Sometimes I wish I was 16 again. It was a time when I could pack all my stuff into two suitcases, if I wanted to. Pack it all up and go.

Running away, and starting again, from scratch is a recurring fantasy I have. Not that I don't like my life. Mostly, I do. I should be content, and mostly I am.

But sometimes.... Sometimes responsibilities weigh heavily, problems seem insurmountable. Relationships appear to be returning a net loss....

And I think about what it would be like to disappear, leaving no trace, to go where nobody had any preconceptions, or any expectations of me. And it's such an appealing idea.

Would I be missed? Would I miss? Would whatever I ran to be even slightly better than what I ran from? And would any of that matter, if it was new and different?

I'll never do it, I know. I'm too timid, too scared, and too responsible as well. But every so often I just like to picture it in my mind

I think we all have a time when our parents are trying to make us do something, and threaten to kick us out if we don't. One time...

"Do as I say or get out," my mother told me.

Okay. I got out. An hour later, my suitcase was packed, and I left. I'll never forget their shock, the look in their faces, knowing they probably didn't really mean it, but also knowing they wouldn't take it back. I surprised myself, just leaving like that, having never left home without some family before. A 16 year old out in the world without knowing where she'll end up.

It wasn't a new thought. The summer before I spent up in Berkeley where my sister was going to school. There I felt my first freedom. Freedom from my family, freedom to be myself. The clock would finally hit about 2am, and I'd be sure my sister was asleep I'd quietly crawl out of bed, pull on a coat, and wander the streets of Berkeley until sunrise. It never occured to me that this wasn't the safest place for a 15yr old girl to be wandering alone. And if it did, it wasn't important enough.

Even before then the thoughts of running away were on my mind. I came up with an idea to steal my parent's car and just take off. I had no money, so instead I packed my bags full of Ramen noodles and potato chips, not thinking whether it would sustain me or what I would do. While nobody was home one night, I grabbed the keys to the second car, pulled out the bags I had packed days before, and off I went.

Unfortunately, while sitting there in the driver's seat, I realized I didn't know how to drive. After attempting to a few times and being thoroughly frightened someone might find what I was doing, headlights from my parents coming home came into view. I never tried that again.

And so, when my mother told me to get out, I did. And I didn't hesitate, although I questioned in my mind what the hell I was doing while I packed those bags. That I was going to school and I would miss it. That I might never see my friends again. The only thought that meant enough was that I needed to get out of there. Out of the city where more memories were bad than good, and some of them were still so close I felt like I was suffocating. It amazed me my whole life could fit into a suitcase. But it did. And off I went, into the night.

I am really sorry that this isn't actually my story, but I need to say this anyway.

Imagine the nicest guy you can. Really. And then transfer that into a closed community. In this case boarding school.
Adam was that and more. He was funny, clever, and was everybody's friend. He was the lynchpin of his year, around which even the most unstable people could feel they pivoted. He was the heart of all the social life. Not only that, teachers liked him, too. He was clever, hardworking, and contributed a lot to the school. In fact everybody I can think of liked him. Except our housemaster.

Although to be fair, I can see why. Adam did drugs. Not badly, but occasionally. Just ganja, nothing hard. He also sold them. They only found out about this yesterday. After hours of Gestapo interrogation, he cracked and admitted it. I guess he was going to be expelled anyway. He came into our dorm at about 11.30, and sat down on Pete's bed. They exchanged a few really quiet words. None of us pushed it by asking what was up. We all guessed what had been said. We guessed wrong.

This morning, Adam and Pete had gone. They took a train to London, and sold Pete's guitar. They hope to get to Australia, but being short on cash, they are getting bar jobs in Spain for a few weeks en route. I wish them luck.

I go to an all boys, traditional boarding school in England. Bording school is as much like prison as my housemaster is like a jail warden. One day last year i had just had enough thsi was the day that changed my life (cheesy but true).

Fully clothed, I lay in bed. My chest moved my duvet up and down as I breathed. A cool light breeze diffused through the window and spread itself out over my face. I could still hear the dominant voice of Mr Flactem creeping through the door from outside in the hall. I waited.

At the first sign of silence, I slowly rose from my bed and slipped on my shoes. With heightened apprehensions I tiptoed across the creaking, carpet coated wooden floorboards that line my dormitory, past the mass of innocent, but ignorant, sleeping bodies.

