Yes, that Andrew McCarthy. Mr. McCarthy made an appearance last Saturday at the Bay Area Adventure Travel Show and gave us some of his thoughts on travel. Many know him as an actor but he also harbors the not-so-secret talent of travel writing. As a world traveler, he started sharing his nearly poetic thoughts as a writer in the pages of various publications over the last decade. All of which has culminated in his book, “The Longest Way Home.” In this book, across the tapestry of fascinating places, McCarthy interweaves an intimate confession of what travel has done to his life. How it has shaped his views of those he loves, and those he wants to love more. The isolation of travel is a sort of therapy for him, a catalyst to the underlying.
Often in the book he speaks of the value of being far away from home. Yet, he also finds himself pulled into Skype chats home, giving the notion that one is never really too far from home in this age of globalization. He speaks of the oddity of being two places at once, “being both home and far-off simultaneously.” His tenuousness with technology is clearly seen, admitted, and not cast off, but just simply is. In a brief interview, Andrew gives us his take on traveling in this day and age, where going off the grid is easier said than done.
Chip Chick: In your experience, how has technology been a support or a hindrance to your travel experience?
Andrew: “Both. Obviously information is easier to access, and I’ve arrived in a location and tweeted for suggestions and gotten some great, real time and local info. It also distances you from the locals in that you are more self-sufficient and less reliant and vulnerable than in the past, and that’s unfortunate.”
Chip Chick: You speak a lot of isolation in your travels, but it seems like today with internet, Skype, emails, we are never really that isolated. How has technology impacted your travels? Particularly, are you a high tech or a low tech guy?
Andrew: “It’s an interesting question, that nowadays we are not alone. We are connected all the time. And I of course think that’s a terrible thing. Because when I feel any kind of…anything, you know, I can’t go two minutes early into a restaurant, and go (gestures to phone thumbing). I’m never, never going to sit somewhere in a restaurant and not do that nowadays, and I think that’s a terrible thing. Particularly when traveling I think we default into our technology. It takes a real conscious effort not to do that. I think it’s unfortunate. But that’s the world we live in now.
Technology is wonderful for lots of things. I certainly have to make an active effort to not default to my technology, to not hide behind it. Because I think that’s all it’s doing, is hiding from myself, not sitting with what’s going on. You know, that uncomfortableness. It’s always just beyond that uncomfortableness that the amazing things happen. Whenever I decide to go home two days early on a trip because it just sucks, on going, that’s when I meet the right person and suddenly I’m staying a week long. That’s always what happens. Just like in Spain, (referring to account in book) I break down and want to go home and the next day, that’s when that freedom happens. I always feel so much resistance, and then finally I break through that. In life when your home you can just back away from that resistance, because we can. We stay inside of our thing. But that’s what’s great about travel is that you are pushed beyond that. It’s like ‘I need somewhere to sleep tonight, I gotta go talk to that person.’ So I think that’s valuable.”
Chip Chick: As a writer, what tech do you find the most accommodating while on the road?
Andrew: “I use a moleskin pocket pad.”
Chip Chick: Have you found social media, or even globalization to be a road block to self-discovery in travel, or a kind of bumper to spur you on?
Andrew: “I find our hyper-connectedness an unfortunate thing in travel. It allows you to escape to the familiar and comforting back home. The main event of travel is immersion, and the feeling of being untethered in the world is imperative to that. The occasional feeling of loneliness is imperative to valuable travel, and it’s much too easy to flee by checking my Facebook page.”
“The Longest Way Home” is really a pleasant read. As McCarthy covers landscapes from Patagonia to Kilimanjaro to the Amazon, he also traverses the landscape of his life, both full of childhood memories, and battle scars of early fame, while trying desperately to form a grasp on what kind of future he wants. The result is a well-formed story with a mix of exotic travel that makes for an easy reflection on one’s own choices. Because sometimes you have to travel far from home to realize that is where you belonged all along.