It’s spring of 2004. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are trying to decide what to do with their summer. They come up with an incredible plan. Both are motorcycle enthusiasts and they want to do something unique. They decide to take the summer off and ride motorcycles around the world. They plan to start in London and end in New York City. And since they are planning something so singular, they decide to film it. Then they decide it would be better if someone filmed it for them. I imagine the initial conversation going something like this:

Charley, what do you want to do this summer?
Let’s ride our motorbikes around the world!
Brilliant!
Yes. Let’s ride through Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia.
I’ve always wanted to see Mongolia!
And there’s this road here, look at the map. We can ride that.
The Road of Bones. Sounds bloody fantastic, it does!
One problem.
What’s that?
We haven’t got any motorbikes.
Right.

So McGregor and Boorman put together a crew, hire a Swiss cameraman, and get to work finding sponsors. What results is this incredible television documentary about their 115 day trip, Long Way Round. McGregor and Boorman use the journey as a vehicle to bring attention to UNICEF’s humanitarian work in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Mongolia– including a powerful stop in an orphanage housing children affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

I am enjoying this series on a number of levels. It is a travel piece about a part of the world I know very little about. It shows a more unscripted side of celebrities. It underlines the distinction between tourism as a commercial enterprise and traveling as a journey. And McGregor and Boorman are witty and shrewd, authentic and charming.

I was pleased to learn that on 12. May, 2007 this crew began a second trip of a lifetime. They are traveling from from John o’ Groats at the northernmost tip of Scotland to Cape Town at the southernmost tip of Africa. They will ride through Central Europe and Eastern Africa. Again the pair are riding with a film crew and in support of UNICEF. This second trip of a lifetime is called Long Way Down. I invite to follow along through the BBC website associated with this trek.

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