Andrew McCarthy (R) and his son, Sam, trekked 500 miles across Spain. Photo courtesy of Grand Central Publishing
NEW YORK, May 25 (UPI) -- Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo's Fire icon Andrew McCarthy says his recent 500-mile trek across Spain strengthened his bond with his 19-year-old son and helped him better understand who he is as a parent.
Recalled in McCarthy's New York Times best-selling memoir, Walking with Sam, the journey echoes a similar one the actor and filmmaker took when he was a young man figuring out his place in the world.
"It was a life-changing trip when I did it 25 years ago. It revealed to me a lot of my habits in thinking and so much fear that I carried and it really helped me step into myself, literally, step by step by step across the country," the 60-year-old author told UPI in a recent phone interview.
"I just thought, as Sam was sort of cusping adulthood, that could only benefit him and I also wanted to help segue our relationship to two adults, as opposed to parent and child. All we ever want in life is to be seen, right? And, so, I think [the trip] helped me see who he is as a young man more clearly."
McCarthy wasn't determined to offer last-minute pearls of wisdom to Sam during their shared solitude.
"That's what the book is ultimately about -- the parent not the kid. It's called Walking with Sam, but it's really more about my parenthood of him and my other kids. I suppose I learned that we can just trust that we are OK," he said.
"I learned to keep my mouth shut a lot more than I used to in parenting because I had the luxury of time with my son, which is something you rarely get with an adult child. I didn't have to solve problems and advise. I was able to just listen."
While the long and arduous trip presented many physical challenges for McCarthy, his son fared better.
"When I was a younger man and I did it the first time, I don't recall any physical problems, except having bad blisters early on because I had the wrong shoes, whereas, this time, every day, when I got in, I had to put my feet up the wall for half hour," McCarthy laughed.
"I started to wear down by the end where my son seemed to be gaining strength. At the end, he said, 'I could walk across two more countries.' When we reached the end in Santiago and I sat down, he continued onto the sea. I was like, 'Have a good walk.'"
The trip took place in 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic was still going on, but lockdowns had lifted.
"The world was coming out of its shell," McCarthy said.
"The first time I walked, it was revealed to me how much fear I carried through the world and that walk helped dispel a lot of fear. I thought, after the pandemic, when we were bombarded with so much fear all the time that it would be a useful thing to get a booster shot against fear."
In the rural northern part of Spain where they traveled, there was no evidence of COVID.
"You didn't even hear the word because you are just out there. But the trail was still about half the walkers there usually is so that was kind of great," he said.
Walking with Sam isn't the accomplished travel journalist's first book about his life. His best-selling memoir, Brat, about his exploits as a teen idol, was published in 2021.
"I wanted to be careful not to write too quickly. I came home and just let it sit," McCarthy said.
"The gifts of the Camino [de Santiago] are many and they emerge slowly over time," he added. "I first just chronicled the physical journey, as much as I could, and then went back and layered in the emotional and historical [parts] and memories of my own father. You're just sort of threading those three things together, braiding them into one. Where with Brat, I was going, What the hell happened that night?"
The author chose his words deliberately, knowing the impact they could have and that they will last forever.
"You have to be careful when you are writing this stuff because once you write it down, that's what happened. That's the history of it. You have to take care to know that," he said.
He is currently enjoying his book tour, interacting people all over the country and getting their feedback about his latest artistic endeavor.
"Writing a book is a funny thing. You do it all alone in a room and then it gets out into the world and you feel quite naked, much more so than you do when you make a movie or TV show. It feels more personally exposing," he said.
Fortunately, his fans have been very supportive.
"They tend to be invested in a way that is really quite loving. It's great to meet people." McCarthy said.
"I was in Massachusetts last night and there were 250 people and it was a love fest. They ask insightful questions and you're like, 'I didn't think of that, but that is exactly what I meant.'"
McCarthy is already taking his younger children, ages 9 and 16, on 1:1 trips.
"My daughter said, 'Can we just go to Paris?' She doesn't want to walk and I came back just last week -- I'm doing a travel story for a magazine in Botswana in Africa -- so I took my 9-year-old with me and that was nice," he said.
The artist thinks the greatest gifts parents can give their kids is making them "little citizens of the world" even before they are old enough to appreciate it because they will likely learn from and be influenced by what they say or do despite their ages.
"You can do maybe one thing a day as opposed to 10 when you've got kids," he said, noting how traveling with wee ones can offer different experiences for their adult chaperones, too.
He recalled how when he and his younger son were out looking at lions and elephants, the boy announced he desperately had to go to the bathroom.
"So, we had to dig a hole in the ground and he poops in the ground and so when we are Facetiming his mom later that night, she said, 'How were the animals?' And he answered, 'I pooped in the ground, Mom!' It doesn't get more primal than that. That's a huge experience for any person," he said.
"I'm thrilled to have been a part of that with him."