Two days and nearly 1,000 miles after leaving Provo, BYU students Hank Hansen and Scott Daly found themselves on a road trip with Shia LaBeouf in Omaha, Nebraska.
Daly, a junior studying advertising, learned of LaBeouf’s latest performance art project, #TAKEMEANYWHERE, on Wednesday, May 25. The project consists of LaBeouf and fellow collaborators Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner periodically tweeting out their coordinates and then hitching a ride with whoever reaches the group first — to anywhere that person wants. The month-long road trip throughout the U.S. began on May 23 and will continue until June 23.
Wednesday, May 25
When Daly first learned of the project, LaBeouf was in Laramie, Wyoming, headed west on I-80. Daly informed Hansen, his coworker on a marketing team and sophomore graphic design major, about the project.
Daly and Hansen figured LaBeouf would be in Salt Lake City by the end of the night, and devised a plan to pick him up there.
However, LaBeouf’s coordinates still showed him in Laramie late that afternoon. With Daly working full time and Hansen working part time while taking classes, they had to decide how far they were willing to go to find LaBeouf.
For Daly, the choice was easy. He’d been following LaBeouf’s performance art since #IAMSORRY and was enthusiastic.
“I said, ‘Look, if we have to go to Laramie, I’m going, and I may not stop there. Are you committed?'” Daly said.
Hansen had been a fan of LaBeouf during his “Even Stevens” days, but hadn’t followed any of his work since. Hansen was skeptical about going all the way to Laramie, but eventually agreed. The two bought some supplies and left Provo at about 5:30 p.m.
When the two arrived in Laramie, they went to LaBeouf’s location according to the live map on the #TAKEMEANYWHERE website. They bought sleeping bags at Walmart and slept in the back of Daly’s Prius.
Thursday, May 26
Hansen and Daly woke up at 6 a.m. the next day and waited for any sign of LaBeouf. When LaBeouf finally posted his coordinates, he was in Cheyenne, an hour and a half east of Laramie. Daly and Hansen headed toward LaBeouf’s location as quickly as they could, but were beaten by another group who picked him up a half hour later.
“We had this real crossroads once he got picked up,” Daly said. “We’re an hour away and they start heading east on the highway, and we have to decide — are we going to turn back without ever having seen him or even shook his hand?”
With the knowledge they had a three-day weekend ahead of them and no pressing commitments at home, they continued to chase LaBeouf into Nebraska. The dot denoting LaBeouf’s location on the #TAKEMEANYWHERE map eventually stopped at Lake McConaughy, four hours west of Lincoln, Nebraska.
— Hank Hansen (@Thank_You_Hank) May 26, 2016
Almost 24 hours after they left Provo, they finally caught up with LaBeouf, Rönkkö, Turner and their ride in the parking lot near the lake. They approached the group, which was sitting in a circle listening to Turner playing the guitar.
After Hansen and Daly introduced themselves, Turner handed the guitar to Daly. Daly started playing an acoustic rendition of “Hotline Bling” by Drake.
“So I played a little bit of it and I stopped, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s all I know,’ and Shia’s like, ‘That is the way to make an entrance into a group!'” Daly said.
After about five minutes, LaBeouf said they had to leave for Omaha, Nebraska. He said they wanted to keep the group small to preserve the intimacy of the experience, but if Hansen and Daly were in Omaha when they posted their coordinates, they could pick up the trio.
“We were pretty satisfied with the experience,” Daly said. “We were ready to go back.”
But Hansen and Daly decided to keep going after LaBeouf made a point of asking them whether they were coming to Omaha.
Daly and Hansen didn’t want to directly follow LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner at first to avoid acting “creepy.” However, Daly was convinced the reason they were so far away from LaBeouf when he posted his coordinates the last time was the group turned off the GPS at night so people couldn’t follow him.
Daly and Hansen eventually caught up with LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner in Lincoln, Nebraska on Thursday, May 26, and, sure enough, the group had turned off the GPS tracker. Hansen and Daly then rented a room at a Motel 6 nearby so they could shower and get some rest.
That evening, Daly went to make sure the car LaBeouf was traveling in was still at the location where they’d seen it last. When Daly got to that location, the car was gone. However, Daly believed he knew where LaBeouf was going to be when he posted his coordinates the next day.
“The whole time, we had kind of been collecting whatever information we could — off Twitter, off wherever — looking at their coordinates, looking at where they’ve been, looking at patterns,” Daly said.
Friday, May 27
Daly and Hansen woke up early, went to the spot where Daly believed LaBeouf would be and waited. When LaBeouf posted his coordinates, Daly and Hansen were across the street from where he was.
— Hank Hansen (@Thank_You_Hank) May 27, 2016
The fastest route to LaBeouf’s location appeared to run through a McDonald’s parking lot. However, the McDonald’s drive-thru line blocked them from reaching LaBeouf. Daly and Hansen jumped out of the car without turning off the ignition and sprinted across the parking lot.
