How to Disappear Completely And Never Be Found

I wanted to move into a homeless shelter because I thought that girls who were homeless would be more likely to go out with me. I had this fantasy version of what a homeless shelter would be like. We’d sneak around to each others rooms as if they were dorm rooms. It would be romantic. Lots of giggling. And crack smoking. Heck, I’d try it. For love.

(I pictured a homeless girl looking like this)

I had a job and wasn’t really homeless. I had a place to live. But my girlfriend at the time hated me I was pretty sure of it and I needed a change.  Plus the homeless shelter was right next to my place of work. I could’ve lived at the shelter and it was about a 20 second walk to work. How great can life be? I ask again: How great can life really be?

The homeless shelter director said “no” to my request. He called my references. I had said I wanted to write about the experience. My boss, my ACTUAL boss at the time, said I was probably mentally ill. I didn’t have that job for too much longer. Nor did I move into the homeless shelter. But they did let me give chess lessons there.

All of this to say, there’s something primal in me that wants to disappear. To mix with what I view as the lowest of the low, to forget about my past, to sign up for a future that is meaningless, to think only about right now and give up everything else.

When I was a kid I bought the book “How to Disappear Completely  And Never Be Found”. I don’t know if any of the techniques still work but here was the author’s plan:

Look at old newspapers from around the day you were born to find the names of babies that died that day. Ask your state government for their birth certificates. This isn’t unusual. Many people lose their birth certificates. Use the birth certificate to get a social security card (say you’ve been a permanent student up until now). Use the two forms of ID to get a bank account, credit cards, driver’s license.

(the book)

Change your hair color. Lose weight. Put a tack in your shoe so you start to walk differently. Start siphoning money out of your bank account until it is all in cash.  Find a crowded city where you can rent an apartment cheap and disappear in the crowd. Plan on building an employment history by starting with temp or construction jobs.

Then disappear. Just walk out of your house and never go back. You’ve just committed pseudocide.

The word “pseudocide” fascinates me. Its like a “little death”, a phrase often used to describe an orgasm.

The book had anecdotal stories of people who had disappeared (how the author kept finding these people was never explained). People running from marriages, lawsuits, the IRS, or maybe just every now and then someone needs an eraser, some whiteout to rub over emotions, fears, anxieties. A clean slate that would bring a temporary Nirvana when some, if not all, of the mental and emotional baggage can be discarded with your old life. Wrapped up in a garbage bag and left behind a bowling alley.

The feeling never left me. When I’m in a neighborhood I look around and judge whether or not I could disappear to here. Would people find me? Would I ever run across someone I knew or who recognized me. Could I just be swallowed up by the chaos here, live in a shelter, work temp jobs in the back of a deli, argue in broken Chinese in some broken down Chinatown.

“Mad Men” is coming back this Sunday. Don Draper, of course, lives a secret identity. And one of the best episodes to ever appear in television history was the episode (“The Jet Set”) where he lived a secret identity within a secret identity – when he just simply disappeared while standing in the lobby of a hotel in California and went off with a bunch of wealthy vagabonds, each with infinitely long back stories that we would never know and never hear of again. By the time Draper emerged from this new identity, he found himself wealthy, divorced, and dealing with the questions we all grapple with: who are we really?

(From he “Mad Men” episode “the Jet Set” – the greatest episode ever on television. Also see note below)

I have baggage. I have people I care for. Other people I’d rather avoid. I have things I hope for. I have goals and ambitions. I have grudges. No matter how much of a minimalist style you want to have, you still are stuck with all these things in your head, for better or for worse.

What if you could just wake up in a new place and all the baggage is gone? What if you decided, “You know what, these goals aren’t worth it. Too many people die while climbing the perilous mountain of their goals.” When you are young you think you can climb that mountain. But when you start to get a little older you realize, “damn, if I fall then that’s a long way down.”

Disappearing into the depths of some ghetto, satisfying only your minimal needs, using your aura of mystery to acquire minimal friendship, and just living each day as it is dealt to you, might solve these issues.  The question is: with your current identity, can you live as if you’ve already disappeared? We all want to de-clutter. To throw things out. But a minimalist lifestyle is bullshit unless you can do it across every sheath in the daily practice: not just physical, but also emotional, mental, and spiritual.

More importantly is to throw away the baggage, the grudges from the past that 1000 years from now will mean nothing, give up on the ambitions for the future that are more trouble and anxiety than they are worth, to de-clutter your brain. To be free. To suffer a “little death” or to be “born again”.

Picture yourself in a brand new identity. Truly homeless. A vagabond. A nomad. Imagine you have enough in the bank. Imagine your prior responsibilities are all taken care of. You can go to India and live there for 20 years on almost nothing.  Nobody knows who you are. You are brand new. It’s as if you woke up in a new body. You have no connection to the past and no goals for the future. Really picture every detail of it. When I visualize it I feel a great weight lift off my shoulders. I want to feel that way all day long. Tell me the truth – how do you feel?

—————————————————————————–

 

Follow me on Twitter and then you can always track me.

Addendum:

Twice in “Mad Men” they play in the background “Song of India”. One time when Don is meeting Betty Draper in Italy. Another time when Don disappears into “the Jet Set”. The song evokes mystery, foreign-ness, a sense that anything is possible, a feeling of disappearing into a long-forgotten dream.

Here is a link to a non-vocals version of the song (i.e. what they play in the show):

 Song of India

I also like with vocals.  I actually think this is the version they play, but without the vocals.

Read More: How To Be The Luckiest Guy On the Planet in 4 Easy Steps. 

 

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  • http://www.hereverycentcounts.com hereverycentcounts

    Thank you for this post. I think we’ve all felt this way occasionally, or often. Sometimes I want to just get in a car and drive to the middle of nowhere and start over. Then I realize no matter how far I drive or fly, unless I give myself electric shock therapy, my mind will always be my home, for better or worse. There’s no way to escape who you are, even if you fool everyone else. You can stay a recluse and be alone, maybe order all of your food online, never go out, but what kind of life is that? There are certainly times and reasons where completely running from your past and present makes sense, but in most cases what you have now is probably a lot better than what you’d have if you decided to run. It does feel like a big weight lifted off one’s shoulders in theory, but the truth is the grass is always greener…

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       What if its possible to emotionally and mentally de-clutter in your current life, as if you had disappeared. So many blogs appear about living a minimalist lifestyle but i view minimalism as something that goes much deeper than just the physical. I don’t know. I just imagine, “what if?”

      • Nfamous365

        I agree in that the ultimate goal is to emotionally & mentally de-clutter your brain so that every day is like your first day in India, or your favorite place on the planet. With your help/guidance I’ve been starting my journey by first eliminating crappy people & then constantly having the “thought police” on patrol and deleting the “not useful” thoughts.  It’s a lot of work but the days do tend to be a bit easier & more productive when focusing on things that truly matter.

      • http://michaelneverstops.blogspot.com/ Michael

         Classical artists of a hundred years ago used to revere a polished finish (a detailed, realist painting) as reflecting an organized mind.

    • WesternWind

      hey there everycentcounts.

      Really truly think about this. 

      “You are not your thoughts” -someone other than myself.

      Maybe you can’t escape who you are; but who you are is ever-changing; your thoughts are just footnotes to help you piece life together. Do you still need someone to feed you or change your diaper?? No. You grew and will continue to.

      Maybe the grass won’t be greener; but what if it is??? 

      “.. almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” ~ Steve Jobs 

      “It is even better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past.”
      ~Karl Von Clausewitz
      You are in your 20’s; even if you make a decision you aren’t content with (when it comes down to it; there is no such thing as a wrong/right decision; just ones we are content or unhappy with). 

      • http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/why-you-need-f-you-money/ Jlcollinsnh

        reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes and the one that most closely matches my life experience:

        “If you reach for a star you might not get one; but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
        Leo Burnett

        Personally, I never got that star but things have been pretty damn good and the reaching was fun.

