The Long Way Round

I’ve had quite a few crushes in my life, most being relatively short-lived, but a few have stood the test of time. My longest running (still in progress) crush is on Ewan McGregor. I first saw him in “A Life Less Ordinary” and “Trainspotting” (yep, even liked him in that film) in high school and I was instantly in love. “Big Fish” is my favorite movie of all time. He’s gorgeous and from various interviews I’ve seen and heard, I find him to be down-to-earth and hard-working. And of course, he’s Scottish. Believe it or not, long before I ever met Jamie Fraser (yes, I’m talking about him as if he’s a real person), I used to say that I was partial towards Scottish men.

A few years ago at work, my female co-workers and I were having a conversation about movie star crushes, naming our favorites and picking our “free passes” (other people do this, right? If not, it’s a fun way to pass the time…). I chose Ewan McGregor and one of the girls was like “What?! But he looks so ordinary, like you could find a Ewan McGregor look-alike walking around on any college campus!” After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said “Well, I don’t know what college YOU went to, but please take me there… now…” (Bridget? Markita? Do you remember this? Just thinking about it is making me laugh :) )

I recently stumbled upon “The Long Way Round”, a documentary about Ewan and his best friend, Charley Boorman, riding motorcycles around the world from London to New York. It was made in 2004 and aired on TV here in America, so it must have slipped past me since I was in college and without cable at that time. I added it to my queue and didn’t really know what to expect; a movie star roughing it on a motorcycle for months? When my husband saw what I had selected, he gave a big, exasperated sigh and said “Great…you only got this so you could sit and watch Ewan McGregor for 12 hours, right?” I admitted that, of course, I had gotten it because of Ewan, but convinced him that the reviews were good enough to give it a go.  He reluctantly agreed, and after the first episode, we were both seriously surprised and HOOKED! 

The show documents everything from the initial planning stages to the welcome home party in New York. They take classes on how to ride on off-road terrain, how to perform basic medical treatment, and how to react in extreme danger/crisis situations (which is hysterical).  Once they get on the road, they meet some truly unique characters and encounter genuinely dangerous terrain, particularly in Mongolia and Russia. There were moments when I was on the edge of my seat. They stay with complete strangers that they’ve just met on the street, bravely sample indigenous food, and partake in the rituals and customs of the locals.

The relationship between Ewan and Charley is the most endearing thing I’ve seen in a while. They seem to really love each other, and if they’re just acting and it’s all a farce, then they both deserve Oscars in my opinion. Charley is hilarious and outgoing; and Ewan is incredibly charming and good-natured. Before departing, they travel to Ewan’s hometown in Scotland and visit his parents and his grandmother, and you just fall head-over-heels when you see him interact with his family.

The scenery is amazing and what sets this travel documentary apart from others is that you’re seeing it from the road, going through border checks and traversing back roads in a realistic way that you don’t normally get. Ewan and Charley are at times in giddy disbelief that they are actually living out their fantasy of being the first people to travel around the world on motorbikes. My husband loved this show, and I think it has a strong appeal to men because it’s basically the embodiment of every young boys’ dream: hitting the road with your best friend, pushing yourself to the limit, and rolling carefree to wherever the road takes you.  It’s a classic adventure and road-trip story in one.  

Another aspect of this film that I found interesting was the idea that a hugely famous movie star would be so willing to open himself up like this and literally put his life on the line. Ewan and Charley were so trusting of total strangers and stayed with some very shady people (Ewan was terrified a few times, thinking they were going to be murdered in their sleep, which was most entertaining to watch!). How insane would it be to be filling your tank up with gas and randomly bump into EWAN MCGREGOR, who just happens to need some food and a place to stay for the night? Dang…why wasn’t I living in Russia back in 2004…. Anyways, my point is that most actors in his position would have  never considered such a trip. It gave me a lot of respect for Mr. McGregor and made him seem like a real, nice, everyday person. It sounds silly, but I feel like my 14 year (?wow?) crush is validated, since he’s more than just a pretty face. (I’m saying that in contrast to my other long-time crush on David Duchovny…ugggh…I shudder at the thought…)

Apparently they enjoyed the trip so much that they made a second documentary in the same style where they ride through Africa, called “The Long Way Down.” We’ll be watching it soon. I highly recommend this series, it’s so much fun and you get to look at and listen to a sexy Scotsman for 12 hours. If you aren’t already in love with Ewan McGregor, you will be at the end of this show.

Oh yeah, there is a brief snippet in the “Extras” section, where the camera is on Ewan holding a puppy (possibly in Mongolia, judging from the background). The puppy is nipping at his beard and he’s giggling and the exchange seems to go on for a long time – it was probably only a minute or so, but long enough that my husband said “geez, how long is this going to last?” I said “I don’t know, but I could watch Ewan McGregor holding a puppy all day long…” We both got a good laugh out of that, so I thought I’d share ;) I am also going to take this opportunity to post a few gratuitous photos…