Andrew McCarthy, most well-known as an actor, is also an award-winning travel writer for such publications as National Geographic Traveler and the New York Times. This candid memoir however seems more of a personal rambling on the trials and tribulations of his angst-ridden life than a true travelogue on exotic locales.
As chronicled in The Longest Way Home; while avoiding a long postponed marriage to his fiancé, McCarthy embarks on several adventures in hopes of letting go of fears and learning to embrace something other than the solitude that travel provides him. Tidbits of humor aside, these wanderings toward supposed self discovery distract from what might otherwise be interesting stories of actual travel destinations. From Patagonia to Kilimanjaro should be a fascinating journey for anyone lucky enough to have the opportunity, but to McCarthy the journey is more about escape from himself than escape from the world of work and stress most travelers crave.
While the act of “traveling” for some is considered merely an inside cabin on a mega cruise and for others an in-depth immersion in a culture, for McCarthy it appears to be a simple self indulgence. Making note more than once of his inability to speak Spanish while traveling extensively in South America and the badge of honor that provides him because he still manages to make it to an internet connection is not only bothersome but boring. I found myself skipping whole paragraphs. I became less and less interested in which road he took to which remote lodge because I know nothing of the road or the lodge after reading this version of events. I craved a sense of place that I didn’t get while learning much more than I wanted to about his children or his painful early success as an actor. I even became somewhat resentful that such opportunities were so squandered while they could have been such gifts.
Other reviews of this book glow with praise for McCarthy’s writing style and “moving honesty” which are remotely understandable if the reader picks up this book looking for a biography. As a true work of travel writing however, the lack of much description, feeling, or sense of place leaves this reader wanting much more adventure and much less whining. I want to know if on a trip to Vienna I should see a certain site or satisfy a certain taste. From McCarthy’s trip to Vienna I know that even should I manage the unattainable VIP tickets to the Lipizzaner stallion practice sessions I shouldn’t bother since he and his 4 year old were so bored they lasted mere minutes.
In retrospect I guess I wish McCarthy and his new wife a lifetime of happiness. In reality I see a lifetime of loneliness for both of them, whether at home or on the road. I just know that should I find myself in Costa Rica and a good book is needed to pass the time on the beach lugging this one around will not be necessary.