        • Tia

          “Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” Frederick Langbridge

  • Andrew_ferri

    This is a brilliant enlightened piece. I left everything I knew in 2009, picked up and moved to souther California. Everyone said I lost my mind. I had a job on Park Avenue in NYC and left it to work at Joes Crab Shack and manage a small hotel in a surf town. I was healthier than I had ever been, I was making great choices and was happy. I was writing everyday, and was living a minimalist life on the beach. I met Abby during this time, and you know the rest. We were just married, the wedding combined my old life and my new happy one. I am so happy I left the old life behind.

    • Capitalistic

      Awesome

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Best-Lion/100003078431671 Best Lion

        I left 8 years ago and moved to Ukraine..did some odd and ends teaching jobs here and banked some cash been free love it..but now am low on cash and have to return to the USA..Maybe work 1-2 years and return

        • avenger 402

          You’ve been to Ukraine?! Damn, I never thought that someone would want to live in such a sh*tty country (corruption and economic failures of the government destroy every merit of living in Ukraine – except that you can do literally everything if you have connections)…

    • http://www.perfectlyturbulent.com/ Michael

      Great comment Andrew thanks for sharing. I’m almost starting to think when someone calls someone mentally ill it says more about them than it does about you.

      Congratulations on your amazing new life. If I’m ever in California I’ll be looking for that crab shack to buy you a drink.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Andrew, congrats! I peeked at a picture or two on facebook. You guys look great and happy. And yes, sometimes we need that shaking up to free the mind so good things can happen. I wonder if every day there are “daily” versions of this we can do. 

    • http://twitter.com/GiraffesCanSwim Giraffes Can Swim

      That’s a great story Andrew. Do you miss any part of your old life?

    • Laura G.

      I fantasize about moving to a small mid-Western town to just be a waitress in a diner. I also work in the financial industry. Congratulations on your now happy life!

      • WesternWind

        You only live once. If you aren’t truly happy , then do something about it! Although I wouldn’t suggest the midwest…..Maine is nice; so is Portland.

        “.. almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs

      • Fibonacci85

        If you DO go to the midwest, make sure the area is homely. I’ve been in the midwest my whole life. Many places are just dead inside and it hurts to see. But don’t let someone like me change your dreams, home is what you make it, and dead or not, friendly people are everywhere.

    • Anonymous

      Seriously awesome comment! very inspiring!! I’ just finished college and I’m not enjoying the corporate life at all… I’m probably going to take a similar leap. Problem is I already live in Southern California….

      • Dizgusted

        For your similar leap I suggest that you move to Texas. Then you’ll realize how well off your are right now!

      • http://twitter.com/harryhackney Harry Hackney

        You could always move to the Florida Keys — island life with a road to the mainland.

    • Rob

      That sounds great, but how do you afford the cost of living?  Even a shack here is expensive.

      • justin

        Sounds like you;re in a big city…..
        I’ve rented houses or mobile homes in small towns in the south for as little as $160 a month.

        • Lyrik

          where? I live in the south and rent a room for $450/mo and can’t find anything cheaper than that.

  • http://twitter.com/PMBenfield PRISCILLA BENFIELD

    I have thought about escaping my life quite often as of late. If only it were easier I probably would have done it by now. Psychological baggage will always follow you even if you try and lose it.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      My guess is its possibel to drop the psychological clutter. But maybe its even harder than getting rid of the physical clutter.

      • Richard Dykiel

        That’s why changing your physical environment (location, life style…) helps. 

      • G3K762

        Physical clutter is harder to escape. Maybe you’re running from an addiction. That won’t change until you face it. Many people are. I have a marriage teetering on the brink of collapse after more than 25 years, no real reason….just drifted apart. My wife is going to make a decision on our future by July. In most ways, I’m saddened beyond comprehension about losing her. I’d be shattered.

        Yet somewhere deep inside me, there’s something that says “just go and never look back”. I hate living in New York, where the need for income trumps almost everything else. Our cash flow is usually tight, but we’ve been great savers and have close to a million between us in retirement assets. I could take my half, render unto Caesar (or maybe not) and go explore the vast west without regard for what tomorrow may bring. I’m a very young 47 and require little in the way of material goods. I’m torn. My wife is beautiful, thinner than our wedding day and a wonderfu woman. I just think she doesn’t really care for me any longer. I look to a life feeling sad for what I may likely lose, yet am excited at the prospect of real freedom. Does that make any sense to anyone?

        My youngest is in college, my oldest a military officer. I can still see them, but realistically, how much time do they really want with me?

        The future is bleak. The future is exciting. What will be the path?

  • Richard Dykiel

    Alternate scenario: live in a country for 42 years, marry, have kids. Then take your family to a new country and start a new life. You don’t disappear per se; you are still in contact, somewhat episodically, with your old friends. But you are now different, picking the new culture and set of ideas. I was lucky, it worked well for me – I won’t go back.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I like that idea also. 

      • Richard Dykiel

        James, want to try moving to my old country, France? They are desperately in need of your views on life, creativity.

    • Markie Mark

      How can you start a new life in a new country if you’re anti-social or rather not perceived as very friendly?

      • T.

        @Markie Mark: Moving to a new country if you’re anti-social is the perfect solution. My husband and I did it 15 years ago and we’re about as anti-social as they come. We live in a non-English speaking culture and we are as free as birds. When you’re non-native, no one expects you to be friendly. The cultural norms don’t apply to you simply because you *are* foreign. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, and don’t have to socialize with anyone you don’t want to. It’s a beautiful arrangement.

      • Richard Dykiel

        Well, how can you live your life today if you’re anti-social? Anyway it’s amazing how much can change in yourself, attitudes and all, when you press the big ‘reset’ button. It can be sudden, like a move elsewhere, or gradual, like the  changes James underwent in his own life.

  • Stuart Schrick

    Hey James you where mentioned in this article.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tech-stocks-tune-up-2-to-buy-3-to-sell-2012-03-22

    Since on of your hobbies is monitoring your blog stats you probably already know.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I hadn’t seen that, Stuart. Thank you. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/sampurtill Sam Purtill

    Dear James,

    Fascinating post. Are you familiar with the 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer? He essentially escaped society, giving up an immense inheritance and lavish lifestyle in an attempt to find who he really was outside of the material world with all of the trappings you describe. After years of isolation and reclusion, he wrote that “life is a pendulum swinging between suffering and boredom, with fleeting moments of happiness.” Schopenhauer’s philosophy perfectly captures the spirit of this post.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       I am going to wikipedia him right now! I think this is also the first time I used wikipedia as a verb.

  • http://healthycriticism.com/ Nick

    Heh; I’ve also read this book, and been fascinated with the concept of “disappearing” for a long time.

    At various points in my life I’ve “escaped” to a lesser extent: leaving my hometown in the northeast in my 20s, turning my back on academia and graduate school, and deciding to move cross-country for love. My girlfriend and I haven’t ruled out a more dramatic move together, if economic/political conditions in the US make it a good idea.

    As far as the “disappearance” you’re talking about, I think Emerson was right: wherever you go, your giant goes with you. Disappearing does seem cool (in a great-movie-idea sort of way) and a fresh start is sometimes just what someone needs, but to the extent that your problems are your own doing, they’ll follow you no matter where you go.

    • Anonymous

      Take it from me, Nick, turning your back on academia and graduate school was probably one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. 

  • Brasil61

    very nice James I did this ..twice..I’m 50 ..and not running from..was moving towards .. great book I read and took serious-> I Am That  

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Funny, did you know I was reading that book this very second? 

      • http://twitter.com/brasil61 Brasil61

        not surprised at all.. James .. it takes work but is as clear and true as it gets imo ..and I have read alot.. I have been reading that book literally for years.. 

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          In fact, Claudia just said to me, “I wish this was on Kindle”. because we always have to carry it back and forth between floors. But I find its a good book to just open and start reading, which is harder to do with kindle. 

    • Murali

      I wonder if you have read any book from Sri Ramana Maharshi, especially, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. I agree, I AM THAT is an amazing book.

       

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

         Yes, I think Maharshi is the real deal. If I can list people like him I think the list would only be about 5 or six people. Who else do you feel is like him?

        • Murali

          I would list Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj  and  Sri Robert Adams (an American  disciple of Sri Ramana, who had met Maharshi in late 1940’s). Robert Adams’s book, Silence of the heart, is a  spiritual classic, albeit not as popular as I AM THAT.

