If Betty Ford treated wanderlust, actor Ewan McGregor would be the first admitted. The 38-year-old gets his travel fix by working on multiple movies (coming up: Amelia, The Men Who Stare at Goats), then taking off for extended motorcycle tours across Africa and around the globe. For our annual travel issue, we asked the actor to share his hard-won wisdom. All of it, by the way, applicable to non-movie stars.
Go Far Out
I’d never considered traveling to out-of-the-way spots before I visited Churchill, Canada, to make a documentary about polar bears. Then I was hooked.
I’m always on the road, and most of the time the only thing I can’t do without is a laptop. Some other necessary items: warm sleeping bag, tent, GPS—that’s it for a good trip.
I don’t have my pilot’s license yet because I haven’t had
time, but I got to fly in a P-51 Mustang for Amelia
. Flying over Africa, that would be a dream. I also haven’t done any real sea adventuring—I need to get to the Poles.
Eat Cart Food
One day when I was motorcycling through Sudan, for a treat I went to a hotel. Of course, it was the only time the food made me sick . . . for days. On the streets, with the locals, the food is fresher. It’s not just sitting out waiting to be eaten by guests—it’s cooked that day.
Leave Things to Chance
When I went from London to NYC, heading east by bike, we took a map, drew
a line, and left it up to luck. We couldn’t have planned any better.
Take it Slow
One of my bugbears is rushing too much. On a bike trip across Africa there were churches in Ethiopia that were right off the road—but still difficult to get to—and we just didn’t have time. It leaves you something to go back to, I guess. Plus, Ethiopia was one of my favorite African countries.
Be not afraid
There’s a lot of fear and misinformation passed on for no reason about unsafe travel, especially about Africa. I’ve taken my young kids to the African plains and met such overwhelmingly helpful and genuine people. If you always heeded the fears of others, you’d never end up doing anything different.