“Then as we sprint around the corner, we see them just sitting there, and they see us running towards them and they recognize us from the lake and they go, ‘You made it!'” Daly said.
Within one minute of Daly and Hansen’s reunion with LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner, about 10 other people who were trying to pick up the group arrived. The five of them stayed for about 15 minutes, talking with the other people while LaBeouf took pictures and spoke with fans.
Hansen and Daly decided to take LaBeouf to Kansas City, Missouri. They wanted to pick a location that wasn’t too far away, and in Kansas City they found places to race go-karts, play laser tag and eat authentic Kansas City barbecue.
Hansen and Daly were planning on dropping the group off in Kansas City on the evening of Friday, May 27, so they could sleep. As they drove, they began talking about Daly and Hansen’s plans after dropping off LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner. Daly and Hansen told them they would return home to Provo.
“Shia was like, ‘What if we came with you? It’s #TAKEMEANYWHERE,'” Daly said.
Up until this point, no one had spent more than one day with LaBeouf. Turner was against the idea of going to Provo; he wanted to let as many people as possible participate in the project. Meanwhile, LaBeouf wanted to avoid putting too many rules on the project. The five went to a coffee shop to decide what to do.
“Hank eventually says, ‘This project isn’t about, ‘Let’s parade Shia LaBeouf around to as many people as possible,’ like he’s some kind of circus elephant. The point of this is to connect with people. If we drive to Provo, that’s an opportunity for us to connect,'” Daly said. “And Shia’s like, ‘Exactly,’ and he goes out and has a cigarette.”
After LaBeouf left, the conversation was over: the group would go to Provo with Hansen and Daly. They decided to split up the drive by going to Wichita, Kansas, that night and the rest of the way to Provo the following day.
Saturday, May 28
Daly knew once they arrived in Provo, they would need to drop LaBeouf off, which made the trip different than any he had been on.
“Every other road trip I go on, I have a destination, and the 14 hours or whatever in between is like, ‘If we just get through this, we’ll be in Disneyland.’ But this is like, ‘When this is over, we’re done,'” Daly said. “The drive was the thing.”
With this knowledge, Daly and Hansen focused on enjoying the car ride and being present.
“That second day made all the difference; that’s when we really started to bond,” Daly said. “That’s where we got to the point where it was not like we’re with a celebrity, but we’re with our friends.”
Hansen agreed that although a 14-hour car ride is not most people’s idea of fun, it was what brought the group together.
“You kind of have no choice but to feel that way because you’re trapped in a Prius for 14 hours. The only thing you have is each other’s company,” Hansen said. “You can be friends with anyone laser tagging, but a particular dynamic is required to have fun on a 14-hour drive, and it really was fun for me despite the horribleness of the drive itself.”
They stopped at Daly’s parents’ house in Colorado. They chose not to turn off the GPS because it was supposed to be a quick stop, but about 10 people found them and stopped to speak and take pictures with LaBeouf.
Daly said the weirdest part of the trip for him was watching other people interact with LaBeouf.
“For me, he was a friend, and yet I was seeing them treat him in this really strange way,” Daly said. “It just felt very uncomfortable because on the one hand I was kind of repulsed by it, but on the other hand that was me a day before.”
Hansen remembered feeling a little differently than Daly.
“I don’t remember feeling the same repulsion; I felt an embarrassment,” Hansen said. “It was like, ‘Oh, is that what I looked like?’ And looking back at the video, I looked much worse than they did.”
The group of five had spent almost two full days together at this point, and Hansen and Daly had stopped seeing LaBeouf as a celebrity and begun seeing him as a friend.
“By the second day, there was a point where we were driving through the mountains in Colorado, and we didn’t have any music playing, and nobody was saying anything, and it was just comfortable. Nobody felt like they had to fill the silence,” Daly said. “That’s crazy that you meet three strangers and a day later you’re just that comfortable.”
Daly and Hansen think they were able to bond with LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner so quickly because of the unique nature of the project.
“It’s interesting to see how quickly a relationship develops when there’s no role you have to fill,” Hansen said. “Fan and celebrity — once that goes away, what are you left with?”
Hansen and Daly dropped the group off in Spanish Fork, allowing another group of fans to pick them up. Although the road trip was over, Hansen and Daly say it greatly influenced their perspectives.
“What’s unfortunate about this paradigm shift is that it’s several clichés wrapped into one,” Hansen said. “You try and say, ‘Celebrities are real people,’ and you’re like, ‘Well, duh,’ but it’s very different feeling that and experiencing it.”
Hansen said the second day of the trip taught him a second cliché: it’s not the destination — it’s the journey.
“It was really interesting to experience life in such a present way,” Hansen said. “The journey is not just a means to the destination — it’s its own present moment and you can live that.”