Ewan McGregor: Zen and the art of motorcycling
The Bookseller 2003
The hardest thing faced by Hollywood actor Ewan McGregor about his forthcoming road trip with best buddie and fellow actor Charley Boorman, will be getting off his BMW motorbike and taking a cup of tea. But it is vital they do, says Boorman, not least because the trip will make very dull reading otherwise.
“The temptation will be just to ride all the time, I know this from having done other journeys,” McGregor explains of the Zen-like state he gets in when out on his bike. “You get off your bike and immediately you put your feet down, you want to get moving again. It becomes an obsession, because you find yourself in a very peaceful state of mind when you are on the bike.”
The state of mind of the two will be detailed in one of Time Warner Books flagship titles for the autumn, Long Way Round, part reflection on their friendship, part travelogue and part adventure story. The two visited the book fair on Monday to promote the title. The book will be “more than a tv tie-in” to the series of the same name due out on Channel 4 in the run up to Christmas.
The trip runs from Calais to New York, through some of the most hostile territory on the planet, including Kazakhstan and Mongolia to the relative comforts of Alaska and the ride across Canada. It will camping out alone, for which the two received survival advice from expert Ray Mears.
The original idea had been to ride down to Spain for a two week break with their wives, says McGregor: “But it all seemed a little tawdry going to Spain, so we thought we might go to China instead.”
Initially the two planned to set challenges for each other along the way, McGregor explains. “We started off thinking about flying MiGs [CORRECT] or firing rockets from tanks, which doesn’t really have anything to do with our journey.” But novelty was replaced with authenticity, and the MiGs ditched for local activities such as eagle hunting and camel racing, Boorman says.
Are the two daunted by the reputations of the places through which they will be travelling? “We asked the guys who taught us about hostile environments where will be the most dangerous place to camp?” McGregor says. “He just pointed to America and said, ‘There.’”
That the two are close friends is obvious from their easy manner and banter, but three months on the road alone would test the strongest bonds. Will there be rows? Yes, they admit, but only to clear the air. “The worst thing to do is sit looking at the back of someone’s helmet 20 feet in front of you, getting angrier and angrier….” McGregor laughs. Boorman completes the thought: “And then a week later shouting at them over something ridiculous, so that they are thinking, where did that come from?”
The hardest part of the journey will be arriving home, they believe. Will it affect their attitude to the Hollywood world in which they work? “Nah!” they chorus. But they will have had some fun.