Ex-Big Issue vendor pens book about global homelessness from his squat

Greg Lynn wrote the books to tell people about his time on the streets in Cambodia, Italy, Malaysia and more as well as his short spell selling the magazine in Bath

A former Big Issue vendor has turned his globe-trotting exploits into a book on homelessness in which he chronicles his life sleeping rough around the world.

The Wanderer: From the streets of Bristol to the Cambodian Jungle takes in Greg Lynn’s experiences on the streets of England and Wales as well as 11 countries around the world, ranging from his first night in Amsterdam in 2005 to heading further afield in Thailand and Malaysia.

Greg also reveals his experiences of life as a Big Issue vendor at Bath’s Christmas market during a two-month spell in November 2013.

It was a short but successful stint selling the magazine before Greg earned enough money to secure some accommodation, and he was eventually housed by St Mungo’s in south Gloucestershire, ending his tenure as a Big Issue vendor.

Greg Lynn Wanderer
Greg Lynn Wanderer book

But his tales of wearing the iconic red tabard still account for a chapter in the book, available now in paperback and as an ebook.

“I talk about getting up in the winter time to go to work at seven o’clock in the morning, that made me feel like a normal person again,” Greg told The Big Issue. “I liked the interaction, engaging with people made me feel human again. Getting that routine, getting that structure, you feel like you’re doing something to help yourself out.

“It’s quite enterprising, I liked the control over what I was doing, being your own boss. For me it was a vital stepping stone. The Big Issue played a big part in my rehabilitation and looking back on it I should have taken up more of their offers of support.”

DID YOU KNOW…

Since 1991 The Big Issue has sold more than 200,000,000 copies – helping the most vulnerable in society earn more than £115 million.

Greg turned to selling the magazine after a chance encounter years earlier with then-vendor James Bowen and his now-famous cat companion Street Cat Bob, who died last week.

And Greg wouldn’t be the first person who has been touched by Bob’s tale.

He added: “It goes back to a family day out in London in around 2006/2007 and we were in Covent Garden and suddenly this guy pops up with his ginger cat. He told me what had happened to him and when I met him it struck me that there was something unique about him. He had a middle-class accent and came from a middle-class background. That made him stick out a little bit.

“That’s the only time I had ever bought a mag off a vendor before and then James Bowen and Street Cat Bob ended up being famous. I just remember meeting that guy and twigged a little bit of inspiration with me.”

The 39-year-old, originally from Slough, decided to write the book last year as a way of sharing his own experiences and shedding light on some of the people he met along the way.

But, as Greg continues to live in a disused council building, it was no easy feat penning The Wanderer.

After being encouraged by a friend, Greg went back through his journals and started writing them up on paper before entering his drafted copy on to a laptop.

I wanted to make people aware of the camaraderie that you feel on the streets too

He initially found the experience “emotionally draining” but it would later prove to be cathartic. After working for 50 hours a week on the book over a six-month period while supporting himself through construction work, Greg was able to self-publish the book through Amazon.

And he insists that he is keen for it to be seen as a portrayal of the realities of homelessness rather than a “sob story”.

“I really liked writing and it was something to do, something to give me structure and a reason to get out of bed,” said Greg.

“It was cathartic and I didn’t just want it to be all about me. I met a lot of different characters and it is telling their story too and making them human. There is always a story behind every one you see on the street and they have their own unique traits that I wanted to bring out. I always wanted to show that a lot of homeless people do work.

“I wanted to make people aware of the camaraderie that you feel on the streets too, I never wanted the book to be a sob story.”

The Wanderer: From the streets of Bristol to the Cambodian Jungle is available now in ebook or paperback format from Amazon

Images: Greg Lynn