How I Went From Runaway Teen to That Vagabond Life — and Won a Guinness World Record For Travel

How I Went From Runaway Teen to That Vagabond Life — and Won a Guinness World Record For Travel

I wasn't going to let fancy travel bloggers show me up — and I knew I had it in me.

By Greg Cayea

It all started when I was kicked outa two rehabs, went to some wilderness program in Utah then ran away from a boot camp in Georgia after two years. I was 16 years old with nowhere to go.

I slept at night on park benches, under big trees of the Brown University main green, at the houses of random strangers that I’d meet on the street, and at times, in abandoned attics filled with counterfeit money, hookers, and other unseemly things. 

On one of the nights that I was in the abandoned attic, I sat awake under some dirty blanket writing in my green journal by candlelight. The sound of cops jolted me up, so, I ran away and found a new squat.

On my way to South Providence, I decided to pretend like a freshman at Brown University and sneak into some frat party with free booze. I proceeded to tell the entire party I was a junior studying economics… but I was actually a teen runaway who had just broken out of a boot camp in northern Georgia.  

Anyway, I got drunk for free that night and decided to crash out somewhere a bit closer than my originally planned squat in South Providence. I stumbled out of the frat party and went over to one of the nearby college dormitories at Brown University, much closer, and waited for someone to walk out of the doors so I could sneak in behind them.

Some college girl opened the door and so I pretended in all my raggedy, tie-dye attire and beaded hemp necklaces that I had misplaced my key… so, I walked in before the door closed behind her and found the TV room where the freshman drank cheap beers and hung out on the couches. The world was spinning as I locked the door behind me. I turned on the TV and watched My Cousin Vinny, and then I went to bed. I woke up and went to Dunkin Donuts to buy a few croissants with the spare change I had panhandled the day before, and then went back to roaming the streets of Rhode Island.

In the winter, I hitched a ride down to Georgia to reunite with the love of my life and borrowed $800 from my grandma so that we could rent an apartment in Little Haiti, Miami, right on the border of Liberty City. I got a job in a boiler room in Deerfield Beach until the feds shut it down, then took a 53-hour bus ride to Boulder, Colorado, where I spent the next three years of my life until I was 19.

I moved to Queens with my then-girlfriend of three years, and stayed in New York until I was 26. After a wild ride as a rising actor slash drug dealer slash bartender slash theater producer slash rolling paper company executive… I decided I should take a one-way ticket to San Diego and figure out my life.

I never came back.

I relocated to Los Angeles and on my 27th birthday, and decided I should get sober. Things had to change. I lived in L.A. for about six years and produced a movie and wrote short stories about my life and did entertainment publicity work to fund my travels… I was always on the road, and always felt most at home in the middle of nowhere. So, one day when I had another girlfriend, and we were planning to move to Philadelphia, I was reading all these travel blogs and realized that I had traveled more than most of these people and had nothing to show for it.

I was determined to make sure that was never the case ever again. 

And so I applied to Guinness to break the world record for "Longest Journey by Car in a Single Country," and I invited my then-girlfriend to tag along. Well, it’s a good thing she came cause I’m not sure if I would have been able to do it without her!

After starting the journey in Tempe, Arizona and visiting nearly every single national park and sleeping in the back of my Subaru for 122 days…  After driving 36,123 miles through every town and city in America, we finally arrived at our arbitrarily chosen end point: The Bronx.

Except I got lost and we ended up in Chinatown in lower Manhattan. But we did it! (Read my tips for not killing your travel companion here.)

We broke the damn record and now I can read all those travel blogs knowing in my gut I did what I had to do… I was now a professional vagabond.

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