In a ground floor bedsit at eleven o clock I received the signal from a friendly chap, who lying in bed, was checking out the latest extent of his side burns. Within a few seconds, I had climbed out of the window and was falling gracefully to the floor after scrambling over a wall.

It had hit me, an adrenaline high. Unable to walk due to the adrenaline flowing through me I jogged down the road with perfect awareness and senses completely mobilised. Lights were still on in many houses; there was a vacant space where a blue Ford Escort usually sat. I ran up through an old army barracks which, recently converted, now housed old army veterans. At 11:14, I reached the train station. I ran through the subway to the northbound platform. It was a typical station; pretty empty the occasional plastic bag floating by.

I sat on a bench next to three people I knew very well but I remained silent; lit a cigarette to calm my nerves and waited for the 11:15 to London. The train screeched to a stop. I swung the door open and leapt in; the three people followed me. We all went right to the back of the train and sat in the back carriage.

“Everything all right?” Lujan asked. Everyone nodded. I went to the end of the carriage and peered out from behind the last chair. He looked more like death than the ticket collector but we all piled into the toilet anyway. The footsteps of the ticket collector echoed under the doorway and then faded away again. We went back to the seats we previously occupied. We had a beer each and drunk to freedom. I left the group and went to the section between the carriages. I opened the window and leaned out.

The fresh night air tasted crisp and refreshing. I watched as fields glided by under the light of the moon, with the occasional village station providing the only sign of life. The trees, orderly positioned, swayed slightly in the slight chill wind. The smell of manure occasionally drifted through the half open window. The edge of the window felt cold against my hands as I leaned out and looked forward at the scenery racing towards me. I reflected on what a beautiful place the world was. There are so many different paths to take in life; so many ways to the end. I had been born into a certain a path, a similar path to that of most people at my school. As they all lie there in bed I am on the train; feeling this emotion, looking at other paths. I could be a rice farmer in China, or a lifeguard in Hawaii. There are so many possibilities. It is for that reason that I am here leaning out of the window on this train on my way to London. I returned to the back carriage and relaxed on a soft seat by the window stimulated by the buzz of excitement. I gazed across to where Jarvy and Fernandez had just fallen asleep, with their eyes emitting the same rays of nervous excitement they had on the platform despite now being closed. The train resumed its journey through the desolate nighttime countryside. Carrying a few people all whom were walking their own path; some conforming to what they believed, others just ill fated casualties of society. My ears popped as a tunnel flew overhead. I shut my eyes to get some sleep. I got none.

At fifteen minutes to one, I looked out of the window and saw a sign: ‘Clapham Junction’. Nearly there, I thought to myself, but was that actually relevant? Did I want to go to London, or was I just after the excitement? I glanced over to the other window and, through the smoke; I could just make out a no-smoking sticker. I was happy. I was feeling an emotion that one in a million people have felt. An emotion that all my year, asleep in my dormitory, will never experience. Why me? How am I different?

Portland, Oregon. That was the destination in mind I had when I was 15. I packed the usual bag of underwear and Ramen and made it as far as the edge of town before my mother caught up to me and dragged me into the car and took me home. The bruises didn't last as long as they usually did - my body was getting used to being pummeled. Still, the memory of the beating stayed as a reminder for years to come about the dangers of leaving home without a plan, no matter how dangerous home itself was.

The years went by and I got a bit older, a bit smarter, a bit faster. I learned how to sneak out at night, how to stay after school for hours with study as an excuse not to go home. Anything, anything, dear God, anything not to go home. As 17 crept closer and closer, the feverent thought of "hold on just one more year" began to pale in the daily fear and terror that my homelife was becoming. My hands trailed over my ribcage, feeling bruises that were years gone, and I decided to call Child Protective Services. The investigation pended and they told me to wait....wait through the abuse, the rage, the fear that any day my parents might actually snap and finish the violence they started on every day.

I tried to wait, I really did. And then the last day came and I left. Begged my sister to come with me, we could go somewhere - anywhere - even the streets would be better - and when she refused, I nodded my head and gave her a hug. I was a freshly turned 17 and I was terrified. Terrified to stay, terrified to leave.

"If you try to walk out that door, Teressa, I'm going to break every bone in your body. You will be hospitalized." I stared at my mother and saw sadness on her face. Maybe she knew it was time as well, maybe she knew she couldn't stop me this time.

"I'll be home in an hour," I said. "One hour. I promise." She let me through the front door. Like a bad B-grade movie, it was raining, I was barefoot, with nothing but a skirt and a shirt on as I walked down the street.

