Literary Travels: Long Way Round

I bought the book Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman just before Christmas so I could read about their adventures before adding the DVDs to my Netflix queue. My boyfriend was interested in both the book and television series as well, but more from the logistics and motorcycling aspect of the trip than where the pair ended up traveling.

The idea behind the trip, traveling around the world, is certainly not new, nor is the idea to do it by bike. However, when I’ve stopped to consider actually traveling around the world, I’ve pictured seeing everything possible on every inhabited continent. That sort of trip around the world is outside the scope of what can be accomplished on a motorcycle should you want to stick to just riding across land masses (Europe, Russia, Asia and the U.S.) rather than having to fly or boat over or across huge bodies of water.

Reading this book wasn’t exactly my first experience learning what detail and planning is necessary in order to accomplish such a trip; I am familiar with planning trips to different areas of the world and acquiring visas, understanding border control, attempting to learn a new language, submitting to rounds of vaccinations, etc., but a bike trip around the world requires intense knowledge of survival tactics as well as the machine you are relying on. Both well outside the scope of my experience.

These two were lucky in that they had resources available, although not easily acquired, and the support of an entire crew following about a day behind them. Knowing a doctor and two support vehicles were only a day away certainly had to bring some sense of relief, but I was impressed that the pair really didn’t rely on those resources. They were very focused on making sure the journey was what they original set out to accomplish. This meant fending for themselves,  experiencing different cultures and people on an intimate level and tackling whatever challenge was presented.

I enjoyed the book because there was a good amount of personal insight from each individual. They were completely stressed out planning for and executing the trip, they missed their families, they got fed up with one another, and they were touched by many of their experiences. The trip seemed very real to me.

The only thing I found somewhat disappointing was the focus on their time in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and Siberia. I understand those are the areas readers are probably most unfamiliar with and would want to hear the most about, but I have to imagine there were different sets of challenges and experiences the pair went through in Europe and the United States, and those areas were completely skipped over.

My boyfriend was disappointed there wasn’t more information about the BMWs and how they performed throughout the trip. We both ride, and he has been through all 48 contiguous states on his motorcycle, so he was hoping there would be greater detail on the vehicle rather than just the journey. Personally, I thought the book showed a nice compromise.

We just finished the first four episodes of the television series, and I’m glad we read the book first. The televised rendition is bringing everything we read to life in greater detail, and we’re learning more about the bikes and personal experience than was captured in the relatively short book.

Looking forward to tackling Long Way Down next!

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