Saturday, September 22, 2012

Changing the world one trip at a time

There is a moment in the Hallmark movie Straight from the Heart where Andrew McCarthy rides a horse into a very fancy New York art gallery to win back Teri Polo. This makes perfect sense in the context of the movie and is my favorite part. As I was awaiting the National Geographic book discussion, I kept seeing this image of Andrew McCarthy riding into the auditorium on a horse. Wouldn't that be the best way to start the evening?

He did not enter the auditorium on a horse. He walked in like a normal person and proceeded to spend the next hour in conversation Don George about travel, life, love, fear, and writing. Andrew McCarthy was eloquent, interesting, and inspiring. The book is called The Longest Way Home and is about his "quest" to settle down. I started reading it on Wednesday and it's not like I expected at all. I read a lot of travel books (memoirs, travelogues, anything travel related) and I think I was expecting a more straightforward travel story. It's much more personal than I thought it would be and I can't wait to finish it.

I love to travel. I've written about travel here before and I thought about those posts while I listened to the discussion. I could identify with a lot of the emotions he talked about - fear, exhilaration, loneliness, euphoria - those are just some of the things I've felt as a traveler both in the U.S. and abroad. There were a few things I wrote down that really stuck with me. Of course, that means a list:

  • Travel and fear: he talked a lot about being afraid and that fear keeps people from traveling (not money or time really). I had this experience when I went to Rwanda; not my fear (although I had some reservations about the trip) but other people's. The reaction was always "why would you go there?" or "don't you know what happened there?" Fear shouldn't keep you from going and experiencing. And a little girl in the audience totally called him on it. It was great. He has a great piece in October's National Geographic Traveler magazine about fear and travel.
  • Asking for help when you travel: Apparently, I should be doing this when I travel. I don't do it enough. Like Andrew McCarthy, I'm not really an instigator so asking random people for help isn't my thing. But that's how you experience even more so ask for help. My brother called this "Andrew McCarthyism" later in the evening.
  • Travel is fundamental: Don George said it best, "I believe in the gap life." I can't remember a time when I didn't want to go somewhere. I love road trips and discovering new places. Playing tourist in my own city is on of the best things to do ever. All I want to do right now is plan a trip somewhere (Paris would be nice) and just get on the road.
  • "I have to be creative every day.": Both Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy talked about creativity in their daily lives. It's so easy to forget when you have to deal with the stuff of life. He also mentioned something about creativity having a process which I absolutely loved. I have a process for everything.
  • "The more I'm prepared the more open I am to happy coincidence." I'm a planner and an organizer and I feel better when I plan. I feel like I can relax and have fun when I know some of what's going to happen. I like surprises too and I think a person can balance both when they travel.
  • "I travel to know what I'm feeling. I write to sort it out." Word, Andrew McCarthy.
  • "Creating little citizens of the world is a great thing." Love, love, love this! I used to tell my students that they should be citizens of the world and think beyond their borders. I hope that when I have children they will be adventurers and want to be part of the world.

So thanks, Andrew McCarthy. Thanks for posing with all of your fans (because you didn't have to) and being honest about some very personal things. And being awesome. 

Two random things: while waiting in line for to get my book signed, I started talking to the girl in front of me. (I know, I instigated a conversation. Crazy.) Anyway, Scott took her picture with Andrew McCarthy and we got to talking about other book events in the area. Apparently, I am "tuned in" to things like this so I may have a new book talk friend in the works.

As we were leaving the building Scott overheard this group of ladies talking about getting back to the Metro and they weren't quite sure where they were going. We were headed in the same direction so Scott offered to help. We had a nice chat about the National Book Fair (which is what they're in town for) and got them to the right Metro stop. This is what Scott dubbed "Andrew McCarthyism"-we were living what he told us to do.

So did I accomplish my goal of overcoming at least some of my residual teenage awkwardness? Yes, I think I did. I may have been star struck and giddy when meeting both Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy but I wasn't embarrassing, security didn't ask me to leave, and I told them how much I enjoyed their work without getting all weird about it. And it's nice to hear that famous people have insecurities and struggle with the same kind of issues that non-famous people do (in a non-tabloid, non-reality show way). Also, I may have made a friend randomly and was an instigator of a conversation for a change. Get back - I don't even know what's come over me.

So who's ready to get out there and travel? 


  1. This is great! It speaks to so many things that are constantly running through my mind. First off, I love that you make lists. It was recently pointed out to me that I make a lot of lists, I'm learning to really appreciate them. Secondly, ""I travel to know what I'm feeling. I write to sort it out." Word, Andrew McCarthy.", this is awesome. And thirdly, can you recommend some good travel books? Thank you!

  2. Lists are my favorite-I can't help myself. Some people would call me OCD; I just think I'm prepared. There's nothing wrong with that.

    I really enjoyed Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
    anything by Paul Theroux (my favorite is The Great Railway Bazaar)
    Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (it's actually a humor book but about travel too)
    Almost French (about moving to France)
    Female Nomand and Friends by Rita Golden Gelman
    I'm enjoying The Longest Way Home and would recommend it too.
    I have John Baxter's The Most Beautiful Walk in the World in my stack to read (he has two other books about Paris that are really good) and LIfe Is a Trip: the Transformative Magic of Travel by Judith Fein is on my list but I haven't bought it yet.

    I also read a lot of biographies and many of them feel like travel stories too but in different ways. There's a book called The Bolter about a woman who abandoned her family and lived in Kenya (in the 20s and 30s) and The Sisters about the MItford family-they were pretty extraordinary. Julia Child's My Life in France also feels very travelogue-y. There are probably lots more but those are some of my favorites.