        • http://twitter.com/brasil61 Brasil61

          J Krishnamurti for one … very much like Maharshi.. they get to the same place and K’s life story much more dramatic.. 

  • DaemonC

    James, this is an awesome blog. I was thinking this exact thing today! Sort of. I was thinking of “homeless by choice” which is pretty much the same thing. Yes when I think about it it seems like true bliss. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.
    I am very happy with my minimalistic lifestyle, but you reminded me that others I care about need my help in navigating this truly thoughtless and unforgiving cruel world we call life. So I stay in for their sake. One day tho, it will be a reality. It is a reality, as long as you follow the golden rule. Make today an awesome day! DaemonC 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Yeah, I agree. Its almost like you have to check the box on three things:
       – know enough to survive and take care of your responsibilities
       – be nice to others
       – and about yourself, know as little as possible.

      Then freedom.

  • Donna

    That music, Sadko Song of India Rimsky Korsakov, almost made me cry. And I’m all grown up.

  • Andrew_ferri

    And that’s my take away from this piece. I have taken steps backward as you know, since crossing over. It is a great point that we can do things in our daily lives to beak away. Thanks for checking in on us James!

  • http://twitter.com/arora_rish Rishabh Arora

    Awesome piece! I think a lot of people can relate to the excitement that this very idea of getting a ‘rebirth’ creates!
    Reminds me of a 7-day meditation technique I read a few years back, haven’t tried it yet, though. Check it out here: http://www.oshoworld.com/tantra_medi/otantra.asp?news_id=58

  • http://www.preemptiveplacebo.com Preemptive Placebo

    For about a hundred-million years our little furry forefathers roamed from place to place.  Over the past five-hundred-thousand years we perfected this nomadism by following the seasons, the herds, and the water, ingraining lifelong motion into our genome.  Once we stopped moving for a week or a season we would find a secure temporary place to nest. 

    Just a few decades ago Realtors got involved in the process.  They used our desire to nest as a tool to convince us that in order to be secure we must remain fixed to one place for a lifetime.  They made us believe that we must own the place and that we must insulate ourselves from the harsh world around us with as many things as possible.  Motion becomes impossible.  We become slaves to place and possession.   

    Today we attempt to satisfy our innate nomadism with a two-week trip to the Ixtapa but come away feeling the need for more.  When we know we need to make a change in life our inner vagabond kicks into high gear and drives us to want to shed possessions, shed the familiar and start-over somewhere new. 

    The internal conflict caused by these two realities – our innate desire to move clashing with society’s focus on keeping us motionlessness – creates big problems.  Recognition is the first step to resolving an inner conflict.  Realizing that the dissonance exists allows us to be mindful of how it shapes our lives.  After that, the problems solve themselves. 

    No need for sadhus or magical thinking.    

  • Murali

    James,

    Awesome post. 

  • Debbie Sharratt

    It makes shudder. I want connections to my past and goals for the future.They inform who I am and what direction to head. Without those things what purpose would drive your new life in India?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I don’t know. I ask this sincerely: is purpose a pre-requisite to being happy? The answer I lean towards is: No. Purpose happens automatically when we find happiness. 

  • http://marn-foundlife.blogspot.com/ standswithagist

    You are the haunted house, Altucher. You can’t run away from yourself and you can’t run away from the pain of BEING yourself.

    I preemptively apologize if I’m misreading you, or projecting.

  • http://kymira.blogspot.com/ Chimera Swa

    while all of you here want to move to India ( I am yet to discover the joys of India!), I moved from Indian to the United States. It was a big move for me and especially learning how to survive in corporate America. I dunno if I would want to go back to India. I wish I could feel the same way you feel about India but my friend bitching about 10 hrs of power cut this summer at temperatures around 110 , I doubt it! Are you still planning to go to India? 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Well, I was more thinking of tenement housing in Chinatown actually.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RQAESSOTEPQKK6KLYOT4PDB4YM Richie

    Your last paragraph reminds me of how Steve Jobs began his journey to build Apple.

    • http://twitter.com/arora_rish Rishabh Arora

      “I wanted to be like an orphan, who had… just arrived out of nowhere, with no roots, no connections, no background” page 33, Steve’s biography!

      This one stuck out in my head, coz I live, or make effort to live, by this idea everyday! :) nice catch Richie!

  • Rickyleerobinson

    I did it and never looked back.  I am pretty lonely sometimes, pretty happy sometimes.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Having known you in your previous incarnation 30 years ago I can say, you really did do it! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amit-Srivastava/1219258591 Amit Srivastava

    Thats so enlightening article. I’m from India. You really can dissapear there :)

  • http://twitter.com/Adam_8020 Adam

    This post really hits home for me. 
    I left everything and everyone I knew in Australia to live in Estonia in 2009. It was the best decision I ever made.
    We always have more freedom than we realise. 
    You really can become someone else if you really want to.
    PS I love ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Jet Set’ episode too.

  • JP

    This pseudocide fantasy is, for me, best elucidated by the “Flitcraft parable” – a short, seemingly throwaway passage of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon,” excerpted here: http://www.fallingbeam.org/beam.htm . This parable also forms the beating heart of Paul Auster’s brilliant novel “Oracle Night.” I highly recommend both books.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      “Oracle Night” is on my shelf. Will try to start reading it this week, thanks for the recommendation. Working my way through “Choke” at the moment by Pahliunuk. 

      • http://snobbyrobot.com/ Erik Urtz

        Funny that you are reading Choke (great book by the way) as a lot of discussion in here recalls ‘Fight Club.’ 

  • http://www.PriscillaPWood.com/ Priscilla P. Wood

    I have now lived in three countries and it’s usually me running away from some kind of pain. Last time I did this I moved from L.A to Vietnam for one year, at that time I was running away from a failed marriage. It did not work -it never does. My baggage checked-in with me on that flight to Asia. I have found that the best way to deal with pain is actually becoming friends with it. Get to know it, learn what triggers it, feel where it hurts, taste its flavor, chances are it’ll be bitter but this is the only way to know who you truly are, to discover that you don’t have to run away anymore is to find real freedom. But I still want to run away -everyday.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think that is a good approach. Getting to be friends with the pain. I think the idea of visualizing the disapearance, and seeing the feeling it creates, and trying to hold onto that feeling and understand what feels good about it, is more useful than the actual running. 

  • http://twitter.com/HoboDrifter Steve O’Neill

    I too always dreamed about being homeless, until one day I just did it… kind of.

    I sold nearly everything I owned on craigslist or donated it to Good Will.  That was how I bought my one way ticket from New York to London.  I wanted to disappear.  Whatever didn’t fit into my 40 lb backpack was discarded or left in the corner of my parents basement.  I left a secure job, a beautiful girlfriend and a great group of friends.  I often wonder if I was unknowingly smoking crack at the time – maybe sleep-smoking?  That was just the fear talking.  I would later learn that this was the best decision I ever made. 

    3 months of traveling through 30+ foreign cities, seeing the architecture, and experiencing the culture changed my life.  Sitting on a park bench reading and people watching for hours on end. I made quite a few international friends, mostly travelers.  They understood my horrible stench, tattered clothes, and grotesque travel beard.

    Then came my return to the U.S.  Culture shock in my home country was surprising to say the least.  Too much was going on.  Too much to grab my attention and pull me away from my goals.  But my trip had changed me to the core and allowed me to block much of it out.  Thanks pseudocide.  I rediscovered my passion for writing while I blogged about my adventure abroad.  I had seen, first hand, what a simple life not only entailed but how happy it could make me.  So, now I write.  I work meaningless jobs to make ends meet (frowned upon by my family because of my college degree).  But I’m happy with my life as a hobodrifter.

    Thanks for writing James…

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       And thank you for writing. You are sort of a living example of how to do this.

    • Anonymous

       Uhhh Steve…. how are ya just going to leave a comment like that and not even post a link to your blog. Comon!

      • Tony

        I’m always amazing how how lack of “attention to detail” (laziness) permeates society.

        Did you not notice how Steve’s name above is hyperlinked in red?

