Talking Road Trips with Charley Boorman…

Talking Road Trips with Charley Boorman…

We caught up with motorcycle adventurer Charley Boorman earlier this year to chat about his love for adventure and tips for overland travel…

Charley Boorman, Dakar

So Charley, where did your love of adventure come from?

As a child I was lucky enough to travel around the world with my father on location for such films as Deliverance, Hope and Glory, Excalibur and Emerald Forest. I had a fantastic upbringing living in the Wicklow Mountains half the time and half the time following Dad around the world so I suppose my father’s sense of adventure and the beautiful mountains have made me the man I am today.

What advice do you have for anyone who thinks they’re not capable of embarking on an overland trip?

Everyone and anyone is capable of taking a trip, it’s all down to planning. If you plan everything beforehand then you can just go and enjoy the adventure!

Who is your hero/who do you look up to?

Ted Simon, who wrote Jupiter’s Travels is a really inspirational guy – he’s the one who first gave Ewan and I our idea to do Long Way.

What is your one ‘must have’ for a road trip?

It’s a toss-up between a really good quality sleeping bag and baby wipes. As long as you’re clean, and get a good night’s sleep you can tackle anything!

What would you say is the most important part of preparing for an overland trip?

It’s all so important, making sure all your kit works well, that you have the route figured out and have all the relevant documents. You can’t be lazy with the preparation, it’s so important to learn about where you’re going, the local customs etc. If you don’t then you will only face problems upon arrival!

What was the toughest / scariest experience you’ve ever had on the road?

There was one time in Papua New Guinea when we were trying to use this road and a load of guys armed with machetes approached us, demanding money to use the road. For some mad reason I started shouting at them and luckily they all found it hilarious. It could have gone horribly wrong if they hadn’t had a sense of humour!

How has your testicular cancer diagnosis changed your outlook on life? Did it spur you on to see more of the world?

Obviously when you’re diagnosed with cancer you think the worst and panic but I was lucky enough to have a wonderful and supportive family. It hasn’t curtailed my adventures one bit and I am still as eager as I ever was to continue travelling across the world.

What kind of reaction do you get from your family when you tell them that you’re planning yet another epic adventure?

My family are now so used to me going away that if I stay at home for too long I find my bags are packed and waiting by the door for me! But seriously, I love to meet my family at the end of each of my adventures. We go back some of the way and I show them my favourite parts of the trip and then we have a holiday together.

Where did your love of motorbikes come from?

County Wicklow is where I found and fell in love with motorcycles, at around age 7 thanks to Tommy Rotchford who lives in my village of Annamoe. I was about 7 yrs old when I first rode a motorcycle and the bike was a Honda Monkey Bike which I triumphantly rode past my father who then grabbed me by the hair and pulled me off the bike just before it went into a barbed wire fence. I was hooked for life after that.

What do you look for in a travelling companion?

Ewan is probably my ideal travelling companion, we’re both so passionate about motorcycles and we have had some incredible experiences together. During the Long Way Round and the Long Way Down we saw some unbelievable places and had such a great time together. You just need someone that you get on with and who you can have a laugh with. As long as all the preparation is done beforehand, you should just be able to enjoy yourself.

When travelling, what do you miss most?

I don’t miss much, obviously I miss my friends and family but I’m so busy on the trips and the people that we meet are 99% of the time absolutely lovely so I enjoy fully immersing myself into the culture of these people.

Charley Boorman

Who is the better travel partner? Russ or Ewan?

Both, they are both fantastic friends and fantastic people to travel with. (Ed – very diplomatic answer Charley!)

Do you prefer Actor or Adventurer? Would you ever go back to acting?

Well my career started in acting and I do love it, who knows, if Spielberg comes knocking I might take him up on an offer!

What do you think is the best way for travellers to ‘give back’ to the communities they pass through?

There are so many things you can do to give back to communities, UNICEF are a great example – just go on their website and they give you so many ideas of great things you can do to help struggling communities.

Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to go/ anything that you’ve always wanted to do that you haven’t yet been able to?

I’m really keen to explore South America and all the countries there and China really interests me too but I’d love to do the Dakar Rally again. I did it in ’06 but didn’t get to finish. Now that it’s in Argentina I’d love to have a go with Simon Pavey again but this time I’ll try not to break my hands!

What is your favourite country to travel through?

Travelling through Canada for Extreme Frontiers was amazing but I would probably have to say Mongolia – the country is absolutely beautiful and has some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

What’s next?

I’m currently working on the next series of Extreme Frontiers which I’m really excited about but there are loads of things in the pipe-line! I’m also running a Motorcycle Adventure in South Africa this year, we did one last year and it was so much fun. We all start off by doing an off-road skills course at BMW to learn how to ride in difficult terrain and then off we all go – its great fun! And of course, Ewan and I have always said we’d do a third Long Way but we’re in no rush.

Big thanks to Charley for taking time out to answer our questions – much appreciated – we got there in the end hey?!

You can see the next series of Extreme Frontiers on Channel 5 in November (UK Only) but for now, catch up on Charley and Russ’ logs from the road on the Extreme Frontiers twitter page. For more information on Charley’s Motorcycle Adventures please go to

Have you ever taken a road trip like Charley’s? Whether on two wheels or four we’d like to hear about it, so get in touch and share your stories, photos and tips!

Category Africa, Interviews


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