The creator of a travel blog called “The Runaway Guide” says he’s not to blame for a Sequim teen who ran away from home, but did try to help him when he heard about it.
Luke Burbank caught up with the guy who only identifies himself only as Leif via phone from Nicaragua, where the now 24-year-old said he had no idea why Jon Chrysler blamed him for his 15-year-old son Jonathan running away last week.
Leif says he recently got hundreds of messages from people calling him a “pedophile” and “human trafficker,” and discovered one of the top referrers to his blog was Q13 Fox News, which posted a story about Chrysler and his site.
“I’m not sure how they made the connection. The kid must have told his parents that he saw the site but they never say how exactly.”
Jon Chrysler told Q13 his son told him he got information about running away from Leif’s step-by-step guides that include tips on everything from eating for free to sleeping on the street.
But Leif insists while the blog is a celebration of travel, he actually works hard to dissuade kids from running away.
“I always tell them to basically stay strong and try to stick it out. I give them inspiration to travel for the future and asks for them to wait until the future ultimately.”
Still, the site makes travel enticing and celebrates Leif’s adventures around the world. He says it all started when the Norwegian ran away from home with no money when he was 16 and traveled Europe and the Middle East for a year. A year he says was mostly miserable.
“My parents of course, to say the least, were really worried. They sent Interpol looking for me, spent some time in jail. You know, I learned a lot about myself and the world but the majority of the time was full of suffering for both me and my parents.”
Leif insists the Runaway Guide is meant as a metaphor, not encouragement to literally run away. And he defends the how-to guides included there, arguing there were at least three other guides out there before his, and he needs to show he knows what he’s talking about to have legitimacy with young people.
“The majority of it is to try and dissuade kids from running away so they don’t end up running away like I did,” he argues. “I never planted the seed. These kids, millions of them, they’re so sad that they actually took the time to research it on the Internet and that’s why they come to my site.”
Leif says he gets hundreds of emails every month from desperate kids seeking advice, and he recommends alternatives to running away such as taking a gap year or study abroad programs. But ultimately, he doesn’t apologize for the life he leads or encouraging others to follow his lead.
“Yes it glorifies running away, but not in the literal sense,” he says. “I always tell everyone to join me.”
The Chrysler’s told Q13 Jonathan has since returned home.