        See, just simply clicking on it would have gotten you this url:
        http://www.hobodrifter.com

        • Anonymous

          Ya I already got it. But I decided to leave the comment as it compliments Steve’s contribution. But hey thanks for being a dick I’m sure you were happy for a few minutes.

        • Vickymex2003

          It’s good to know, Tony, that you’re “always amazing how how” while calling out other people’s errors. Attention to detail? Good luck with that.

        • UncleMookie

          Thanks for pointing that out, Tony. I’m (no kidding) colorblind…

    • lucybrewster

      Thank you Steve for your wonderful post. I know it is 3 years old, but I am just running accross it today. Stange how I found it. Watching the Bourne Supremacy, I saw him running the beach in India. I googled ” How to disappear completely…” and your post came up. You already know my heart. I am a wonderer too. It’s good to know about a kindrid spirit. My responsibilities to my husband and children in college prevent me from the vagabond life right now, but “these things too will pass eventually”, and I will be climbing the steps at Machu Pichu, washing up in a bathroom at the Luvre and basking on the beach in Belise.
      Love to you and all with wanderlust.

  • http://twitter.com/arora_rish Rishabh Arora

    “I wanted to be like an orphan, who had.. just arrived out of nowhere, with no roots, no connections, no background”
    – Steve Jobs (Biography)

    Leaving your past baggage, is the only way to experience the Happiness in life. You become just like an “Intelligent” “Kid”. What more could you ask for? ;)

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, well said. Its the Kid that is innocent but still knows what he doesn’t know and is not afraid to experience the freedom of exploration. 

  • http://twitter.com/GiraffesCanSwim Giraffes Can Swim

    I think I feel bored? If you remove the complex nature of expectations and everything you do in your life to meet them, life would be quite dull.

    Sounds like a fun experiment though.

  • http://planetoplano.blogspot.com/ Leonardo

    Good stimulating post.
    Diogenes the philosopher, in the third century B.C., withdrew from the world, saying he wanted to live like a dog. Therefore he was called the Cynic. He was the son of a man who had been convicted for defacing coinage, and he wanted to do the same on a universal scale: to live like the social construct was like a superscription on a coin that, after all, was nothing but base metal.
    It’s a philosophy of retreat from a hostile world, (he lived under an oppressive regime), which has a certain character of “otherwordliness”. For example, he condemned Prometheus for having given Man the arts that produced the artificiality of the technological world, (in the 3rd century!); but material goods are not secure; only virtue  and contentment through resignation are secure, he said, and should be valued by the wise, which seems to me to be what you’re proposing. 
    But if you were to carry the proposition to its logical end, you wouldn’t be even writing on this blog.
          

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks. I did not know about him or Schopenhauer (mentioned in another comment) before writing this post and now after looking them both up they are definitely on my things-to-read list.

  • http://twitter.com/GiraffesCanSwim Giraffes Can Swim

    Also, I’m convinced that some people do this every 10 years or so, just without the disappearing part.

  • http://www.unmappedcountry.blogspot.com/ Hope

    “Wherever you go, there you are.”–Buckaroo Bonzai

    • boo

      My husband and I did a cross-country move a few years ago and I thought it would be totally life-changing. In many ways it was, but boy did I come to understand that saying. A few of my problems moved with me because it wasn’t circumstances causing them, it was me.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Haha. I like that. 

  • Demian Farnworth

    Holy smokes just three weeks ago I just broke a three month-long funk in which I was ready to jump in the car and change zip codes every day. The only problem is I have a wife and children I love. 

    The temptation to disappear was real and seemed like a good way to solve my “problems” but in my case it would’ve been merely avoiding responsibility. 

    The legend about Gauguin fleeing to the South Pacific intrigues me, and the obsession with fame and the fear of failure…of not accomplishing anything “significant”…is behind my motive to flee often, thinking if I didn’t have a family I could devote myself to art and “really” accomplish something.

    I have a letter from Sweden, from the Noble organization, that says I won the prize in 2046 for Literature. It’s fake, something I made to motivate myself to write, but I often find that it interferes with my relational side of life. In the New Yorker the other day I came across a cartoon where an accountant announces to his family that he was leaving him because he felt like they were keeping him back from truly reaching his potential. Funny as hell, but all too real. 

    I know that in my case if I would have run my problems would only have compounded. Behind me a wake of destroyed lives…wife, children, mother, grandmother and really close friends, not to mention ruined business relationships.

    In my case the conquering of my depression was to take control of my life [I’d let it get out of hand]…make the right decisions involving work…and exert control in my sphere of influence was the answer to my problems. 

    I think guys by default want to flee. We are seduced by the easy rider life. That’s why I enjoy running long distances and hanging out in remote forests…by myself. But at some point I have to return to my responsibilities.

    I made choices to be where I am now so I’m obligated to fulfill the responsibilities. And be happy about those decisions. I really have a good life…great wife, wonderful children, the best of friends a guy could ask for, enviable work…so a lot of what motivates me to split is sheer self pity. Anybody relate? ;) 

    • Demian Farnworth

      By the way, I was about to share with you a link to a guy name Simon Black [not his real name] who runs a web site called Sovereign Man…it’s all about independence, planting multiple flags, nomadism…but his site…well…disappeared. 

      Try it: SovereignMan.com

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

         Interesting. I’m going to try and find out on archive.org.

      • http://planetoplano.blogspot.com/ Leonardo

        You’re right, (the sovereign man is too); it’s all about planting multiple flags and eluding the state. The feeling is unsettling at first, but exhilarating.
        Also, in the ascetic downsizing, lets-get-rid-of everything atmosphere of this post, I’d like to say a word in favor of the object, in the sense of the product of industry: industrial design is art. I love a car designed by Marcello Gandini, (check him out); I love light airplanes; boats, (you can live on them); furniture designed by Carlo Mollino, (check him out too). Creative activity is good. It’s human. Being human is good: even God became a man, just to try it. Let’s enjoy it. There’s no need to mortify ourselves.
        L.

        • Demian Farnworth

          You’re spot on Leonardo about creativity and being human. I love what you said “even God became a man.” It is good being human and creating. And I usually find myself in a funk when I neglect that side of my being because I get so focused on work or responsibility I fail to invest in creating. Thanks. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Demian, thanks for sharing this. And yes, I think taking control of life comes hand in hand with feeling the real relief that we imagine would come with disappearing.

      I try every morning to really really imagine it. To picture that freedom. I feel that relief wash over me and then the trick is to go into my real world but keep the relief. To keep that feeling of freedom, as I watch the prison bars disappear around me. The ones that my mind built and not anything man-made.

      • Demian Farnworth

        Well said, James: “The ones that my mind built and not anything man-made.” Isn’t that the truth.  

      • Richard Dykiel

        In reading those exchanges I realize I didn’t answer Jame’s question: “how do you feel?” Because I did change my life, and because it was a positive experience, I don’t need to imagine, but just to remember the feeling of freedom I experienced, and that I still experience after all these years. The feeling of having found a place in the world where I belong. Much as you don’t choose your family, you don’t choose your place of birth. But you always have the freedom to change.

        I remember when we were getting ready for the move; a friend visited us and expressed his envy at our moving to the USA. To our question “why don’t you do it? After all you are young and without strings”, he looked back at us and said “yes, but I’d be doing this alone..”

        Some people move to escape their lives, and some don’t move for fear of being alone, a foreigner in a strange land. 

    • Richard Dykiel

      Now that I have chosen where I wanted to live, I relate. But life is long, and once my kids are on their way, maybe I’ll live my next dream, casting off on my sailboat.

      • Demian Farnworth

        Richard, nice dream, and that’s something my wife and I think about, too! however, There is that tension though that we may not live to see the day our children on their way… So it’s kind of like finding that balance, right? Going freelance I’ve found has allowed me to find that balance. And because we homeschool we can take extended workations [though that’s not easy because I’m a routine guy]. :) I also try to keep in mind not to miss the present, namely investing in my children’s lives while they are still with us. 

        • Richard Dykiel

          Looks like you don’t need to read James Altucher anymore, do you? Just joking :-) Good for you finding that balance, and paying attention to the present is important. I’m just looking into the future, whatever happens.

