Just for a moment, suspend your memory of the Andrew McCarthy you think you know from the movies that have become coming of age classics from the 1980s. While he has a foundation in his artful expression of acting, writing, and directing, there is a deeper aspect to who he is as a travel writer and editor-at-large for National Geographic Travel. He is a well-seasoned creative soul with an introspective outlook that has brought him to a place of balance and awareness.
Sitting face to face with Andrew is quite the experience. His boyish good looks are now garnished with distinguished lines of a life well spent. He holds a knowing twinkling in his eye. He runs his hands through his slightly grey streaked hair as he cogitates on the meaning of his life. His bold honesty has a disarming quality as he expresses his inmost feelings with a sense of freedom, the kind of freedom that comes from the broadening of horizons, and acquiring a deep sense of self-acceptance.
He is currently on the road travel writing and promoting his new book, The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down. The book is an introspective look at Andrew’s journey as a man coming of age and witnessing the majesty of beautiful locations, as he comes to terms with commitment and familial obligation.
“I was sitting in the back of a cab on the way to Patagonia. Delores and I had just decided to become engaged the day before so it was really sad to be leaving…very sad because we were feeling very close and lovey-dovey. I was feeling weepy in the back of the cab but at the same time I was so excited to be going alone. I had these two very strong conflicting aspects. How do I reconcile this push-pull? That is not a new dilemma, but it is an interesting concept from my personal observation. So I traveled. Some people go to therapy or coffee with the girls. I travel. The paradox is in learning to come together by going off. By the time I was in Costa Rica, I realized that there was a book here in my experiences.”
As he traversed the world, he found himself having deep spiritual breakthroughs. He prefers to travel alone, because it enables him to be fully present to the experience to make genuine connections with strangers and himself. “When I travel I make myself helpless. The minute you say: ‘Hi can you help me?’ you are wide open to the world. I have never met anyone that has said ‘no.’ People are always proud of their homeland and want to share what they have with you. I write and travel for connection. The challenge for me is being a person who is solitary and skittish, wanting to pull away, yet what I am really after is that connection.”
Andrew holds a sense of openness with meaningful connections to those he meets in his travels. He recognizes the deeper aspects of why such moments occur and has developed a profound sense of appreciation around serendipitous moments of his life. “Serendipity has had a big impact on my life. I put myself in situations to make myself available to it. My life has turned on such moments. You just don’t know what can happen and that is what makes you get out of bed in the morning. We just have to show up and the rest is none of our business. I am able to recognize the big moments when they are passing me. I haven’t always had the stamina to sustain them or follow them through but I have had times where I can reach out and grab them.”
It is this perspective that has been the defining factor of his life and work. His connection to life off the beaten path is not what you would expect from a Hollywood stalwart, yet it seems that he revels in the paradoxical aspects of his life. For Andrew they are places of reflection and revelation. His heart lies with the magic of the struggle and simplicity of life. “There is a sense of safety in simplicity to me. The closer you travel to the ground, the better. I like arriving in five star hotels with the big rooms and plush robes but after two days, I want out. I become resentful and agitated with simmering dissatisfaction, whereas if I am in a more down to earth place, I do better.”
Perhaps this is why we have noticed that Andrew has always possessed a sense of distance with the whole Hollywood scene. He is virtually scandal and sensationalism free, and has utilized his fame to create a sense of solidity in his life through the recognition of its pitfalls. “It’s all very ego feeding except when your ego is not being fed. Then you become resentful and hate yourself because you know it’s just ego. You know you don’t need your ego fed but you desire it to be fed like everyone else’s around you. You can feel jilted and unappreciated even though you know it’s meaningless. You can get swept up in it and just want to get the fuck out of there. It’s very weird; you end up desiring things you know you don’t want. I am glad I am not just in that world and that is all I am aspiring to.”
His aspirations are apparent in the way he lights up when he speaks about the beautifully intuitive and grounding presence of his wife Delores and their children. As he writes words that are otherwise difficult to fully express, he shares how vulnerable being a father has made him. “Kids are terrible, they crack you open and break your heart. My kids have made me so open. In the book I explain how I hate how much I love them. I find that horrible reality of life’s impermanence that I can’t get out of, but it’s the only game in town and so I show up. If we admit these little infallibilities to ourselves, it makes us more connected and we don’t feel as alone.”
It is in those moments of truth that Andrew shines as a person that can commiserate with others in the human struggle while reconciling his own growing pains through a natural inclination of deep observation. “My sense of observation comes from acting which requires a great attention to detail and dialogue. I have read so much bad dialogue as an actor that I remember good dialogue when I hear it, so when you say a good quote it stays with me.“
Through the identification with others within the medium of his travel-writing, Andrew is able to evoke emotion from readers by highlighting the common ground he finds with people he has met from all walks of life. He has been their student and their tutelage deepens his spiritual prospectus and challenges his growth. He wishes for everyone to experience travel on such an intimate level to alleviate inherent fears that western culture faces. “We as Americans are a fearful society. Half of the U.S. Citizens that have passports don’t use them because they are afraid to travel. They make excuses and defend their fears with vehemence. I took my son to the Sahara when he was eight and people said ‘Are you crazy?!’ but we had a wonderful time. Mark Twain said ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.’ If we traveled more we would make less fearful choices in our personal lives and as a political society. My goal is to change the world one trip at a time.”
Andrew is now fifty years old, happily married, and continues to devote his time to travel writing and teaching his children about the expansive beauty of life. He has a sense of settled awareness that is free from complacency and solidified with connective appreciation for every aspect of his life. In his quiet astuteness he proclaims: “All you want to do is bring yourself to anything; our perspective is really all we have to offer.”
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