Through travel, I began to grow up.
In this memoir and travelogue, Andrew McCarthy explores what travel means to him, how he has traveled to assuage the loneliness within, to mature as an adult, and to find meaning and connection in his life. Opening with a brief account of his rise to fame as a teenager, McCarthy then takes the reader on a journey through the months leading up to his marriage with D in Dublin. He seeks to balance his need for solitude with the responsibilities that family life and fatherhood bring. He travels to Patagonia, the Amazon, and Baltimore on travel writing assignments, and struggles with leaving his family (D and their son and daughter) behind while embracing the solitary life travel provides. He recalls the trip to Vienna with D’s family and how this trip changed their relationship and moved them towards matrimonial commitment. Atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, the final trip before his wedding in Dublin, McCarthy experiences and recognizes a lifelong longing, and later writes: “In acknowledging that emptiness, I’m released further into my own life.”
I read this book after reading an interview with McCarthy on TheRumpus.net. I remembered him as an actor from The Brat Pack years; I had no idea that he had become a successful travel writer. McCarthy started keeping travel notes and a journal after reading Paul Theroux; upon reading that, I was excited to read McCarthy’s memoir. Theroux is an elegant, evocative travel writer—anyone inspired by his books is worth checking out. McCarthy’s descriptions of Patagonia and Kilimanjaro are haunting, and he deftly and humorously describes traveling down the Amazon riverboat with quirky and sometimes nosy and annoying fellow passengers. Woven through these travel narratives are McCarthy’s personal challenges of settling down and of connecting with those whom he loves most.
It is well-written and elegantly crafted. I’ve added The Longest Way Home to my list of excellent travel writing.
Some of my other favorites:
Paul Theroux’s The Pillars of Hercules (a tour around the Mediterranean, circa 1995) and Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
James Michener’s Iberia (Spain, pre-1968)
Robert Hughes’s Barcelona (more of a history, with a unique focus on the city’s architecture)