He'd been looking after the Ocampa for a thousand years.
Who knows how old he was when he started, and who knows when Susperia got sick of the sight of him and his banjo and just bolted.
Janeway and Ransom both started at Caretaker and and they both managed to trek 30 thousands of light years in 6 terran years. Ransom blamed most of it on a lucky wormhole, lets assume that wasn't a clever lie to cover up their hobby as vivisectionists.
They both charted completely different courses home.
I've always blamed this on Equinox not being able to stay in open space for as long as Voyager, so they had to plan a more circuitous route hopping between closer supply potential destinations and having to completely ignore trips between two stars Voayger was more than Capable of. Equinox just wasn't robust enough to follow Voyagers more direct home.
That's what I've always said.
But what if the opposite was true?
How about this?
Equinox charted the more direct/faster route to the Alpha Quadrant, and then 6 months later Kathryn who scribbled an identical course home hours after the events of Caretaker asked Neelix what he thought of their proposed route?
He laughed at her and explained that she would lose half her crew in the first week if she kept strictly to this path without actually saying the words "Krotonian Guard" and then got out a marker pen and showed Captain Janeway a more indirect route that did intersect with valuable unclaimed worlds, and hubs of trade and economy which welcomed strangers from far away, while still inching them noticeably towards Federation Space.
It's Neelix's fault.
If not for Neelix, Janeway would have caught up with Ransom by year two, since they both had the same training, and were in possession of roughly the same technology, where Ransom would have been weathered but yet not completely broken by the Delta Quadrant, and he'd probably have smoothened out the rough edges of Janeways catch up where from she'd probably be insessently finding some glaring clues that she wasn't the first Starfleet Captain to explore out that far.
If not for Neelix, Voyager would have caught up with Equinox, found that lucky wormhole that allowed them to skip any and all Borg adventures completely, while the combined resources of the two ships working in unison would have meant that life in their little fleet would have been delightful and safe, as they pottered on to Earth.