There are so many possible reasons why a person would want to disappear.
It could be to start a completely new life, to move on from a traumatic or painful experience, or to run away from certain people.
Whatever your purpose may be, pulling off a vanishing act is not easy. Preparation is the key, and you have come across the right guide to help you get ready to disappear.
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How you prepare will determine whether or not you can disappear successfully. The bulk of the work to do won’t be on the day or after your disappearing day, but the months or even years that lead up to that final moment.
Here are 12 things that need to be done before you leave:
1. Pick a Day and Plan Ahead
If you are fully committed to disappearing, set a deadline and work backward. You can call it the “D-day” or “Disappearance day”.
Ideally, it should be 6 months or more from today to give you enough time to prepare everything you need. But if you think you need more money and resources to support you while you are on the move, you will need more time.
It is important that you don’t tell a single soul about your plans or about your chosen D-day. If you do so, you have already set yourself up for failure even before you have done anything.
2. Decide Where You Want To Go
When you have decided on a date, it’s now time to choose your destination and route. You have two options: 1) Hide in plain sight, or 2) Start a new life in the wilderness.
Whether you decide to rent a simple flat in a busy city or a cabin somewhere deep in the woods, make sure you think about the pros and cons a thousand times. You have to consider if you can live with the lifestyle you choose.
You don’t need to stay in this destination forever. But remember, that will be your home for quite some time. Until the dust settles and people stop looking for you, you will be staying there.
When choosing your initial destination, don’t go to a place known by your family and friends. If you have been vocal about wanting to visit the Maldives soon, then actually going there is a no-no. If your family is originally from Canada, remove that country out of your options too.
You have probably seen much of this on tv or the movies, but most people on the run get caught when authorities take a look at their last credit or debit card transactions.
So as early as now, start converting some of your belongings into cash by selling them. Also, gradually withdraw your money from the bank and start closing your accounts.
Save up as much cash as you can because you will need it when you start traveling. Liquidate slowly because you wouldn’t want banks to be suspicious and start asking why you are suddenly withdrawing a significant amount of money and closing your accounts.
At the preparation stage, it is important that you don’t trigger any alarms. People might notice something odd going on with you and figure out your plans.
4. Quit Social Media
This item won’t be a problem for someone who wanted to disappear 20 years ago. But today, each person has several multimedia accounts.
Admit it or not, this generation has become hooked with checking on other people and giving their followers daily updates of their lives. People literally post everything online – from travel photos to what their breakfast looks like.
Start going offline today. Gradually decrease the number of posts and updates you make. It would also help to lessen the time you spend on social media daily. Tell people you are trying to do a social media detox so they don’t get surprised.
Eventually, delete all of your accounts. And yes, this includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat, Gmail, and more.
5. Delete Data on your Computer and Phone
Your computer and phone have everything about you. From photos, contacts, emails, messages, call records, browsing history, and more.
We use our phone and computer daily both for work and for personal reasons. Technology has gathered so much about us more than we would like to admit to ourselves.
Information stored on your devices might divulge your plans once the authorities get a hold of them. So make sure to hit that factory reset button before you leave.
6. Start to Distance Yourself from Others
Family and friends will look for you when you disappear. This scenario is inevitable. Authorities will search for you and neighbors or colleagues will most likely form search parties to help.
What you can do to lessen the number of people looking for you is to start distancing as early as now. Come up with excuses to not join gatherings, until they don’t get to see you anymore.
Eventually, they will have no reason to invite you over and expect you to come. You will be lying a lot, so you better get used to it.
Distancing yourself from family and friends is tough. If you don’t think you can do it, then disappearing is not for you.
7. Destroy Pictures and Avoid New Ones
If you love taking and posting selfies, you have to get rid of this habit as early as now. When you disappear, your family and friends will most likely go door to door with your recent photos in hand.
It would be easier for strangers to identify you when they see a recent photo than a 10 or 15-year-old photo of you.
Deleting photos will also help your family and the authorities know that you walked away voluntarily. When they see that you spent time and effort to cover your tracks, they will realize you were not kidnapped and won’t look for you as hard.
8. End All Contracts
You would not want companies looking for you because of unsettled bills and ongoing obligations.
Before D-day, be sure to pay off all balances and terminate all contracts. This includes mobile phone subscriptions, internet plans, Netflix, insurance, home mortgage, rent, car loans, etc.
Treat the situation as if you are moving to a new house in a different town.
9. Let Go of Pets
Unfortunately, you cannot bring that beloved pet of yours when you disappear. They will make it easy for family and friends to recognize you.
You can give them up for adoption or bring them to the nearest shelter so they will have someone to take care of them.
10. Quit Your Job
Unless you are planning to run away from your job, you can’t just disappear and go on AWOL. Just like your bills and contracts, you have an ongoing responsibility with your bosses and colleagues.
They will definitely search for you, most especially if you have accountabilities left with the company. It’s best if you quit your job months or weeks leading to your disappearance day.
11. Ditch Your Car
Another tough task is to ditch your car. Authorities will find it easy to spot your car while you are on the run.
So before you leave, sell your car for extra cash. Remember you will need a good amount of cash while you are traveling since you can’t use cards.
If your car isn’t worth that much, simply leave it behind. You can buy a new one while on the move. Be sure to purchase your next car with cash.
It should not be too flashy or brand new. You wouldn’t want to be easily remembered. Instead, choose a slightly used model with neutral colors so you can easily blend in.
12. Be Thorough
Lastly, it is important to be very thorough during your preparation stage. Tie up all loose ends because there’s no room for error. You have only one chance to get things right.
Tell people you are going on a vacation or moving to a new town so they don’t immediately suspect you went away for good when you leave.
