How To,

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

10/08/2012 DK 2 Comments

Source: James Altucher (Follow him on Twitter!)

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?

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  1. I am a seventeen year old girl. Every day I wish to run away. When I describe the way I feel in depth, the way you have, no one understands why I would want to live a simplistic life. We don't need all this...stuff. That's why we call it our shit, because it's bullshit. And I am guilty of being attached aswell. Everyday when I'm walking home trapped in my mind, thinking about how sick I am, I think about what would happen if I threw my phone in the lake, got on the city bus, and never came back.

  2. Hey Seventeen year old girl. I truly feel so sorry for you and that you seem so sad. You know, I want you to know that I can almost feel your pain from here.. I am 70 years old and I have a granddaughter of 16, who is still at school and who is loved by all her family. All we want for her is that she leads a happy and fulfilled life - I cannot imagine her wanting to just opt out of life and disappear. The world is a big place and a dangerous one as well - especially for a vulnerable 17 year old - I so wish that I could spend some time with you and try to help you in some way so that you dont throw your life away.
    When I lived in England, I went through a bad patch in my life, so when I was 23 I got on a boat and somehow ended up in South Africa where I am now. When I got here, I thought that my problems would all go away, but that didnt happen. It took me a few years to find out that I was my own worst enemy and that in fact I was trying to run away from myself. Luckily nothing bad happened to me, but then as a male, its far easier to duck out that a female.
    Yes, the world is full of crap - we all know that well, but its the only world were going to get, so we had just better get used to that and make the most of it while we can - I reall pray that you dont do anything that you'll regret, and that you think of all the good things and fun times that life has to offer.