          • Demian Farnworth

            Nah, I’ll never stop reading James, because it’s not the pointers and tips that draw me…it’s the raw storytelling from a stock guy that keeps bringing me back. ;)

  • Zacoking

    It’s an incredibly liberating experience to be in a city/country where absolutely no one knows you. I have had this a few times in my life and think it is extremely important to figuring out who I was and what I wanted from life. As you said James, it frees you from all expectations, all projections of how other people see you and want you to be. It has become a staple of Australian culture that we take off and do a year or two of International travel – maybe this is because we are so geographically isolated, maybe due to our migrant heritage, but for whatever reason I think it’s fantastic. Not only does it broaden your worldview, but just like Don Draper you get a chance to start over. Ever considered touring around Europe/south America/anywhere for a year James?

    • ds

      Very very true! I haven’t done much international travel, but a year after high school I moved about 6 hours away to the city and hung out with a whole new crowd of people. These people had no expectations for who I supposed to be and the mold I was supposed to conform to. Several years later I looked back and realized I was a completely different person, who was no longer timid and shy from essentially being bullied into being the person I was expected to be. 

      I have personally found that middle/high school was probably the most crippling place a young person can be and this probably held my personal development back several years. Being thirty years old I am feeling again like I’m being held back because of my own ridiculous fears that I won’t fit into other peoples expectations. I’m recognizing this and I really don’t care as much these days about what anyone thinks. I am seriously considering moving though, perhaps overseas for inspiration and to get another fresh start where I can truly live the amazing life I want to live.

      Anyways, you Australians are on to something and I think everyone in this world should do several years travelling before they settle down anywhere. It’s good for one’s personal development as I have found, but also to give people more awareness of other cultures and respect from where others have come from!

  • Anonymous

    i’ve done it twice, but then I don’t really have a family so it’s a lot easier…I think life today has too many boundaries…

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, I agree. But I still think that feeling of freedom is possible. The boundaries are outside of us but the ones inside can be broken. 

  • Kate

    you may be the first person to actually convince me to watch Mad Men from the beginning (missed the beginning and then felt like i am just too behind to catch up).

    Also, why do you think people get so hung up on ‘roots’ – i have wanted to move for 2years and have finally convinced my husband to move.  CANNOT WAIT!  am so done with 3 hours of traffic a day. and over crowded stores/events on weekends (seriously, a grocery store with a 2 level parking garage SHOULD NOT RUN OUT OF PARKING SPACES) *ahem*

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Kate, thats a great question and related to my posts on why I think people should not buy homes. I don’t know what the fascination with “roots” are. I think they are an outcome of a trillion dollar mortgage industry that relies on people thinking that happiness == roots. Biologically we were nomads for 90% of homo sapiens lifespan on this planet. And then suddenly we needed roots to be happy.

      • Ze wad

        “I don’t know what the fascination with “roots” are.”

        People wish to be settled:  only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. – Emerson

  • Capo Regime

    James great post.  I think the escape theme is strong and lately getting stronger in the U.S.  Routine and lots of expectations dominate people and well its very confining.  Plus the lunatic notion of only two to three weeks vacation and glorifying work (work which usually consists of being in some cubicle in a drab office building, doing mind numbing work, is true for most college grad sort).  If I had a dime for every person in the U.S. who takes pride in carrying over vacation time I would have a lot of dimes.   With this mindset its no wonder that taking off to Papua New Guinea or being like the guys in route 66 is so damn appealing.  I know for a fact that for Australians and Europeans the pressure is less as well most people travel a lot as it is and get out more.

  • http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/why-you-need-f-you-money/ Jlcollinsnh

    If you haven’t already, check out Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher” series of novels.  Jack has a small bank account, the clothes on his back (he buys new ones when they get dirty) and a folding tooth brush in his pocket.

    Very appealing to me and, I’m getting there……

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       J, I definitely will check those out. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Vickymex2003

      Jlcollinsnh, I think you’ll be way better than Tom Cruise in the role of Reacher!

      • http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/why-you-need-f-you-money/ Jlcollinsnh

        thanks Vicky….

        at least I’m the right size.  Tom Cruise??  say it ain’t so!

        is there a Reacher movie in the works?

  • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

    “But a minimalist lifestyle is bullshit unless you can do it across every sheath in the daily practice: not just physical, but also emotional, mental, and spiritual.”

    Boy – have I found this to be true.  So as I de-clutter I am dumping the baggage and learning so much about why I am the way I am.  It starts with getting rid of junk, but then it takes on a life of its own……just stay the course.  And soon you’ll be a new person.

    It takes work.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       So true. Every day I try to find things to throw out, and then things to throw out of my head. Which is often harder than discarding an old book I haven’t read in years.

    • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

      Ponder this: What I Own and What Owns Me

      • http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/why-you-need-f-you-money/ Jlcollinsnh

        everything you own owns you.

        • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

          Exactly.

          So if you own hurts, anger, disappointments etc. it’s by choice.

          I think it takes awhile to understand that you can throws those things away.  I know it’s taken me a lifetime so far, and I am still working at it, but it’s getting easier by the day.

    • April Judson

      I found the same thing 736. When I examine the physical object I am tossing, it makes me question my motivations for acquiring ‘stuff’ and my need to hang on. It’s a great way to jump start the process of simplifying all aspects of your my life.

  • http://www.kararane.com/ kara rane

    we are All Transients.

  • random Q

    James, have you read Shantaram? And if yes, what are your thoughts on his experiences.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      On your recommendation I just downloaded it. The wikipedia description of it looks interesting. 

  • Anonymous

    I hope you are not encouraging kids to run away… Do you know what that would do to their family?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Funny, that was exactly what I was encouraging with this post. Damn, as the principal said in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “the jig is up”.

      • http://tinystmv.blogspot.com Tiny

         did you just quote Ed Rooney?  Sweet!

  • Dave Blaha

    I moved to the Virgin Islands a few years ago to disappear and have met a lot of people who did the same.  It’s pretty easy.

  • Victimmg1

    this is great i do the same thing i even read that book. i even took a vacation by  myself one time. i went to arizona and just roamed around. rented a car drove from place to place, got lost missed a flight home. weird thing is i drove to vegas one day just because i get a kick out of gambling once in a while and sure enough i ran  into someone i knew.

  • Fruedianexcusesarefunny45

    “If someone told me that I could live my life again free of depression provided I was willing to give up the gifts depression has given me–the depth of awareness, the expanded consciousness, the increased sensitivity, the awareness of limitation, the tenderness of love, the meaning of friendship, the apreciation of life, the joy of a passionate heart–I would say, ‘This is a Faustian bargain! Give me my depressions. Let the darkness descend. But do not take away the gifts that depression, with the help of some unseen hand, has dredged up from the deep ocean of my soul and strewn along the shores of my life. I can endure darkness if I must; but I cannot live without these gifts. I cannot live without my soul.'”
         ~ David N. Elkins, Beyond Religion, p. 188

    I cannot forget what my past has taught me. Running may work well for some, but not for me. This existentialist quote sums up my thoughts. I can’t stop and forget all my ambitions, hates, fears, friends, and enemies who made me who I am today. Everyday we wake up a new person. If one really wants to start anew, start out gradually. This worked and will continue working for me. Life goes on; it is impossible to repeat the happiest times in our lives fully. So we continue on into the dark mist, looking for a light to hold onto until a gust of wind comes and blows it out again.

  • Paul

    James,

    While the idea of disappearing and living the simple life sounds appealing. It also ignores one major fly in the ointment.

    Health. I recently tore my rotator cuff and detached a biceps tendon. The pain was unimaginable and constant. Luckily, I had insurance and access to a good surgeon. It’s been about three months since I’ve been able to lie flat without intense pain.

    I’m right handed and my right arm is still so weak and useless 20 days post-op it’s scary. I sleep in a padded reclining chair (luckily I had one) for, at best, 2 – 3 hours before waking up from pain as the drugs wear off.

    Without proper treatment or the heavy narcotics (for pain) I might well have done myself in- the ultimate and alternate way of disappearing I guess.

