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Andrew McCarthy at Mt Kilimanjaro

In 2011: “It took me one week to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

Eighties heartthrob Andrew McCarthy is probably best known for his iconic roles in the coming-of-age films Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire. Now an editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler, he has written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. In 2010, the Society of American Travel Writers named him “Travel Journalist of the Year.” His memoir, The Longest Way Home, was released in the fall of 2012 and became a New York Times Best-Seller.

Orbitz recently caught up with the actor-turned-travel-writer who once took Molly Ringwald to the prom (Pretty in Pink), kissed a mannequin (in Mannequin), and dragged a dead body through two films (Weekend at Bernie’s, parts 1&2) to get personal about his nomadic life as an award-winning travel journalist.

ORBITZ: Where’s your favorite place to vacation?

MCCARTHY: I’m a greatbeliever in “a change is better than a rest.” I prefer the idea of traveling to vacation. Also, I’m traveling mostly for story assignments so I don’t take too many vacations—but I often come back from a trip in need of a vacation. All that said, to just kick back I love Hawaii.

ORBITZ: What’s your favorite thing to do on vacation?

MCCARTHY: I often like to quest after something while in a far-away place, something particular to the area. In Tahiti they farm nearly all the world’s black pearls—while there I went looking for the best black pearl I could find.

ORBITZ: Favorite city, town or neighborhood you’ve ever visited?

MCCARTHY: I love the neighborhood of Trastevere in Rome—winding lanes, very local, artsy, Sabatini Restaurant on the beautiful Piazza de Santa Maria, and good gelato nearby. What more could you want? I also love Telluride, Colorado—great hiking in summer and skiing in winter. Vail has a pretty nice hill, too.

ORBITZ: Do you have any favorite airports? What makes them great?

MCCARTHY: San Francisco International Airport is my favorite one in the states. It’s well laid out, it has some decent places to eat, nice book stores (they place my book, The Longest Way Home, right up front!)—and, well, it’s in San Francisco.

ORBITZ: What are the must-have items in your carry-on bag?

MCCARTHY: I always carry a small bottle of grapefruit seed extract. A few drops a day when far from home and I’ve never had a stomach problem.

Andrew McCarthy in Northern Brazil

In northern Brazil, 2010, outside the tiny fishing village of Canoa Quebrada.

ORBITZ: What’s the best dish you’ve had on a trip, and where was it?

MCCARTHY: Nearly 20 years ago I had some delicious lemongrass soup in Laung Prabang, Laos that I’ve never forgotten. And recently while in Parma, Italy I ate some succulent culatello and almost fell out of my chair.

ORBITZ: Who’s your favorite person to travel with, and why?

MCCARTHY: I’m a great believer in solo travel. I think traveling alone changes people in a way nothing else does. People fear loneliness in traveling alone, but I’ve found the loneliness on the road a different sensation to loneliness at home. At home it can be a feeling of loss and deprivation, while on the road I find it has an expansive, bellowing and illuminating quality. Also, traveling with my kids is a fantastic experience, everything is an adventure to them—even airport security.

ORBITZ: Any memorable room service experiences?

MCCARTHY: Years ago, the first time I became aware of butler service in expensive hotels, I took full advantage of it. I was at the Berkeley Hotel in London. I was there shooting a movie and living on expenses at the hotel for a few months. My butler Simon and I became great buddies—I still miss the breakfast in bed.

ORBITZ: What souvenirs did you bring home from your last trip?

A wooden dolphin for my daughter and a small wooden paddle for my son.

ORBITZ: How many stamps do you have on your passport?

I have no idea, but I did have to add more pages to my last two passports.

Andrew McCarthy in the Sudan

Up in the Nubian desert of northern Sudan, 2011.

ORBITZ: What are your favorite weekend getaways?

MCCARTHY: I love Lake Placid in the Adirondacks in upstate New York—Lake Placid Lodge is a dreamy spot. The Berkshires are also a really nice escape from NYC.

ORBITZ: What’s your favorite country to visit, or favorite destination, and why?

MCCARTHY: Italy is always great. I also love to be in Ireland, especially the west. One of the things that makes the west of Ireland so nice is that we all have an image in our heads of the Irish, and in the west particularly, they live up to that image. They love a good chat, a pint, and there’s great music, especially in Doolin.

ORBITZ: What’s the number one mostimportant rule about travel?

MCCARTHY: Stay open and ask for help—often. The one thing that makes a trip memorable is the people we encounter, not the place, and by asking for help you access people’s inherent sense of generosity. Everyone, no matter how low-down the place may be, has a pride about where they live and they want you to experience it in a positive way.

ORBITZ: Where would you like to go that you have never been?

MCCARTHY: The list is long. Burma—and soon. It’s opening up and I’d like to get there before the McDonald’s. The remote west of Australia is very alluring. I’ve also always wanted to go to Bhutan. The Atacama Desert in northern Chile has my attention. And the first place I ever wanted to go was Easter Island—haven’t made it there yet.

ORBITZ: What kind of research do you usually do before a trip?

MCCARTHY: Before I go certain places I read and plan a lot, and others I just show up without even a hotel reservation. I’ve had amazing experiences both ways. Recently I’ve begun to show up and start tweeting for suggestions—I’ve gotten some great local, real-time tips.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewTMcCarthy, and buy his book—The Longest Way Home—on his website.

Tagged: Celebrity picks

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

Sarah Preston Gorenstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Content at Orbitz, whose work has appeared in Playboy, Chicago magazine, People magazine, Parenting, Michigan Avenue Magazine, among others.
Sarah Preston Gorenstein

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5 thoughts on “Traveling with Andrew McCarthy”

  1. Hola Sarah Preston Gorenstein, te felicito por el post que has publicado. Realmente es interesante y las fotografías son muy buenas y nos permiten trasladarnos al lugar sin inconvenientes. Voy a tener en cuenta en mis próximas vacaciones, para poder viajara hasta allí y relajarme. Por cierto, el año anterior estuve en Cancun en los Departamentos de lujo en Cancun son fabulosos realmente, se los recomiendo!!!! Gracias por todo, saludos cordiales.

  2. Hello and thank you for interviewing Andrew McCarthy. I loved hearing about the places he has journeyed as well as where he would love to visit next. I’ve had a crush on him for years…is that still considered a crush, I wonder? I love to travel as well. Ah, I’m now thinking of my next adventure! Thanks again!

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