For 11 months in 2018 and 2019 Becca McCoy was on the road. A professional actress and singer, the St. Pete native (and former resident) was used to traveling where the jobs were – that’s what she’d signed up for.
This, however, was different. She’d just taken a couple of personal hits – her 40th birthday, and the end of her 15-year marriage – and was feeling a bit shaky. The antidote? Stop working for a while and travel.
And so she visited seven foreign countries, and eight American states, sometimes alone and sometimes with a travel companion. Each time was the first step through a new door.
“Twenty years earlier, the very first time that I went away, it was on the tail end of some personal trauma,” McCoy explains. “It was when I went for my semester abroad, and the experience was completely life-changing and life-affirming. Now I’m in this new spot in life, and the opportunity to travel presented itself.”
Between Thailand, Myanmar, Great Britain, France, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and various United States she shot something like 10,500 photos. The Year of Extraordinary Travel, new from St. Petersburg Press, includes 350 of her self-curated best, all reproduced in full color alongside McCoy’s musings about travel and the way it works as a healing balm for the soul.
It’s not the soul-searching, navel-gazing journey taken by Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love.
“I tried to make it clear at the end that I’m not sure that I solved anything,” McCoy says. “I’m proud of it but I don’t think it’s a prescription.
“To me, the real takeaways are the things you can apply to your daily life. Which is, if you’re just present and living in the moment, anything can be beautiful. The mundane is absolutely magical if that’s what you expect.”
Her occupation requires her to schedule things up to a year in advance. And so, she laughs, “me being me, it wasn’t enough to just do a couple months here and there.” Her school-age daughter was one of her occasional traveling companions, which naturally required some calendar-watching.
Still, the spontaneity of certain events left her deeply impressed. “I just said I’ll take this one step at a time towards unapologetic authenticity.’ And have faith that things will fall into place.
“I think the success of the whole year, and why there aren’t any ‘nightmare scenarios,’ was that I expected everything to be magical,” McCoy adds. “I was plowing forward with this grand adventure, and so everything met that expectation.”
She lives in Atlanta now, with her life partner, illustrator Justin Groom (he designed the cover for The Year of Extraordinary Travel).
Writing a travel book, even a left-of-center one, was never on her radar. “I’m not accustomed to trafficking in non-ephemeral goods; things I can hold in my hands,” McCoy says. “If anything I thought I’d make a one-woman show out of it, because I have one that I’ve done to its completion. I performed it one last time in early 2020, right before Covid. So I thought that one has run its course, maybe I’ll create something out of this.”
So is The Year of Extraordinary Travel – The Musical in her future? Maybe yes, maybe no. She’s getting used to casting her fate to the wind.
“At this moment in time,” insists Becca McCoy, “I am happy for the opportunity to put something beautiful into people’s hands. And I just hope it will find its way to the people who will love it.”