One way to fund a motorbike trip around the world is to secure a book deal. This is exactly what Charley Boorman — traveller, explorer, writer, actor and motorcyclist — did to ride across the world from London to New York. Having teamed up with fellow actor and friend Ewan McGregor, Boorman realised he couldn't afford the long trip they had planned.
Then he received some good advice —someone said it would make a great book and even if they didn't get a book deal he should keep a diary, because otherwise he would forget what had happened on the voyage.
"It's absolutely true, anyone will tell you … If I were to give anyone any advice I would say keep a diary of what you've done, because you do forget," Boorman told Weekend Review.
And so the two started the Long Way Round trip in 2004 — Boorman with "two kids, a wife, a massive mortgage" and minimal funds in his account.
Two years later, Boorman entered the famous off-road Dakar rally, producing TV show Race to Dakar and an accompanying book of his adventure from Paris to Senegal.
After the huge success of their first trip around the world, the acting duo teamed up for a second time in 2007 for Long Way Down, travelling from John O'Groats in Scotland through Africa to Cape Town. Not content with his far-flung adventures, Boorman then made his way from Ireland to Australia By Any Means. These "means" ended up being by motorbike, car, truck, boat, tuk tuk and even by elephant.
"I'm a traveller, I love to travel. My father instilled that in me — he's a great traveller and he made films all over the world from the South Pacific to South Carolina," the adventurer said.
His father John directed numerous films — some of which Charley starred in as a child actor — including Deliverance (1972) and Excalibur (1981).
Another source of travelling inspiration was Jupiter's Travels — Ted Simon's tale of his four-year journey around the world on a Triumph motorcycle.
"It's a fabulous book and it's a very honest book about travel and discovering yourself and how you change when you travel … because you never come back the same," Boorman said.
During Long Way Down, the intrepid explorers met a bicyclist who had been on the road for 13 years and was eventually on his way home. The English guy was "on his last legs", he said, "I couldn't believe it. He'd run out of money, so we stuck a Long Way Down sticker on him and sponsored him … I mean we gave him a couple of hundred quid [pounds sterling] so he could finish off," Boorman said laughing.
He and McGregor were on motorbikes which they found hard, so for the man to be on a bicycle was "extraordinary", he said. "I thought it was unbelievable."
His far-flung travels have also brought him to Dubai in the past — the first time during By Any Means, when he caught a container ship to Mumbai. He also trained on the dunes surrounding Dubai in preparation for the Dakar rally. Although he called the sand training "great fun" and a "good laugh", he broke his collarbone jumping over a large dune on a dirt bike.
"I was trying to convince everybody that my collarbone wasn't sticking out. I kept saying ‘it's not broken, is it?' and it was poking out of my shoulder!" he laughed.
In 2004, the motorbike enthusiast became a Unicef ambassador and visited a number of projects during Long Way Round. Boorman is also the president of Dyslexia Action and suffers from the learning disability himself.
However, this didn't stop him writing the books to accompany his TV series.
"I struggled through school," he said of his trouble with dyslexia. "I sat explaining to teachers what dyslexia meant and I was often punished for it; so I had a very difficult upbringing in that regard."
Writing about his solo trips was harder than the books he co-wrote with McGregor, he admitted, although he does receive help with the construction and editing of the texts. "If you're dyslexic I think it's very important to know that you can do anything you want and it's not simply because you're dyslexic that you should be shoved on the side," he said.
Because he learnt how to get around doing homework as a child, the adventurer said he learnt how to think out of the box as an adult.
"I'm very grateful to being dyslexic and I owe my career to being dyslexic," he said.
For first-time writers, Boorman imparted some words of wisdom: "I think the easiest story to tell is your own," he said.
If you are a child going to play rugby, or an Emirati boy going to explore the desert and you have an experience, "then that has to be the way to write it first … because it's a story you already know, you can already write it", he said.
Last year, the explorer hosted a speaking tour around Britain and Ireland, visiting 40 venues in 40 days.
This year he will be touring the United Kingdom and Ireland again, from October, giving a series of hosted talks about his travels: a bit like "an evening with Charley", he said.