That was quite a long list of the things you need to do before you leave. But as mentioned earlier, disappearing is a very big deal. Once people from your past life catch up with you, it’s over.
To make sure you succeed, here are 5 important tips to keep in mind:
1. Leave False Leads
Leaving false leads to help you buy time. While the authorities follow them, you have enough time to travel peacefully and get away as fast as you can.
You can do so by leaving printed itineraries or misleading information on your search history and computer files. If you decide to move to Jamaica, leave clues that point to a city in South Africa.
2. Travel Alone
It is highly recommended that you travel alone. Having someone come with you increases the likelihood of being discovered.
Two sets of families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues will be working together to find you. On top of that, two people leave behind more trails of clues.
Having another person to think of or consider before making your next step will also significantly slow you down.
3. Have a Go-Bag
Bringing too much stuff will slow you down. You might need to check in your luggage when boarding a plane, train, or bus. Having more items from your past life can also be used to easily identify with you.
Have a go-bag and travel light. Bring only what is necessary like medical supplies, underwear, and a few pieces of clothing. Leave the rest behind. You can always buy more when you have settled down.
4. Travel on Your Own Terms
Your best option is to travel by foot or by bicycle. Other modes of transportation like airplanes or boats require IDs and keep passenger manifests on record.
Most train and bus stations also have CCTVs in place which authorities can get a hold of and review when they start looking for you.
Taking a cab or hitchhiking are also unsafe options. You now have another person (the driver) who can identify you and your destination when your family or the authorities release photos of you as a missing person.
Finally, you are out. But things don’t end here. In fact, you are only getting started. Here are some do’s and don’ts you must remember as you start a new life.
1. Change your Name
Of course, you can’t just use your real name when you move somewhere and start a new life. Changing your name is unexpectedly easy. Just start using your new name and eventually, you will accumulate enough documentation bearing your new name in it.
One way to legally change your name is through a deed poll. It is a form that allows you to add your old name to your new name. Once done, you have officially changed your name but your passport and license numbers will stay the same.
However, you need two witnesses at least 18 years of age before you can file a deed poll. And to succeed with your getaway plan, these witnesses should, of course, be strangers.
2. Create a New Persona
Everything about you should change. You need to have new hobbies, mannerisms, likes, and dislikes. A new name should come with a totally different person having a different background.
In short, you need to recreate everything about you. You must also prepare and practice to answer the following basic questions:
- Where are you from?
- Where is your family?
- Why did you move?
- What is your previous job?
- What food do you like?
- What is your favorite drink?
- What are your hobbies?
- What sports activity are you into?
Meeting new people is unavoidable. They will definitely ask you all the questions listed above – and more. That situation is normal so there’s nothing to be afraid of.
It would even be helpful for you when authorities come snooping around and you have made friends with locals who can back you up and confirm your identity.
Just be prepared and be careful not to reveal your identity.
3. Change Appearance
There are CCTVs everywhere. It is important to change your appearance as soon as you can. You can grow a beard, grow your hair, dye your hair, wear a hat, wear glasses, or wear contact lenses.
You must also change the way you dress. Choose a style that the ‘old’ you would never wear. Whatever your new choice is, make sure you are comfortable wearing it for a long period of time.
Also, choose colors and styles that do not stand out. Don’t wear weird clothing or colors so people don’t remember you. Stay neutral, hidden in the background, and blended in.
4. Find a New Job
You need a new job to sustain you as you start a new life. Unless you want to end up being homeless, you need an income source that would pay for your rent.
It is usually easier to get into restaurants, convenience stores, or landscape businesses. There is almost always an opening you can find on Craigslist and other job post platforms.
However, these businesses will most likely require you to submit a copy of your ID and social security number. There is no legal way to go around this requirement unless you apply for a name change as mentioned earlier.
5. Don’t Fall Into Old Habits
After you have settled down, met some friends, and started being part of the community, it’s easy to become too comfortable and start falling into old habits.
Be extra careful when this feeling starts to kick in. Remember, you are a new person now. You can continue meeting new people but always keep your guard up.
6. Don’t Contact People From Your Past
This item is probably the hardest you would have to do. You may feel homesick and miss your family and friends at some point, but don’t ever try to communicate with them.
One email, phone call, or text message is enough to put all of your efforts into waste. The authorities can easily trace your IP address or the nearest cellular tower used to send your text message or make your call.
You must not tell a single soul where you are now if you want to disappear for good. Again, if you can’t do this, then disappearing is not for you.
7. Don’t be Lured by Success
Some people just can’t stand not being recognized, known, and applauded. The hunger for success is normal and understandable.
But in this case, you want to be under the radar. You wouldn’t want to call attention to yourself. What if you get published in a newspaper or the internet? Your face is now once again out there for the world to see.
Stay lowkey and learn to be okay with being mediocre.
8. Moving is Okay
It is okay if you want to move to a new place after a while. The more you move and change your name, the harder it is to follow your tracks.
You would find it easier to move to less developed countries where they don’t ask for much identification nor do strict background checking. If you can change your name every time you move. If it is not possible, travel using a nickname.
It is important to once again emphasize that disappearing is no easy feat. You only have one chance to prepare and get things right. One wrong move can blow your plan away.
Full commitment and decisiveness are required in order to succeed. This guide has laid down everything you need to do before, during, and after you disappear.
If by any chance you feel that you are not 100% capable of doing even one item from this list, take time to reassess your intention and readiness.
But if you have been fully ready and wanted to do this for so long, use this article as your step-by-step guide. Disappearing successfully is possible. You just have to be really thorough and spend ample time and effort in preparation