We live in a dog-eat-dog world. Everyone’s doing what they can to stay afloat. As NSA whistleblower and gestapo ”traitor” Edward Snowden has shown us, though, somewhere along the line, any of us could find ourselves in need of an escape route. You’ll have a lot on your mind, and disappearing takes discipline. You’ll walk a tightrope without a net, and you can’t ever lower your guard. Keep this page somewhere safe to use as a checklist in case shit ever hits the fan, and you have to disappear completely and start a new life…
meditate

Remain Calm…

A clear mind is always better than a cluttered one. Think about how your house is arranged. If everything is cluttered and things are in the way, you’ll have a harder time getting around, be less efficient, and get less done. Your mind works the same way: If you’re too busy dwelling on things that you can’t change (bills not currently due, a job you’re not currently at — anyone or anything that doesn’t exist in your physical present), you’ll miss opportunities in the present moment in which you’re able to act. You switch from P(roactive) to R(eactive) and your life begins to slide in reverse as your Spidey-sense loses that tingling feeling. I digress…

The point is, you need to have a wide open mind. Starting a new life is possible in many ways, but you have to decide both what you’re willing to give up and put up with. The reason for this life change will drastically impact the way you start a new life. Resetting your social circle, family makeup, etc. based on a voluntary career decision takes a different approach than escaping from prison and going underground in the modern surveillance state in which we live. You’re about to embark on a serious life decision, many steps of which can’t be undone.

Now Bug Out

You need a bug out bag. I keep several for different situations, but you don’t necessarily need to go that far — I’m just giving you choices. Create a bug out bag that works for you. A lot of this will depend on your financial capability and resources. I have a backpack and messenger bag. Each one has different necessary items that help in various situations. Having two styles of bags helps you blend into different situations. My backpack is a well-designed High Sierra that has a high storage capacity. It’s useful for carrying basic survival gear along with personal electronics (laptop, music player, cables) I need to survive. The messenger bag helps in urban situations. There are times when you may want to blend into a city or professional environment, and a backpack won’t help that.

Fill your bug out bags with universally necessary items. You’ll need at least a small amount of currency for emergency situations. Keep identification on you. People will tell you that you should destroy ID cards, but there are more reasons to keep them than discard them. Think of how many identification cards you’re given in your life at school, work, conferences, parking garages, stores, etc. You never know when you may need to recreate an ID for something, so keep them all. As a whistleblower, I spend a decent amount of my time conversing with law enforcement and security personnel as both a consultant and person of interest. What I can tell you from detailed analysis of extensive field training is that police officers and security guards often tend to be human beings with jobs to do. More often than not, pairing an ID with a cool head and friendly demeanor can get you out of tough situations. Not every encounter wit’ the po-po gotta end wit’ yo .44 makin sho all dey kids don’t grow. They look at a situation in terms of the amount of paperwork they’d have to do to contain you. There are plenty enough ways of beating the house rules, but that’s a discussion for another time…

Your bug out bag should also contain any of these survival basics: condiments, hygiene essentials, a water bottle, Camelbak, tea bags, spare stores of any medications you take (prescribed or otherwise), peanut butter, honey, chocolate, nuts, salt, trail mix, crackers, cookies, seeds, powdered drink mixes, bandages, hydrogen peroxide, sunscreen, a small mirror or compact, minor hand tools, writing utensils, a tape measure, duct tape, a sewing kit, cables (especially fax/telephone), chargers, batteries, a laptop (preferably sans wireless card…and I mean physically nonexistent, not turned off…), cell phone, several firestarters, vitamins, hand sanitizer, a flashlight, small umbrella, poncho, map, compass, eating utensils, radio, atlas, and almanac.

