The spirit of adventure: Charley Boorman talks about the value of exploration

Adventurer Charley Boorman on Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa.

Charley Boorman is a modern-day adventurer and has produced documentaries for the BBC, Sky and National Geographic channel. His motorcycle trip, The Long Way Round, from London to New York via Asia with actor and co-adventurer Ewan McGregor became an iconic television series and he has since captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people worldwide. He spoke to us about the value of adventurous journeys and why he supports young people’s participation in the Award.

What was your first real adventurous journey?

When I was about nine years old I remember we’d built this treehouse down at the bottom of the garden at my home in County Wicklow, Ireland. The treehouse was down by the river and my friend and I decided to go and sleep in it overnight. I remember going down there with all our food and the kit that we needed but we didn’t get much past 23:30 in the evening and came legging it back up to the house because there was all this creaking going on in the tree and it totally freaked us out!

What skills have you learned from your adventures and how do they help you in life?

Over the years one of the most useful skills I’ve learned was a first aid course which we did before we went off on Long Way Round. Ewan (McGregor) and I learned how to resuscitate, what to do if you come across an accident and people are injured, how to make the environment safe and how to help people in trouble. Over the years it’s been so handy.

I’ve also really honed in on my camping skills, I would consider myself an expert camper now having had to sleep out on a lot of my trips. One of the best lessons I’ve learned is that the most important thing to do when camping is to find the best place possible to put your tent up, it has a significant impact on your comfort and security.

Why are adventurous journeys so valuable to young people?

Travelling and having adventurous journeys is so important, it’s a good thing to push your boundaries and see how other countries and people live. To put yourself in a different environment is healthy, it can be in the middle of Africa or you can just pop over on the ferry to France, or camping in the countryside. As long as you push yourself out of your comfort zone it helps you to realise there’s a much bigger world out there.

It’s also really helps you gain independence, you have to look after yourself and that really sets you up for later on in life and helps you to become much more self-reliant

Why do you support The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award? How do you think the Award can help to shape a young person and or their community?

I first got involved with The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award with my children through their school. Having done lots of that type of thing as a youngster I really see the value in it and wanted my girls to get as much out of it as I did. It’s really good fun, you learn new skills and it’s also a great thing to have on your CV – people really do recognise that you have commitment and they like that. It’s also so important to be a part of your community and help your neighbours out, it’s a good thing to interact with and help other people and the Duke of Edinburgh helps people gain confidence to really get involved.

What are the three things you never leave home without?

iPhone, wallet, baby wipes (it’s so important to be clean when you’re on an adventure!)

Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor in UgandaWhere is your favourite place on the planet? Why is it so special to you and what has it taught you?

One of the most amazing places that I have been to was with Ewan when we went to Rwanda. After everything that’s happened there with the genocide it was incredible to see how that country has pulled itself back together again and the awesome sense of community there. If you’re lucky you can go up into the mountains to see the gorillas, Ewan and I were sitting watch a mother and babies just a few feet away from us and we heard this big grunt behind us. It was an absolutely huge silverback male, we were sitting quite close to each other and he just pushed Ewan out of the way and then looked at me and snorted with disapproval. I’ve never been so terrified, we were told not to go near them but no one told him not to come near us!

What advice would you give to Award participants planning their first Adventurous Journey?

Planning is always really important. The more prepared you are the more fun you can have. But you should never be too rigid about your plan as there’s always the possibility that things might go wrong or there might be something amazing you want to see that you didn’t know about so it’s good to be flexible. If you’re planning on camping overnight then make sure you keep your tent and your sleeping bag and everything dry as there’s nothing worse than lying down in a wet sleeping bag in a wet tent. I always take baby wipes with me and really believe if you can keep yourself clean and have a good night of sleep then you can conquer anything.

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