Charly Sinewan has been traveling 7 years around the world on a motorbike. This is quite something and it is so even more for me if I tell you that he was my first love. It is funny to think now that we wanted to get married and have children at the age of 17. Luckily we didn’t so he could become the person who is now. A happy nomad. Last month we got to talk again after many years without being in contact. I didn’t know he had become a well-known You Tuber but after watching one of his videos I understood why. He keeps his sense of humour intact as well as his curiosity for meeting new people and discovering remote places.
Charly was always a very witted guy who had things very clear already at an early age. He knew since ever that he wanted to be his own boss and didn’t like the strict rules of our high school. He has very well managed to rule his life and create his own universe which is happy to share with us. I asked him to let me interview him for Culturaal. He was in Madrid at the time and I was in Menorca with the rumour of the ocean as the soundtrack. So here it goes.
Elena – When did you start this adventure?
Charly – It started in 2009 when I took 6 months off from work; what I thought was going to be a sabbatical period to make a long trip became 8 long months and the beginning of a new era for me. I came back deranged and convinced that I wanted to change everything. I began to draw a new life in order to have what I have now
Elena – What was that trip? From where to where?
Charly – From Spain to Australia, I started in Madrid and arrived in Sidney. I crossed Europe and Asia before arriving to Australia.
Elena – What made you take the decision of making that trip, the first one?
Charly – I had been traveling a lot but only for short periods, 15 days or three weeks maximum, in those trips I met people who traveled long periods and I always felt a bit jealous so I wanted to try. I had this persistent feeling inside, a curiosity for being a nomad, some kind of yearning was calling me. On the other hand, I always thought one day I could get retired quite young but the time passed and I realised that day would never come.
Elena – So you started this trip with the idea of being a sabbatical year, and your intention was always to go back to your normal life
Charly – Yes, the intention was always to go back; as a matter of fact, I had my own business, and I didn’t quit, I simply asked my partners for some months off. Moreover, when I finally went back I felt a bit guilty since I took 8 months instead of 6, I thought it was probably too much. And then look at me now (Laughs)
Elena – Why did you choose the nickname Sinewan? (Sinewan means Without Ewan in Spanish)
Charly – Originally it was just a stupid joke. There was a TV program called The World on a motorbike with Ewan McGregor. Ewan, the actor, made two documentaries traveling with a friend around the world on his motorbike. They were of course travelling with a film crew, a doctor, a mechanic, this is, a very complete crew, so I said to myself, well I am going to do the same but alone (Laughs) Many people now know me by this nickname, sometimes I even receive couriers at the name of Sinewan which I need to pick up… My father, who collects every single piece of paper where there is a reference to me on newspapers or magazines, had to bring, in more than one occasion, all that stuff to the post office in order to show them that Charly Sinewan is me (Laughs)
Elena – How do you sponsor this kind of life? Because I know you are not a millionaire…
Charly – I have a lot of sponsors who pay me so I can continue doing this, their brands are visible in my videos and blog posts. These are BMW, Hertz, Minube, Pirelli and many more
Elena – Did you look for these sponsors? I suppose that at the beginning you didn’t have any, or not so many, how did you manage to get to them? Did they start contacting you when your You Tube channel got more visitors or did you reach out for them?
Charly – It was a bit of both. A motorbike shop gave me some material already for my first trip since I was doing something quite unusual, specially in Spain, a guy traveling alone so far; then, my nickname, which people from the chats in the motorbikes’ world found very funny, was providing me with many followers. Little by little, without realising, I was creating a brand, Sinewan. So when I came back from Australia I made the decision of taking this seriously, I had already a brand, therefore it was at this point when I began promoting it. Other companies started helping me, first with material, but then, when I decided to drop everything in order to travel for good, I told them, OK now I need some money. So I asked for little at the start, a bit more with the time, and now I can completely support myself with this.
Elena – Of these 7 years you’ve been travelling, tell me one of the most special moments you have experienced. I guess you have lots but tell me just one
Charly – I think it is when I crossed to India from Pakistan, it was day 45 of my first trip. It was a very special moment since in that precise instant I understood I wanted to be always like this, I wanted to be always traveling. I had crossed Iran and Pakistan, the most dangerous countries in the itinerary and I had had lots of fun. I had to cross one of the worst points chaperoned by the police, and even like that I had enjoyed it so much that I said to myself I want to do this always.
That was my turning point, at least in my head, because all the changes came much later and little by little.
Elena – Do you remember where you were exactly at that precise moment, what were you doing?
Charly – I was just passing the border to India. There is a symbolic act which take place there every evening, Pakistanis on one side and Indians on the other, at the time of closing the border, scream at each other, half serious, half joking, like menacing each other. Then you pass to India with its explosion of colours coming from the greyness of Pakistan, having achieved the most dangerous part of the way, with your 300 kg motorbike and you feel like a superhero.
Elena – Now tell me one of the worst moments you have lived in these 7 years. A very difficult moment, perhaps one when you were scared
Charly – Honestly the worst moment I ever had is when I arrived in Sidney and unloaded the bike for the last time, when I thought, Hell, this cannot finish here, I have been completely happy these 6 months, it cannot finish now. At that moment I didn’t know what would happen later, there my trip was supposed to be ending, and that was really hard for me. If you ask me moments of being really scared, I tell you I never had them, of course I had sometimes problems with the police in some countries, or for example once in Nigeria it became very dark in the middle of a dangerous area, but I was not scared, just aware of the situation. Another time I got stuck in the middle of a natural park in Africa and I was alone knowing there were a lot of wild animals like lions etc.. Some people were coming to pick me up, so while I was waiting for them I just did what I thought it was best, starting a fire to drive away the beasts. I just acted quickly so I didn’t think about the fear, I just did what I had to do
Another time I was traveling on a very difficult road in Madagascar and didn’t have any water but I needed to continue to the next town because there was nothing in the way. So that moment was hard physically. But after having met many people who have crossed the desert barefoot to arrive to Europe, I cannot seriously compare…
Elena – What do you miss the most of a more stable life?
