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NEW YORK -- At a crowded French bakery on Manhattan's Upper East Side,no one seems to recognize actor Andrew McCarthy. At least no one asks,"Weren't you Kevin in St. Elmo's Fire?" or "Blane in Pretty in Pink."

But there are days when he does get thosequestions, more than a quarter century after his years as part of theteen "Brat Pack" that included Molly Ringwald and Rob Lowe. "Some daysI'm hotter than others," McCarthy says with a laugh. "It depends what'sbeen on TV the night before. But my teenage fans are now women, sothere's less screaming and squealing, which is better for all of us."

Twelveweeks shy of turning 50, McCarthy -- an actor, director andaward-winning travel writer -- is still boyish. His first book, The Long Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down (Free Press, $26), is being released Tuesday.

It's part memoir, dealing with his parallel careers in acting andwriting, his alcoholism -- he's been sober since 1992, he says -- andovercoming his self-doubts and insecurities. And it's part travelogueabout trips to Patagonia, the Amazon and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Over iced tea,he calls it "an internal journey played out externally."

Init, he writes, "Success in acting had given me a persona and a shell ofconfidence; my travels helped me find myself beneath that persona andfill out that shell with belief. Through travel, I began to grow up."

Thebook is framed around the months leading up to his second marriage inAugust 2011, when his bride-to-be, Dolores Rice, an Irish stage directorand writer, tried to plan their wedding from their home in Manhattanwhile he found a need to sail down the Amazon or climb Kilimanjaro's19,336 feet.

After an eight-yearrelationship and four-year engagement, McCarthy's need to leave homecould be seen as a case of male non-commitment. He says, "The questionwasn't so much if we'd get married, but when and how."

In his book, his wife is identified only as D. "It's not reallyabout her," he says. "It's no tell-all bio." But a moment later, hecalls her "the moral compass in the middle of the story. I'm the idiotfailing about."

As editor-at-large of National Geographic Traveler, who's had three articles chosen for the Best American Travel Writingseries of books, McCarthy prefers to travel alone. He cites one of hisliterary influences, Paul Theroux, who touts the "lucidity ofloneliness."

But as part of his version ofsettling down, McCarthy had his 10-year-old son from his first marriage(to Carol Schneider) join him on an assignment in the Sahara. His6-year-old daughter with Rice was his companion to Tahiti. The entirefamily went camping in Wyoming -- "for fun, not work."

He recognizes a paradox in his travels, preferably off mosttourist maps: "I've traveled in order to feel at home in myself." Hesees acting and travel writing as "branches of the same tree," but oftenwhen he's writing, "I wish I was acting, and when I'm acting, I wish Iwas writing."

He's also directed, including episodes of two TV series, Lipstick Jungle and Gossip Girl, in which he's appeared.

His next acting role is on a Hallmark TV movie in December, Christmas Dance,playing a "corporate guy who has to learn to waltz and falls in lovewith his dance teacher and learns the meaning of life. You get theidea." He calls it "an irony-free zone, but lovely."

His next writing assignment in November takes him to Darjeeling, India, in search of "the best tea in the world."

His book's publisher is touting comparisons between the The Longest Way Home and Elizabeth Gilbert's mega-best-seller Eat, Pray, Love.

"Ofcourse they are," he says with a laugh. "Didn't that sell 6 millioncopies? I liked it. It was honest, well-told and very atmospheric."

What about a movie version of his book?

McCarthylaughs and says he'd welcome any interest. But he doubts he'd playhimself: "I'm sure they'd find someone hotter," he says and laughsagain.

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Andrew McCarthy has appeared in more than 70 films and TV series, including:

St. Elmo's Fire (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), Weekend at Bernie's (1989), The Joy Luck Club (1993), Mulholland Falls (1996), Heaven Must Wait (2001), Lipstick Jungle (2008-09), Gossip Girl (2009) and White Collar (2011).

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