    Vagabonds, even with some access to reasonable money, might not have been able to get the treatment needed to continue living in a reasonable manor. Certainly not in a foreign land where you might not have good command of the language… or the sympathy of the locals.

    Without the help of my wife, I could not have gotten through the past few months, even here in the USA, and with plenty of resources. I can’t imagine what it would have been like, all alone, in some of the more primitive places many of your others readers have glorified in their comments.

    America has many flaws, as does our society in general. I’m scared for the future of our once-great nation. I just don’t know anyplace else that seems better and I’ve been desperately searching for some alternative in the same way prophetic German Jews must have been doing in the pre-WWII years.

    You see disater ahead but it’s very tough to leave everything behind simply because you hope and pray your vision of the future will be wrong.

    Paul

    • rollingdancefloor

      It takes over a year to heal up. I have had 3 major tears, 3 surgeries, as you well know it’s a nightmare. It will get better, you may never have your full power, but it will get better, it just takes time, stay positive.

      • Deuce

        Drew Brees begs to differ. If you’re going to trap yourself here for the medical care, at least go to a better doctor. I recovered from a broken back faster than this. 3 years?! You should have sued your doctor after 2.

    • http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/why-you-need-f-you-money/ Jlcollinsnh

      depends on the foreign land.  I’ve traded to many places where I’d prefer to be treated for injury that here in the US.  Of course, I’d prefer not to have an injury that needed treatment at all.

      Hope you heal quickly and completely.

    • Dutch

      “Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither”.

  • Jeff

    Synchronicity! I was thinking about the Jet Set yesterday when I saw pics of Don Draper in the news. 

    I love the bit where he wakes up and is in a new world with new people.  “Why would you deny yourself something you want?” asks Joy.Good question.  My answer was to ‘disappear’ twice.  Once to the UK, now Asia.It worked.  I now have no excuses for not living exactly the life I want.  It’s great.But the great benefits come with great responsibility.  And 20 years after disappearing, I’m only just starting to fully realize that.

  • cowboy logic

    Live in Texas, live your dream.

  • Wyatt Junker

    Hey James.

    Listen to this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1wg1DNHbNU

    You’ve heard it before, but it speaks to your post.

  • Horsefeathers

    Between this inane article and the comments that inevitably have accrued I now have amassed a superb collection of ten-cent-store philosophy. You don’t live in a vacuum, you know. At least when you just sit around contemplating your navel you’re not adversely affecting the people who love you and depend upon you. This is the “me” generation at its finest and as close to pure solipcism as I would ever hope to encounter!

  • bala

    Interesting, if i do this i would certainly feel Lost than being Disappeared. I feel Humans are forever in search of a purpose, so this would probably help only if your current situation causes you intense pain or deep void. But the search for purpose will always brings you back to the door step of the same problem from which the person is running away. 

  • http://peachin.blogspot.com peachin

    In a way, I disappeared temporarily and often, in the last 15 years – being on the road – arriving in a new location -frequently – coming in clean (socially) without a past – except the state of my license plates.  Quite refreshing…
    Of course, every revelation, leads you back to your “head” and all your baggage – the benefit – and understanding… (slowly) in minimizing that which was negative from the past… similar in many ways to the evolution of an “Acid Trip” full circle with new experiences.

    James, you have a gift – which is obvious to all your readers… thanks!!!!

  • ds

    Something else I found recently that’s kind of related to this post and ongoing discussion. The Eight of Swords tarot card sums it up fairly well. Have a look. I’m not a believer in religion or magic, but there’s always some truth to their teachings. 

    “This card usually indicates a time of powerlessness and restriction, and more often than not this restriction is self-imposed. You may be holding yourself back because you fear moving into the future, or because you are wary of getting hurt by a new situation, or maybe for no reason at all. In rare instances you will find that another person’s action – or inaction – is what keeps you from moving forward, but most of the time the blame falls on you alone. You cannot be held back unless part of you wants to be held back. The trick is finding a way to overcome that, and free yourself from the bonds of fear and doubt.”
    source:http://www.ata-tarot.com/resource/cards/s08.html 

  • Matthew

    James, you blew it out of the water with this post. I was getting a bit tired of the lists (though I appreciate how hard it is to publish daily). This one really struck a chord.

    “All of this to say, there’s something primal in me that wants to disappear. To mix with what I view as the lowest of the low, to forget about my past, to sign up for a future that is meaningless, to think only about right now and give up everything else.”

    “Tell me the truth – how do you feel?” 

    Damn, that’s good. So much so that I’m inclined to comment at length for the first time. 

    First of all, thanks for writing, and for bleeding on the page. The bottom has fallen out for me in the last year (failed business, hard landing), and your words have been a balm. 

    Now regarding the topic of this post. I’ve been the expatriate at various times (including Argentina). It certainly has its appeal, not least of which is being regarded as exotic by the local beauties. But there’s the flip side, which is that, in so many of these places, you never will belong, and your fellow expatriates are almost always people running from something. I recall the line from Sun Also Rises: 

    “Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”

    Some people are fine with living for themselves. A simple life. I’m not one of them. It’s not the legitimacy I crave, but rather the potential for impact that legitimacy bequeaths. But outside the US and maybe the UK, there really aren’t any open societies, that is, places prepared to accept you unconditionally. I get involved: I get pissed off at the injustices and mediocrities of many of the best refuges and want to help, and happen to believe that means politics of philanthropy. I go back to something Kafka said: 

    “You can hold back from the suffering of the world. You have free permission to do so and it is in accordance with your nature. But perhaps this holding back is the one suffering you could have avoided.” 

    This is not to judge those who have chosen a simple life, or those who need to escape to reflect.  But merely something to consider. 

  • http://twitter.com/priteshdesai Pritesh Desai

    and who’s to say that you won’t mess up your ‘new’ life?

  • http://Www.brookefarmer.com/ Brooke Farmer

    If I had never had my son I think I would have moved once a year to a place I knew no one. Just picked up without a word and disappeared into a new life.

    Of course, that isn’t possible when children are involved. Or, at least, not morally responsible.

    Still, I think of disappearing all the time. Though I know I’ll never really do it.

    • Bp

      You sound like the mom out of the film ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’. Google it.

  • Rio

    I’m still trying out the “live every day like it is your first” exercise.  And although it is very hard and I need to constantly remind myself that it is my first day here, it is probably the most exciting philosophy I have tried out. 

     Like others here, I too left everything behind in ’09 (well to be honest my job left me and then I left everything else), and what I ended up with was myself, minus all the distractions.  Hard to ignore yourself when you are all you have left. 

    I don’t think that for everyone it would take something so drastic, though. What it would take is whatever it would take to change your perspective because that is really what it is all about.

  • http://twitter.com/greghartle Greg Hartle

    I’m in the middle of an experiment similar to what you’ve described. Started with just $10 and my laptop, not using any existing relationships or financial means, I’m rebuilding my entire life from scratch. All the while traveling through all 50 states. The first few hours I felt like I was going to die. It’s been rather liberating and enjoyable since.

    • Beatrice

      How did you do that. It is fascinating.

  • pennywise

    I cobbled a family together at the 11th hour so daddy would be proud but it didn’t work. Had to buy 3rd world in bulk or there was no hope. They would rather kill me and use the parts to make stew than look at me. My house is in a ravine with sewage runoff from the neighbors in the back yard. And I’m old. And stuck.

    What if I had courage as a younger man? Was less insecure? Now I have neither courage nor youth. I’m trapped in a used minivan with a leftover woman and somebody else’s kid. I try to control the bitterness and fits of anger but can’t. Now my bitterness has put me in an even worse position and I’m afraid.

    How can I escape the misery? If I were young and handsome like Don Draper I might try something new. But I am not and cannot.

    • http://marn-foundlife.blogspot.com/ standswithagist

      Don Draper is not real, you ARE. Yes, even old and stuck you are of much more value than a fictionalized unrealistic character on the sparkling lie that is a tv show. If you leave the family you hate, can it get worse? Yes, of course – you could end up living under a bridge with sewage run-off as your front yard. 

