NEW YORK — Twenty years ago, actor Andrew McCarthy read a book about walking the Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage route in Spain, and it inspired him to walk the Camino himself.
"That sort of changed the way I felt in the world and it helped me stop being afraid of the world," recalled McCarthy, 49. "It helped me realize travel obliterate fear."
McCarthy, whose best-known films include his work as part of Hollywood's "Brat Pack" in "Pretty in Pink" and "St. Elmo's Fire," is now an acclaimed travel writer for major magazines (he admits that he's lucky to have "the two best jobs in the world" as both an actor and a writer). And he's just written his own book about travel called "The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down." He sums up his conflicts over settling down as, "I want to be alone and I want to be with you," and says he resolved the conflict "the way I answer all questions in my life, by traveling."
Here's more from McCarthy, who is married and the father of two children, about travel:
AP: Are your children good travelers?
McCARTHY: Everything to them is an adventure. My kids love the plane. They love going through security. I mean, there are very few meltdowns when we travel and most of them are mine. I took my son to the Sahara when I was doing a story and he had an incredible experience in the Sahara. We had a 12-hour car ride through the wilds of Morocco and at home if we were in the car for more than 20 minutes, he would've had an issue, but he is fantastic, you know? As long as I supplied him with Coca Cola, he was great.
AP: Any place you don't like?
McCARTHY: Very rarely do I get to a spot where I'm like, 'This is awful.' It's usually me that's awful in the spot and then when I have something to eat usually, or maybe a nap, I come back, 'Oh, yeah, no. This is OK.' I find anywhere interesting. ... You know I was recently in Sudan and I found that endless and fascinating. I would love to go back to Sudan. I've been to a lot of places, I was in Mozambique recently and it was just ravaged parts of it and I found it fascinating.
AP: Do you plan for trips?
McCARTHY: I like to know what story I'm planning to write before I go and then invariably it changes. I find, like with anything, it's like with the acting, the more prepared you are, the more you can throw that out the window with surprises to happen, do you know what I mean? When I'm just on my own, I just go. I just show up without a reservation. I just arrive and figure it out. I like that.
AP: How did you start writing about travel?
McCARTHY: It started because I met the editor at National Geographic Traveler and I convinced him after much cajoling to let me write a piece for them. Eventually I said, 'Let me write it, if it doesn't work, you don't pay me.' And he went, 'I can live with that.' So I did a piece for him and that worked out so I did more for Traveler and then my editor there, I kept pitching him so much he said, 'Look, go write for some other people, would you?' So I started writing for the Atlantic, the Times and numerous things and nobody really put together that it was the actor Andrew McCartney writing.
AP: How does travel affect you?
McCARTHY: People think they're going to escape and have a vacation (but) people always have meltdowns on vacation. You go, you leave everything you know that you've safely constructed to keep yourself from having any anxiety and you go to a beach and you lay there and all you have is your mind. How can you not think that's gonna be a stressful experience? I always think travel is not about escape at all, it's about confronting yourself.