Charly – Honestly I don’t miss or envy anything of that kind of life. If anything I must admit that lately, since I have passed the 40s barrier, I realise that I am on the wrong path if one day I want to have a family. It isn’t something that concern me too much, but now, I do find myself sometimes thinking about it, which I didn’t before. I just think about the possibility of staying alone, meaning not having the stereotypical family with children, since I have many friends. But I really do not mind much.
Elena – What do you think people admire the most of your life as a nomad?
Charly – Not having a monotonous life. People are very tired of the monotony and I represent just the opposite. Definitely the best thing of this kind of life is the lack of monotony
Elena – Do you ever have moments or thinking, now it is enough, I am tired of travelling so much
Charly – Never. It is true that now because I produce a lot of videos I have to spend more time in front of the computer and this is what sometimes can be tiring but travelling never tires me. You have to bear in mind that I travel calmly, taking my time, often stopping in a place and staying for weeks. So it is not like traveling in a rush like most people do, expecting to see everything in two weeks. I search for little homes in the way, I have the capacity of making very easily a home for me, in a hotel room for example, or even in a tent, depending on the surroundings, I can feel at home too
Elena – Do you think you will stop some day?
Charly – Yes and no. I will stop this life of constant movement but I will never go back to my old life or anything similar
Elena – Which is your plan B for the day you will stop?
Charly – I don’t have a plan B. The plan B is that something will happen, a door will open, it is always like this. What could it be? For example, moving to Kenya to live on the beach, becoming a kitesurf instructor, or opening a hostel, or even going back to Spain by the sea side doing a creative job and living with little money. What I have very clear in my mind is that I don’t want to go back to an office job
Elena – Tell me more about the “Peterpanism” concept
Charly – (Laughs) Do you feel identified with it?
Elena – (Laughs) A little bit
Charly – For me Peterpanism is the phenomenon of continuing entertaining yourself and getting excited with things that in principle are designed for children, even if the toys have become expensive things like a drone or a motorbike. Peterpanism is to have fun with things as if everything was an amusing game.
Elena – Give us some advice for people who are planning to do a long trip on a motorbike
Charly – The most important advice is to leave. Just leave and on the way the fears, doubts, hesitations will eventually clear up. You don’t have to be scared of the way but of staying and never leave. It is a very normal feeling, to be scared, I was it too. I also left with too much luggage. Then I realised you can buy anything you need in the way. They sell things everywhere
Sometimes we are scared of the political situation in a certain country but until you don’t arrive there you really don’t know what’s going on. It can happen that the situation is not so bad at the end as you saw it on the news. Or the conflict is now somewhere different than you expected and you can avoid crossing it.
Elena – What is best, traveling solo or accompanied?
Charly – (Laughs) Solo. Travelling solo allows you to observe all the time, meanwhile when you travel with somebody you do it less, because you are having a conversation or you comment on something. When you are alone you are aware of what is happening around you. Also people approach you more often when you are solo. But the ideal is to mix both situations. Travelling with somebody you get really well along, gives you the opportunity to share experiences. But if I have to choose, solo, definitely.
Elena – You look so brave, almost like a superman… (Laughs) What are you scared of?
Charly – Of losing my freedom. I am for example scared of being sick and not being able to travel anymore, or falling from the bike and lose my mobility. It is the only thing I am scared of
Elena – When you have a down moment, that you think, why am I doing this, for what reason; what makes you go on?
Charly – I never have down moments when traveling, I always think I am where I must be. I could be always on top of a bike riding farther and farther, no, I definitely never had a bad moment then. I do have doubts due to my insecurity on the creative part of my work, when I edit my videos or when I film myself, or when I write on the blog. I sometimes have moments when I ask myself if all this is worth it, if I am good enough. And what makes me realise that I indeed do something valuable is when I receive a lot of emotional support from people I never met before who writes me to thank me. They tell me I helped them for example going through a difficult period in their lives. Watching what I do allows them to evade themselves for a while and travel with me.
Elena – To which point do you think you make your films having in mind what people may like? Or do you believe you do mostly what you like?
Charly – It is a very good question. Sometimes you think you do things based on your own criteria but then realise than you are very much influenced by people. I try to be quite objective on this. Obviously there are certain formats that are working better out there for some You Tubers and I am very well aware of this but there are some barriers I am not ready to traverse. To give you an example, if I talked more about my private life, about all the insignificant moments, who I meet or not, so more about my day to day life, I would have many more followers. But I don’t want to do this. It is true that the original format of my videos have somehow changed to get a bit closer to what the public demand, but within certain limits. It is a question of balance. I don’t want this to become a reality show. There are You Tubers that upload videos everyday telling nothing and the reality is that people get hooked. I don’t want to do this, I want to try to do something I am proud of, I work a lot to become more satisfied each time with the results, not to have millions of followers.
Elena – What is your next adventure?
Charly – I am going to cross US from coast to coast through off roads. I am starting in North Carolina and from there will ride all the way to California, crossing US through the midlands. I am not going to pass any cities, only villages. And during the Elections period! So it is going to be very interesting! (Laughs)
Elena – Indeed! This was my last question. Thank you Charly!
After chatting a bit more about our lives and switching off the camera on Skype, I could not help it but thinking what would have happened if we would have married and have children. Would we be a typical family living in the outskirts of Madrid or would we be managing a hostel on a beach in Kenya?
We will never find out. Good luck Charly in your next adventure!