      But escape isn’t always a geographical cure, sometimes it has to be a cognitive one. If you’re unwilling to leave – and saying you “cannot” is still a choice whether you own that or not – ever hear of radical acceptance?Viktor Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

  • Mikey

    All of this is just so true. Im 25 years old, super ambitious and as i look back i realize i have given away years of my life until i reach my “goals” whatever they may be. I cant do this until i have this much $, i cant do that until i have this much $….. and on and on and on. Now as i realize im just letting my life go by… for what, as if im not good enough to put myself out there and live a “normal” life until i have succeeded. For years i have lived my life stressed and limited waiting to accomplish something first, its super unhealthy and depressing. Seeing successful and well off people talk about just walking away sometimes helps. As i get a little older i realize i need to live in the now. Im like the guy that doesn’t show up to the party until hes got the right clothes and right car, but then shows up with grey hair and everyone is 25 and im now 60 too late to realize what i lost. I need to work on changing my outlook and perception.

    • http://marn-foundlife.blogspot.com/ standswithagist

      Good for you! It’s wonderful you realized now instead of waking up middle-aged with all the money in the world, all the “success” you thought you wanted  . . . and realizing you’re still not happy and your existence is empty. Best of what life (lived in the now) has to offer!

  • http://twitter.com/TL_Hastings Tyler Hastings

    This is awesome. I have definitely had similar thoughts as far as moving to India goes. I wonder if the tactics you mentioned would still work today. 

  • Gil

    The downside of dropping out like that is that if you get murdered or get jailed for a crime you didn’t commit then no one’s going to care.

  • Spitfireatme

    James, since you mention “the little death” – do you think sex or more particularly semen loss are unhealthy? Hindus think the latter, intuitively I think any guy could feel his. Celibacy as health and a survival tactic, a way to become more energetic and aggressive, something I look to write about. Think of how much sex dominates people’s lives, and for what? What’s their reward? A few seconds of pleasure and so much obsession? Not to say sex is bad, I think healthy relationships are great! But I think sex in massive moderation is needed and the world is far from that!

    • Libertymike

      Ernest Borginee, at 95 years young, would disagree with you. 

  • wa_state

    My wife and I went thhrough this process a few years back. We had enough of the corporate life and sold all but 10 boxes of stuff (3 of which were wine:) ) and took off to South America. I had the perception that all the baggage would be left behind. This wasn’t the case as I didn’t take the time to really understand what we were running from. The physical running wasn’t enough to overcome the lack of emotional consideration.
    We returned back to the states after a my wife became pregnant (they put things in the water!). We are now back in the same grind we were before we left the first time. We are planning another get away this time with son in tow and more clarity on what we want in life for ourselves and our son.
    Thank you for another good article.
    Long live peace and liberty!

  • Rob

    I’m always looking for someone who would live in a hut with me on the beaches of Mexico, or in a cabin in the mountains.  No one has the guts.  I guess being a drone in this rat race is preferable to them.

    • Miriam Huston

       I will!! :) :) Im serious.

      • http://danmar.posterous.com/ jmdanmar

        That’s a great challenge Miriam. Did it work? :-)

  • charles chapman

    What a commentary on our over-complicated lives. If only we had been born in India.

  • Ted

    Years ago after about six and a half years of college, I decided to escape.  I found a couple of waterlogged “fixer” surfboards on the beach and bought a VW bus.  I walked away from a fully furnished apartment and a girlfriend who had just discovered cocaine and wanted to kill me.  I did odd jobs for the next ten years and lived in three vans, two trees and three boats before I decided to head back to a normal reality.  I thought I’d try the American dream.  I bought a 3bd/2ba house with the two car garage full of toys, i.e. bikes, boats, etc.  I put up a white picket fence around the property and landscaped the place.  Then I saw some bums passing a bottle and remembered how carefree that life was.  I gave away everything I couldn’t sell, and am back to everything I can fit in my sailboat.  I’m planning a trip to the Bahamas, and if that goes well I’ll head down to the Caribbean.  I hadn’t considered the idea of obtaining new identification.  When I was living on the street everyone went by their first names and some other identifier like, “Guitar Randy”, “Arizona Bob”, etc.  Given the fact that I’ve never married and have no children, it’s pretty easy to just pick up and leave.  Although I do have a cousin that bought a boat and sailed  from Canada down to Central America with her husband and two children.  I did experience some fear and anxiety while I was getting rid of most of my stuff, but now that it’s gone I feel great.  I highly recommend it for anyone who is tired of the “rat race”.                                                                                                                          

  • Sean

    I’ve read stories about Zen monks who have a box that they wear around their necks. Inside this box, they carry all of their worldly posessions. The more they have, the more their box weighs, and the more difficult it is for them to carry it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Fuchs/30507754 Josh Fuchs

    Im moving to Costa Rica in june by myself… ill let u know how disappearing feels

  • http://twitter.com/Mulla_man Abdullah al-mulla

    This is amazing….I thought I was alone, going mad, but I suppose the appeal of the simple life is really not just for monks. I am in my final year in my university education, but I dread the life to come, although I have been almost literally bred for it one would say. But I suppose at least I’m not alone.

  • Justin

    Ive done the escape thing a time or two.

    You dont have to move to another country, although for some people I guess it helps.

    I had a nice job as a park ranger, got tired of it,  bought a (very) used  18 wheeler and hit the road.  Sold my car for the down payment on the rig, and got rid of everything but 10 days worth of clothes.

    Built a shower in my truck, installed a chemical toilet and fridge, lived in the truck for 3 years.
    Made good money too.  Saved almost all of it.  Used the money to buy a rundown cabin on  7 acres with a nice creek, bordering the Nat’l Forest in the Appalachian  mountains.

    Im back in the big city suburbs, raising my family and making good money, but still have the place in the mtns to escape to on weekends.

    Anyone wishing to chuck the rat race should do so,  you may discover the rat race isnt so bad after all, but you need to find out for yourself.

    In the  Ga Farmers Market Bulletin, there are almost always ads with farmers wanting someone to live on their farm and help out, in exchange for room and board.

    Lots of campgrounds have “camp hosts” who get to stay for free in exchange for cleaning the restrooms and picking up trash.

    You dont have to  move to the middle of nowhere to drop out, in  lots of coastal locations, you can anchor your boat  a little offshore for no fee.  In St Augustine FL, as Im sure you can in alot of other places, you can anchor your boat a hundred or so feet off shore, in the river and live there rent free.

    As for how to disappear, where people who are looking for you cannot find you,  thats a totally different  subject, covered best at http://www.howtobeinvisible.com

    Or just look at all the illegal immigrants, they have no ID, no (real)  Drivers license, or anything. Would be almost impossible for the govt to find,  yet there they are.

  • G.P.

    Honestly I would feel shit to live in India becouse its a damn poor country, people are sick and starving and it’s also full of spiritual mumbo-jumbo. HELL NO!

  • The David

    The closer you are to the truth, the more you disappear to others. But it’s not for the reason you think.

    • The Other David

       Can you elaborate ?

  • Travis Fields

    “The Jet Set” — nice call! 

  • MCB

    This is a very interesting and real concept – one that I suspect many of us have played out in our mind at one time or another – or repeatedly. If you can find a sole mate to disappear with, as I have been blessed with, that is even greater. I have moved across the country twice. And, though minor in the bigger picture as you have described, it does allow you to start anew. And, it is a very refreshing experience.

  • Richard Dykiel

    And sometimes you don’t need to disappear forever; every summer I go sailing for 3 weeks the coast of Maine; meeting people in secluded anchorages I know nobody, and nobody knows me. Surprising how deep these ephemeral relationships can be.

  • Brianna

    Holy hell, I’ve yearned to run away for so long now, or just to join the circus. I’ve always found that when you go somewhere strange, by yourself you can’t help but do exactly what you want to and people are attracted to that. You can’t be fake because there is only you, no bullshit that is attached to you. When you feel trapped like I do, there is something incredibly romantic about just getting on a train or a plane and leaving your old life and baggage behind. I think I’ve been subconsciously doing this by getting rid of all my things, distancing myself from the people I know. Thankyou for this piece. It was incredible, and I think it helped me.