You want to have at least one bug out bag on hand wherever you are. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a survival situation. A few months ago, for example, I woke up in a hospital with nothing but a pair of bloody shorts (sans Australian accent), my iPhone 5, and a cloudy recollection of the chain of events that led me there. The point is, things sometimes happen, and you want to be prepared for the basics. What’s important is maintaining your sanity, surviving, finding comfort, and continuing to push on. If you don’t already have one, put together a bug out bag and keep it in a safe place. You never know what the future holds, and you never want to be left out in the cold with nothing.

disconnect

Disconnect

If you’re starting a new life, hiding from the internet seems like the most logical move. That’s not necessarily so. We live in a society where you blend in by hiding in numbers and not sticking out. If a police officer stops you, and you don’t have ID, you stick out and require further scrutiny. Applying this principle to the internet, you’ll still need to stay abreast of our constantly updating and evolving society. The internet is like having an all-knowing deity in your pocket at all times. Depending on the individual circumstances surrounding your personal disappearing act, you may need to connect to the internet in more creative ways. Hiding from the government is different than hiding from your family. Either way, digital isn’t the type of disconnect I’m referencing.

In order to disappear, you’ll need to cut off connections to your family. In order to obtain a government security clearance, you’re asked a lot of questions about your family and friends. This is because your emotional connections can be used against you. Your enemies can tug at your heartstrings and torture you by opening wounds that have nothing to do with physical harm. I used to be a skip tracer for the banks. My job was to find you anywhere in the world you may be hiding. Carmen Sandiego couldn’t hide. Waldo couldn’t hide. You’re a three dimensional person, though. You have free will. You can take precautions. Disconnecting from your family and friends cuts off potential routes of finding you. If you’re seriously trying to start a new life, you can’t bring those connections with you, and checking them in is akin to returning to the scene of the crime.

As a side note to cutting off personal connections, I realize that this is difficult. The thought of it provides anxiety and fear. You’ll have to face these afflictions sooner or later, regardless of whether it’s in your new life or your old one. Know that if you do lose someone in your life, you can meet new people. Life will go on. It’ll take effort and work, and you may have sleepless nights of feeling like a failure, but the journey will make you stronger and more resourceful. There’s a brave new world out there that’s yours for the taking.

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Hiding in Plain Site

One of the most effective defense mechanisms you can use is the tactic of hiding in plain site. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it works a lot better than it sounds on the surface. The most obvious way of hiding in plain site is by simply ignoring someone. If the reason you want to disappear and start a new life is to get away from someone, it may be possible to simply ignore them. To apply this concept to a different perspective, when I first blew the whistle on Bank of America, they retaliated with some brutal tactics. My lawyer advised me to keep my head down, but I was already in too deep with Anonymous by that point. I instead hid on the internet and eventually in the media. By hiding in plain site, I effectively defended myself against a lot of underhanded tactics used by a large machine against a single unknown.

Here’s another example: back in high school a, ummm… guy I knew… and his friend would test store security with some admittedly creative techniques. What… they… discovered was that the best way to circumvent security is to hide in plain sight. They’d test this theory out by walking into grocery stores at various “rush hours,” filling a cart, bagging it, and walking out without paying. The patterns were repeatedly tested in more and more brazen ways. Later on as an adult, one of those guys ended up testing the idea with various work badges and uniforms. The lesson to be learned from all of this experimentation is that the more obvious you are, the less likely someone is to believe they’re seeing what they’re seeing. If you want to disappear, tell everyone you’re invisible. Or just stand still until everyone just accepts that you’re there. Whatever you decide to do, own it. Reality exists at the intersection of perspective and perception. Learn to dance in the streets.

good or bad

Good Ideas/Bad Idea

Good IdeaUsing cash for all purposes…

Bad IdeaPlastic… and tipping your stripper more than your waitress…

Good Idea - Having a plan, but being open to spontaneously reacting to hurdles…

Bad Idea - Going in blind and getting upset when things don’t go as planned…

Good Idea - Being friendly to every person you encounter…

Bad Idea - Being friendly to every snake you encounter…. 

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Featured photo credit: Biker girl sits on a motorcycle via Shutterstock

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