I never went back. Luck and God found me on the phone with a compassionate lawyer and soon brought me to a loving foster home to finish out my last year of being a minor. I don't dream of running away from my life now, age 22, engaged and working, living a life weighed with responsibilities but free of terror. I'm only grateful I chose to run away when I did. It saved my life. It is not a good choice for kids who want to stay out past curfew or who fight with their parents over black fishnets and nail polish. But there is truth in the idea that sometimes anywhere is better than home.

For Dearest Darlin' Noodles

After being irritated with that populous place for so long, we finally arrived to a lonely barren piece of land. The earth was cracked under the sun. It was dusk by then so it didn’t quite matter. The wind was getting cooler, and I can recall how that lean boy looked in that particular moment. He was tired from the entire running, all the fucking time. We were always running. Running from college authority, from back talk, from home, from anything that wouldn’t allow us together.

We stood there pointlessly looking for a place to rest, hopeful.

The initial plan was to run off to that hippie place, where rooms were cheap and privacy was not a big issue. How were we to imagine the bus driver would be drunk! After the bus broke down it was time to get our act together. Nevertheless we were running away from all those lunatic villagers who were chasing us for money. The disadvantage of being city kids they always take you to be dangerous trespassers.

Anyway so now we were here, with our plan crashed, in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t hate it, and I am pretty sure neither did he. Only it just hadn’t turned out how we wanted it to be. Our only articles of possession were a sleeping bag, and some cash. No water, no food and most definitely no energy.

That boy, with that audacious grin said “so, princess here we are what next?” as I stood there scanning the brown furze, seeking civilization somewhere and really pissed off.

In the settling night, something glowed pearly white. Wow so much for a solution. “Ah! Noodles isn’t that fantastic we are stranded here for fuck knows how long and look what we have, some dumbass piece of white furniture”.

That boy, he never stopped grinning, “Princess I wonder who in-name-of-the-great-fuck left it here” suddenly lifting me off my feet and kissing my lips. The things that grin made me do!

It was dark by now, and the clear night spotted with stars gleamed down upon us. That bench, pearly white beamed in the darkness. I remember it all clearly, very clearly, a sleeping bag, some money, no energy and a boy who grinned sexy.

This is not based on personal experience- it is simply the thoughts of someone who has pondered some interesting avenues of thought, and applied them to something he wishes he would do.


The best time to run away is NEVER, after that- the second best time is in your TWENTIES.


At some point, everyone wants to leave, to pack what they have, or not even that- to just drop it all and walk away. If I were to do that, this is how I'd go about it.


So, I have some change in my pocket, a wadded up receipt, and a wallet full of ID. I have the clothing I'm wearing and a backpack with a change, some food, a book, and this laptop.


I'm standing on the road outside my house, and I want to leave everything about my life behind. How do I do it?


At this point, the best thing, if you can keep it up, is to do like the name suggests and run. Jog somewhere with a bus, or a train, and get as far away from where you are as you can. Hitch rides if you don't think you're going to get screwed with. Or if you happen to be a marathon champion, just head off down the side of the road. But the first and most important step is to GET AWAY.


Once you are far enough away that you know you're not going to get picked up by the local cops that your parents (or girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband) are sure to call, you need a destination. So hitch a ride, or otherwise travel to somewhere with either free maps (like a rest area) or easily obtainable maps. For those of you interested in shopping with the five finger discount.



Places to Go


Basically, there are only so many kinds of places that you can go to. Generally, three, centered around population- Cities, towns and country.


Living on your own in the country would suck: in this area I have some practical experiance, and don't let anyone tell you it'd be easy. Transients have been living off of the discards of humanity for thousands of years- and you don't get discards in the country. What you do, is you starve, because the only way to eat is to catch it yourself.


Towns are marginally better, but they have their own flaws- the most glaring of which is that everyone will know you're a transient (a bum) in a very short time. Which doesn't matter if you're just passing through, riding the rails or your thumb, but not ok for longterm survival.


So that leaves the cities. Cities can be more anonymous, but have their own dangers. The best way to avoid many of these, is to NEVER, EVER take anything from a stranger, or talk to them, or take a ride from them. Like your mom taught you, right? The worst time to run away to a city is in your teens, but if you're an adult attempting to lose your life you won't have as many problems of this nature.



Getting there and...


So now you pick out a city, say, Chicago, and you want to get there. If you can find some well used train tracks with a sharp turn or a steep hill in them, and a train with boxcars, you could travel by train- just run, jump and grab.