  • Dman73165

    I am a disabled Veteran of the Gulf War. I am married to a wonderful woman,we have one child.Some times I just want to disapear completely.We are buying a house with my VA Disability.I wonder just how long my wife could hang on to the house before the Government wanted to cut my benifits from me if I disapeared. My wife has a job. She is usually the sole bread winner in the house hold. I work but just can’t seem to keep the job, they let me go or out right fire me. I would not want to be unfair to my wife and child but I some times feel I just need to leave and never return. Not sure how I would live or where I would go. some times I feel I need to just walk away and never return, hoping my family would survive and move on. I deal with a lot of unresolved issues from my childhood, the war and with people in general.Being a christian by faith,hoping God would intervein in my behalf and show me the way to go.Please note, I am NOT suicidal, I hate physical pain in any way and it is a sin to kill your self anyway.Just a few comments here at 0306. Can’t sleep anyway. Thanks for listening.

  • Dave

    Everybody in this world is different and most comments will not work for anyone or everyone. Arguments start with any subject or idea that anyone has ever had throughout history. If you let someone persuade about some better life somewhere then that is your fault as you can only be happy knowing yourself and arriving there in your own car so to speak…it helps to have a partner as most of us cant bear to be alone but picking the right one is the key or its luck.

    ….I escaped hitchhiking across Canada when I was 17 in the middle of winter with a friend who I have never been able to locate since we were divided in Vancouver in the early 80s (Hey Mark Y)

    I joined the Navy and escaped for 20 years but now Im married (no Kids) and long for another sensible escape that involves few neighbors and nature. My inlaws became the variable that I couldnt account for when starting this new life 10 years ago and now i want to escape from them amongst other things.

    thought i would share;(

     

  • Guestie

    Yeah, but your life would be a shadow. You could never get a driver’s license, never marry  because it’s a crime to use a false name on these public documents.

  • chefnoone

    Become a chameleon. I have moved every 3-4 years (27 moves thus far) and concentrated on experiences in life rather than a set goal. You have two experiences you can’t do anything about, life and death. The rest are up to you. Working at GM for 30 years just doesn’t cut it.

  • Saranga

    20 years in Sri Lanka is much better than Yindia : ) India is filthy, Sri Lanka is a secret for that much needed secret identity. : ) Saranga

  • amali-sri lanka

    i want to do this too ,but here in my country its so difficult …sply fr a grl

  • mystery one

    So if one had a truly good reason to disappear, what good would this do? I have often dreamed, several times over the past several years of just picking up and leaving. There are reasons. But it is hard to do when one of those reasons takes all of your money. I do not want to take all of my possessions with me so what do I choose to take and leave behind? How would I go about getting the new identity? I know where I want to go, but just don’t know I am going to get there or how I will make it without having a job lined up. Thoughts?

  • calvin

    I was in a bad relationship where the mother walked out on me and our 3 year old daughter. I had bad habits and was young. I picked up and moved to a rural town about 75 miles away and met a woman that runs a dog grooming parlor. I had nothing and now I drive a brand new truck, have a good home and property, and my daughters the happiest she has ever been. sometimes you just got to leave all the shit behind.

  • i8barbie

    I would like to do this but I have about 10 thousand in debt. Do you think it would still be possible? I have a plan, my only concern is the debt and how I would leave that behind. Any tips would be great!

  • gypsy

    I know I could dissapear. I’ve lived the life of a gypsy. I’m a trucker.been thinking abou it alot

  • Ranger Chase,

    I left a town in America and changed my name few times.. after 19 years the FBI got me .. I joined the Army , became a Ranger , now 100 disable . I was on probation and became a HA .. I had a good time and still people do not know who I am ..

  • Thursday

    I came across this while googling “how to disappear completely” after waking up and feeling this friend who constantly sits besides me called “RUN”. I can’t explain why since I was a young teen the only thing I have committed to is leaving wherever I am. At first I thought it was moving to chase after goals but slowly has developed into a need. Every few years I have a new plan, a new place, a dream of a new life. I will admit I most likely am running away from myself (and don’t know why cause I’m pretty great)- but its awkward and lonely to be the one person in a family/group of friends who feels guilt and sorrow that I just don’t want the same things in life that typical women want. I constantly fantasize that the painful emotions of being me are absent in these new lives but they only subside for a few months and old patterns arise. I’ve never really met anyone else (females at least) who would like to disappear completely. I really like that I came across your piece this morning. Thanks.

  • tonytiger

    I am a 46 year old man and life’s pains hurt and deseat have gotten to much I have read all the comments listed and all the for and against arguments but if I do not take this chance just to vanish then I only see a funeral as my escape. I have had mental health problems for such a long time people see my vulnerability so time to pack up and go.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ajac09 Anthony Evans Jr

    Disappearing is running from your problems but I feel that is the only thing I can do. If I had the money I would take a plane to another country and never look back.

  • Dooooookie

    Im not stealing some freaks identity

  • Cindy Williams

    I just googled “I want to disappear” because I do. This article was amazing.

  • http://dbakeca.com Dbakeca Italia

    and why we learn that….and post it?….lol

  • Lyrik

    No matter where you go, the only way you can disappear is with a new ss#. With the death index being listed, there is NO way to use a dead person’s ss#. You can legally change your name but that new name will be tied to the old if anyone does a credit check, ect.

  • Meow

    How do you get a new id? If I tried to get a new birth certificate it asks for the parents named and proof

  • Harry Balzack

    This book does not work in America anymore. It would’ve worked brilliantly until Sept. 11, 2001. Laws are currently in place at banks to prevent you from getting an account so easily. They require several pieces of information linking you to an address. Ok, so how did you get this address with no ID? Unless you have a way to acquire a new ID before you get a new address, otherwise your new landlord might google you (very common these days) or worse for some, see you on the news. This was an old technique taught back in the 60’s and 70’s by certain (of course naughty govt organizations) to help there peeps find new identities in a pinch. You might have been able to pull this off in Southern / Rural Kentucky until they discovered the interwebs. Good luck if you can do this. Many comments seem to be coming from escapists not wanted felons. If you want to leave and you’re not wanted, grow a pair and walk out your front door.

  • luckyfairy24

    I am contemplating leaving my 6 year old daughter and my boyfriend who has Melanoma just so tired of looking after both of them and feeling alone..I love them dearly, but Im a single mom thats gone through 2 custody court cases, I hate my job, I hate having to clean the house all the time, I hate not even been able to talk to friends on the phone, I dont do anything for myself, only look after them, and I feel like im 50 years old although Im only 34, Im an intelligent woman who has a lot to offer, I cannot accept that this is my destiny. I wont.

  • My Mum is Smart

    My mum gave me a very important message about this topic: Whenever you move, you take yourself with you.

  • Justin

    Ditch the boyfriend if he isnt working , contribituting to the household income
    And helping out at home. But how could you even consider leaving
    Your child ?

    You created her, she’s apart of you and can’t take care of herself yet
    And needs a mom who loves her

  • DrGinn

    I am in that process now. The reality of death is a great reminder. I have always wanted to just be free to wander the earth. After suffering a very near death experience last week. I am ratholing money and getting ready to take the love of my life and just walk away from it all. At 46 I can tell you younger folks take the chance live your dream run with what makes you happy NOW who cares what the world thinks.

  • DavidtheGreat

    When i retire im selling this over priced house in England and moving to a country house in France near bordeaux or the Vendee….I have 16 years and i cant fucking wait…i have equity in this dump and i dont intend to pay any of the loan just the interest. So far im up to 85k equity and with savings the houses are so cheap in rural france that i will buy one with cash…i will pledge alleigance to the french flag and this horrible oppressive prison can go fuck itself

  • ZoeBlack

    what about if your 13?

  • http://www.hereverycentcounts.com/ hereverycentcounts

    My dream is to become a waitress in Santa Fe. I care about my boyfriend and my sister too much to disappear, but I’ve thought about it. I really cannot stand life as it is at the moment, but don’t have a death wish. I’m also pretty sure that even if I disappeared I wouldn’t be able to escape myself, so it wouldn’t actually do much good.