McCarthy hits the Free Library of Philadelphia on Wednesday to talk about his new book, The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down (Free Press). As much as it's about travel, it's also about committing to his longtime girlfriend Dolores. After the couple, who have been together for several years and have a 6-year-old daughter, set a wedding date, McCarthy found himself booking solo trips to far-flung places like Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro and the Amazon. (He also has a son from a previous marriage.) He had made this major decision to settle down, but all he wanted to do was get away.
"I was already committed; it wasn't a question of, 'Will he or won't he?' It's 'How will he?' " McCarthy recalled in a recent interview. "There's a difference between coming to terms with intimacy and embracing it, and fear of commitment. There's this paradox of 'I love you, but I got to go.' "
In the book, McCarthy talks about how travel makes him more introspective, so that, just as he's discovering new parts of the world, he's also discovering new parts of himself. "The minute we make ourselves vulnerable, we're better off. I'm a better version of myself when I'm that way," McCarthy said. "I spend a lot [of time] adjusting my world to fear, but when you travel, that's all blown to hell."
The question McCarthy sets out to answer with his book is how you can nurture bonds - with your spouse, with your children - while satisfying an overwhelming desire to spend time alone.
After McCarthy and Dolores decided to get married, McCarthy started to plan all of these trips. "I was sad to be leaving but thrilled to be going. I couldn't reconcile those two pulls," McCarthy said. He admitted that the question remains unanswered (although he did marry Dolores, whom he calls "D" in the book, last year).
McCarthy still acts, and he's added directing to his resume as well. He shows up on TV regularly, pulling guest spots on shows such as USA's "White Collar" and "Royal Pains," and has been in a smattering of low-budget movies.
Which is maybe why he got touchy when asked about his glory days as a member of Hollywood's Brat Pack. Molly Ringwald, who will forever be culturally attached to McCarthy as his "Pretty in Pink" and "Fresh Horses" love interest, also released a book recently, a novel called When It Happens to You. Fun coincidence? Not to McCarthy. He would admit to having bought Ringwald's book, but said he hadn't read it yet.
Acting seems to have become more of a way to make some money, as his prominence as a travel writer has grown. He's an editor-at-large at National Geographic Traveler, for example.
McCarthy said he's consistently amazed that every time he is sent on assignment by magazines or newspapers, the real journey he finds himself on is an emotional one. "Travel changes people; travel obliterates fear," McCarthy said. "That's the bottom line."
Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St., 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, free, 215-686-5322, freelibrary.org.
Contact Molly Eichel at email@example.com or 215-854-5909. Follow her on Twitter @mollyeichel.