The second option is your thumb- it is a powerful, though erratic tool. Hold it in the air long enough, and someone will pull over to give you a ride. There is a downside to this method of travel: your travel speed is directly proportional to how you look and your gender. Pretty people get rides, and girls get rides, while ugly people and guys don't. The tougher/rougher you look, the less likely you are to get a ride. The upside of getting fewer rides is that you won't get raped, killed or robbed on the ones you do get.


You have two other options, however. You could pay for a bus ticket if you have the money, which is probably the best option for the well padded transient. Or you could, through many and various methods, illegally aquire transport- steal a car, a bike, or fake your way on to a bus or train.



..Surviving.


You also need a place to sleep, and food to eat on the way to Chicago (or NY or L.A. etc.). Since all of this is covered in dumpster diving for fun and profit I won't go over it again. Essentially: food, clothing, furniture and (sometimes) shelter are found in one type of spot- dumpsters. Obviously furniture stores would have furniture, food places will have food and thrift stores will have a nice blend of clothing, furniture and electronics. Anything that sells something, throws it away as well. Don't make the mistake of jumping gleefully into a fast food dumpster looking for a good jacket.


The best places to sleep are where-

  • No one else does.
  • Its dry and soft.
  • You're not going to wake up with a flashlight shining down on you.

So if it's not raining, and it's not cold (here's a tip: DON'T RUN AWAY DURING WINTER) then you could probably roll up in a blanket under a bush. Sleeping on the ground is painful at first, but becomes acceptable once you get used to it.


Bridges are good if no one else is using them, but are frequented by people you don't want to run into. Dumpsters are also fine, as long as there is nothing hard, or food related in them. So climb into a home depot dumpster and sleep in style. If you are traveling overnight in anything, or can arrange to sneak onto a subway, you could sleep in relative comfort. Wherever you sleep, eventually you are going to have to sleep somewhere you don't want to- so pack blankets.


Food isn't as much of an issue as it seems. I warned you about jumping into fast food dumpsters? Well that applies here to- they are disgusting. What you want is a yuppie store, a bread store or something like that: a place where the food comes in sturdy containers, costs a lot, they throw it out at a hint of damage and they microwave everything. Bread or microwave. That's it. If they make their own food what you're going to find is a few burgers covered in tons of rotting tomatos and lettuce. A good deli is probably your best shot for food- they throw out a lot of dated bread and other, less messy sandwich-style fixings.



ID: Staying Lost.


So you traveled a good ways, you slept under some hedges and in a dumpster full of records that should have been shredded. Now you're coming up on Chicago, and you're still carrying your ID, your library card, a crumpled receipt, and all that fun stuff that tells the cops: "Yeah, I'm the guy you're looking for, my family wants me back." What you do here, is ditch anything that's not vital, which means anything besides an SS card, drivers license and voters registration card. Burn it.


Unless you're very sure you never want to go back, keep your vital information. Put it somewhere safe, but not on your person. If you have a place you're going to stay near, like a particular row of businesses or a public place, find a VERY good hiding place- like in the roof a restroom. Most big buildings use plaster tiles that are normally loose: you can stand on the toilet and push one aside. Just make sure you put it in an out of the way place, away from any hidden caches of condoms or magazines.


You could also hide your vital information by burying it, lowering it into a roof vent on a building, or putting it anywhere not easily accessable.



Making new ID...


There is no one way to build a new deck of identification, all you need to know is that all pieces of ID are based off of another piece of ID. So if I wanted to get a library card in a different name, where they don't simply take my word for it, they will ask for a letter to me at my address or something basic like that. If they need something more, go to somewhere where they will take your word for it, and bring back a library card from another library to wave at them.


To get a letter to your "address", you could simply type up all the fake info on a different library's computer, print it for twenty cents or so, and cut and past it on an envelope. Take the c/pasted envelope to some kind of office supply store along with another envelope and make a copy of the address onto the clean one. Or, simpler- just slide an envelope into the library printer when no one's looking and print direct.


The point is, it may be difficult, but it's possible to build a completely different identity from the ground up, starting with easily forgable papers (like a letter) and then using legitimate ID to get more important ID.



Finally-


And that's it. A basic outline for running away successfully. Please remember this is both speculation and a basic node on running away, and unless you are an ADULT, who is capable of defending him/herself and making intelligent decisions, DO NOT RUN AWAY. It's a good way to get raped and murdered in an amazingly short amount of time.

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