A life well travelled: Charley Boorman

The English TV star, motorcyclist and co-author, with Ewan McGregor, of the bestselling books Long Way Round and Long Way Down, on travelling and the freedom it allows


Where are you at the moment?

I’m in Zimbabwe. Every year I lead a motorcycle tour from Cape Town, South Africa to Victoria Falls and back. I take a bunch of bikers and we see some of the best scenery that Africa has to offer. This continent so often receives a hard knock and I like to show people that it is not as dangerous as it is made out to be.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

What draws you to Africa?

For me, if you experience it once, you want to keep going back. There’s a kind of freedom there that you won’t find in say, Europe, or Australia. You get to do everything for yourself and you have to make all your own decisions. You also need to take responsibility for your actions, as there’s no one else to blame if something goes wrong. Driving across this continent – especially on a motorbike – is really an adventure. There is nowhere else in the world where you can see wild animals like elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinos and wildebeest just roaming around.

Who inspires your spirit of adventure?

My father, John Boorman, is a film director and as children we always travelled with him to whichever location he was working in. He was and still is a great adventurer. I got into motorbikes from a very young age – I must have been either six or seven years old. I was into horse riding, too. But as I got older, I realised bikes were better; I didn’t have to do any mucking out of stables.

What does it feel like when you are on your bike?

I always say you have to drive a car, but you choose to ride a motorcycle. Being on the back of a bike gives you a different sense of freedom. It’s a passion and a lovely way to travel and get to know a country. When you’re in an air-conditioned car and you step out in clean clothes, you are so often removed from your new environment. When you arrive by bike, you’re dusty and people welcome you in for a cup of tea. They almost feel sorry for you and always want to look after you. When you travel overland into a country it’s different to arriving at an airport. Once you cross the border everything changes immediately, from the tarmac and signposts, to the houses or how people dress and speak.

You’ve travelled from London to New York via Europe and Asia, biked from Scotland to South Africa and more. What have  learnt about yourself?

When you travel a lot you learn  to be adaptable and how to fit in. I feel confident that I could go anywhere in the world, and blend in. The more you travel, the more accepting you become, too.

Is there anything left to see on your travel bucket list?

There’s still so much to do. I need to explore the whole of South and Central America and I love the Middle East, there’s a lot more to experience there.