his promise, and is now nearly fluent in Swedish and has a home-away-from-home, not to mention a whole network of friends.

But his travels didn’t stop in Sweden. Christensson expanded his goals to include at least one additional major trip every year. Some of his travel highlights since 2010 include getting lost on bike in Vancouver, hiking into El Yunque National Park in Puerto Rico until dark (by mistake), going on safari in the Maasai Mara park in Kenya and watching a cheetah hunt, climbing the Harbor Bridge in Australia to catch the sunrise, bungee jumping in New Zealand at the first commercial bungee jumping site and finally making his childhood dream come true with a trip to Japan.

“Since I was young I wanted to be a samurai, and I’ve always been into samurai swords. I heard about how people are so respectful in Japan and then when I visited, somehow it exceeded my expectations,” he says. “When I left Japan, there was no question that I was going back someday.”

Although Christensson’s trips are diverse in locale, most of them have one thing in common: Christensson flying solo. There are many perks to traveling alone, but Christensson says the main advantage is actually social in nature. “When I travel alone I make the most friends … and if there’s one thing in life I love more than anything else, it’s getting to know someone and their story,” he says. Of course Christensson has been to his share of tourist attractions, because you actually learn a lot, he says, but “I appreciate meeting people and living in the culture the most.” From what his sister Annika Christensson says, people like meeting him too. “Per has a knack for making friends everywhere he goes … I think people are impressed by the effort at connection and also just find him very genuine and intriguing,” she says. Because of Christensson’s emphasis on friendships while traveling this past decade, he now has people to visit literally around the world.

 There is no right or wrong way to travel, according to Christensson, and he doesn’t follow any specific guidelines when planning his own trips. He has gone backpacking in Europe, on cruises, mission trips, spontaneous trips to see friends, beach vacations and meticulously planned tours—although he’s discovered the more you travel the less you plan. The important thing is to make it happen, he says. “Fear of the unknown prevents a lot of people from traveling,” say Christensson. “But just because something is unknown doesn’t mean it’s difficult.”

Of course travel does present challenges. Christensson may not post about it on social media or share photos, but just like life at home, there are less-than-glamorous moments. “I’ve taken antibiotics more than once during a trip, I’ve had to deal with various injuries and I’ve missed trains,” he says. “It isn’t glamorous. You have to be kind of rugged to handle traveling … But that’s one of the things I enjoy about it, especially traveling alone: You persevere, you push through it.”

In the end, travel is the ultimate teacher, explains Christensson. You learn how to be self-reliant, figure out how to pack light and travel well, and ultimately gain a greater understanding—and empathy—for others. “The beautiful thing about travel is it necessarily opens your mind … You realize that other cultures have ways of doing things that really do work,” says Christensson. “Different societies function well with what they do.”

As for what’s up next on Christensson’s travel agenda, he hasn’t decided. “The moon is next,” he says, only half-kidding. Wherever his travels land him isn’t the point; Christensson is excited to continue the act of exploring and discovering. “When you travel you discover so much about different parts of creation … it’s this discovery that gives you the travel bug,” he says. Christensson has travelled to all seven continents and yet he still hasn’t seen 99 percent of the world, a fact he finds both bittersweet and humbling. “It inspires me to keep traveling,” he says.

Although Christensson has travelled all over the globe, he’s always happy to come home to Edina, where he’s lived since the age of 5 (besides a few years for college in Chicago). “Edina is my home base,” he says. “It’s such a great place to live and I’ve used it as my launching pad to other places.” In fact, Christensson is known to bring a little piece of Edina with him wherever he goes—in the form of this magazine. Edina Magazine has been lucky enough to hitch a ride in Christensson’s suitcase to destinations including Hobbiton in New Zealand and Loch Ness in Scotland. Visit our online Travel Log to see travel photos of Christensson and other world travelers who have brought us along for the ride.