Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s third epic road trip couldn’t have come at a better time. Knowing they would return this year with Long Way Up was some of the better news we’ve received recently. The weekly episodes on Apple TV have been something to anticipate, and will surely be one of the TV highlights of 2020. However, I dare say it’s been much more than that for some.
Long Way Up is exactly the kind of show that we needed this year. With everything that has happened since January, 2020 has felt like a year-long advent calendar where with each door you open, another bad thing this way comes. From starting the year with the threat of World War 3 looming large, to an event-of-the-century pandemic, it’s been tough to catch a break, and that barely scratches the surface. Of course, events like these don’t occur in a vacuum. Everyday life has been up-ended, and the future for so many people looks a little gloomy to say the least.
Escapism was sorely needed
The coronavirus pandemic has seen lives put on hold all around the world. Entire industries came to a standstill more or less overnight; businesses had to shut their doors and jobs were lost. People had to cancel or postpone holidays and weddings; hold funerals with very limited numbers if that was even allowed, and months went by without any of us being able to meet friends and family in the flesh.
Long Way Up, whilst certainly not curing the root problem, has helped to remedy some of the symptoms. It’s been great to see the guys on this journey week in, week out. The places they’ve visited and the people they’ve met have been full of stories and character, which was nice to see that in a time where safe travel has been off the cards. The show has been a window to the rest of the world when heading out into it hasn’t been an option. It has helped to break up the cabin fever that is an unfortunate byproduct of lengthy lockdowns even if we haven’t been a physical part of the trip ourselves.
However, Long Way Up has been a shining light for a few other reasons
It’s very easy during hard times to lose sight of the good things in life. When those hard times show no sign of ending in the near future, the good stuff can slide even further out of reach. Long Way Up has served as more than just a travel doc though – it has been a wonderful reminder of so many positive things as well.
Take the two people responsible for all of this in the first place, for example. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman share such an infectious friendship. This was clear from the very first trip they did together – Long Way Round – back in 2004. There is such a huge sense of fun and camaraderie when the two pair up, especially during the harder stretches. It provides such a lift because they’re two pals on an adventure, and everyone can relate to that. Long Way Up has been a reminder of the good times we’ve shared with friends and the scrapes we’ve inevitably gotten into along the way.
Faith in humanity somewhat restored
All throughout the trip, the guys visited different communities in every country they passed through. They experienced the people and the cultures that were every bit as important to the journey as the miles that it consisted of. Everywhere they went, they met good people, whether they were charity workers, people running foundations to help save the rainforest, or even just local villagers. There was so much goodwill to be found around every corner, and it was such a breath of fresh air. We’re currently at a point in history where it seems like everyone is at each other’s throats for one reason or another, and here we got to see literal strangers pulling together to help make this dream trip a reality. It was refreshing, and so uplifting as well.
Hurdles always make for the best memories
Long Way Up, like the two trips that came before it, wasn’t without its hiccups. These ranged from the electric bikes not coping with extreme temperatures, to having to find a safe way to navigate through places that were essentially ‘no travel’ zones. Things were rarely straightforward, but they always managed to work themselves out. It does make you feel like anything is possible. When you’re watching what is essentially just a camera crew work together to lift a massive truck off the ground in order to get it back on the road after getting caught on a boulder, it sounds stupid, but it puts things in perspective. You realise that there are solutions to just about every problem, regardless of how out-there they might need to be.
This trip that presented a lot of challenges that hadn’t been encountered before, alongside the usual obstacles everyone had expected. However, everything was taken a step at a time, and eventually, each hurdle was overcome.
This was the show we all needed this year
To name a travel documentary as the beacon of light in such unprecedented times feels daft, but here we are. Long Way Up has been the smattering of feel-good energy that has been so sorely lacking of late. Whether you view it as an alternative travel programme or a chance to see a group of people having the time of their lives, there is so much goodness to take away from it. The previous trips were great, but this one felt a little bit more special thanks to how much respite from the real world it brought with it.