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Travel writer (and actor/director) Andrew McCarthy wants you to get out and see the world

Go your own way

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When people tell Andrew McCarthy they don't travel due to time, his response is, "That's a bunch of bullshit. ... You can go very far in just a few days, and come back very changed in just a few days."

As for the complaint that "We're not all rich and can't just gallivant around the world"?

"I've done the math many times, where I can spend less money on the road than I do at home," McCarthy insists. (He says he travels "close to the ground," avoiding fine hotels and pricey restaurants.)

What, then, is holding everyone back? "I think people don't travel primarily due to fear. Or they have utterly no interest, which, you know, God bless 'em."

McCarthy's name might be familiar to you from his award-winning writing gigs — he's been featured in such print media as National Geographic Traveler (where he's also an editor-at-large), Travel+Leisure and the New York Times — or his memoir The Longest Way Home, which was released in September 2012. But the name's probably ringing a bell in your brain more so from his acting and directing.

As a part of the 1980s Brat Pack, he starred in such feature films as Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo's Fire. More recently, he's been seen in NBC's Lipstick Jungle and USA's White Collar. And on the directing side, he just wrapped up production on the upcoming original dramedy series from Netflix, Orange Is the New Black.

Core issues

The 50-year-old New Yorker labels travel writing and acting as parallel careers. While outwardly their manifestation is different, he says, they're the same at their core.

"They're all storytelling, right? ... A lot of travel writing particularly makes the mistake of describing destinations as opposed to telling stories. And I think that's meaningless."

The two careers also impact him similarly.

"They both just make me feel like me, you know? ... The first moment I acted, I knew: Wow, there I am. ... And when I travelled and had some big experiences, again, I was like, here I am. ... Anything that makes me feel like that is what I want to be doing, and so that's why I say they are the same thing for me. They elicit that same feeling of locating myself."

McCarthy does understand it takes a certain amount of exposing yourself emotionally to visit foreign places. He calls travelling "optimism in action."

"You're putting yourself out there in the world, and you need help when you go. This idea that we should somehow not be vulnerable in the world, is ridiculous. ...

"Vulnerability is not a bad thing. It's gotten a bum rap. When we make ourselves vulnerable, we feel ourselves."

There's no special trick to it, either. Everybody, he says, has always wanted to go somewhere. And people should just go to the place they feel calls to them. Whether that's Amsterdam, London or Calcutta, it doesn't matter. He also suggests people should stop asking another question when it comes to travel.

"We don't have to know why. I'm never a big fan on the whys. 'Why' doesn't really ever matter or get anything done. Why just keeps us sitting there, staring at our navel."

Waking up

McCarthy explains how he felt on a recent trip to Calcutta, India, as untethered, but at home and comfortable, as he wandered the streets for hours among "swarms of people."

"You're awake in a way that you're not necessarily at home," he says, "when we just sort of charge through our days."

And when you interact with people across the world, "you plant little flags of home all over." He says after a recent trip to Darjeeling, a town in Northern India, he connected with a few people in particular; now a community that was just a place on the map has real meaning to him.

When it comes down to it, with all of his writing McCarthy is just trying to get people to go somewhere outside the U.S. borders that they've never been. As he says, he's trying to change the world, one trip at a time.

"Thirty percent of [Americans] have passports, half of them have never used them. ... I think that Mark Twain line, 'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness' is completely true. ... My whole thing is that America would be a much different place if we travelled. If 80 percent of people had passports and half of them had used them, we'd be much different. We'd be much less fearful in the world, and if we were less fearful, the world would be less fearful, because the world reacts to us."

kakens@csindy.com

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