15 People Who Disappeared to Start a New Life Share Their Stories

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It’s something you might think only happens in the movies: a person realizes that in order to save themselves (or someone else) they have no choice but to disappear from their lives and begin again as someone new.

It turns out that people actually do this in real life, though, and here are 15 of their stories.

15. I need more details!

My experience is more recent. I left about a month ago.

No real responsibilities or debts and meagre savings, packed a bag one night and hit the road the next morning!

Life is good so far. I’ve met some great people, I’ve stepped way outside of my comfort zone, I’ve got a new job and (finally) a place to live, and I’ve never been happier.

There are people I miss, of course, but I know I’m doing the right thing. It’s kind of a scary time in my life right now, but I know I’ll be a happier and healthier person in the long run.


Know I’m jumping in a bit late, but this has been pretty much my way of living for the past 10 years.

Every few years I pack up, move countries and start new.

Burner phones, changing emails, and no social network accounts.

I don’t really have a reason for it, I just enjoy being a vagabound and seeing places.

I grew up moving country to country as a child, and when I turned 16-17 it just seemed a natural way of living. I’ve hit around 150 countries so far, and lived in over 20.

I’m still young, and I work in all these places. (surf instructor, running hostels, bartender, teacher, etc.)



holy hell, this blew up a bit. I don’t even have internet at where I’m staying right now so I tend to leech it from where I work. I honestly didn’t think anybody would even see this. I’ll scroll through a bit and answer some questions if I can.


13. Sometimes you want to go where nobody knows your name.

When I was 17 I up and moved a few states away. Didn’t tell a single soul.

I was sick of being picked on and harrased. I had a drug problem, my friends were all dying, my mom died when I was young, and my dad left me after she died, so I was taken into foster care. After I was taken into foster care I was homeschooled, and never got the social integration that I so badly needed. I was isolated to the foster family. They refused to let me hang out with anyone, have friends, girlfriends, etc. I started acting out at like 14/15 years old, doing drugs and shit to feel like a person. My lack of social skills got me beat up and stepped over every day. I just wanted a friend though. Anyone I would hang out with would steal my money, or talk shit behind my back…this, that….I guess the teenage experience.

So one day, I decided to just leave.

I had a lot of people that knew me, I had family, not a real mom or dad, but I do have blood relatives. And…yeah….

The story is fucked up to actually.

I took some acid, had a realization that anyone I cared about was dead, and I would be too, if I didn’t destroy myself, id kill myself. So, tripping sack, I decided to grab a bag of clothes and hop on the next train out. No money, not even a wallet. Just a small duffell with a blanket and about two days worth of clothes. I snuck on the train, went 4 hours, and got off when I felt like it. I begged for bus money, and slept on the street and random strangers couches for about a year.

The rest of the story is kind of boring, just a lot of struggling. I will say, it was the best choice I ever made. I was going nowhere, and it took a damn lot of work, but I made myself into something.

I have my own place, a car made last year, I got my GED, go to college, work as an EMT, and also work at MIT. None of that would have been possible without leaving. It was refreshing. Nobody knew me. I wasn’t a failure to people up here. I wasn’t that weird kid. I wasn’t being bullied to the point of suicide. Nobody really knew my situation, well, anyone I was talking to as friends anyways. But that doesn’t matter now. People don’t matter to me. I concentrate on my own life, my own well being.

I left because I had no one. Now I realize that people aren’t worth it. They’re selfish, and out for their own well being. Most of them anyways. Now I’m content with nobody. I’m content with reaching my goals, and being the person I aim to be, on a daily basis. Someone who is there for whoever needs it, as a shoulder to cry on, a door to be opened, a person to vent to, a couch to crash on. I guess I’m rambling now. Hope at least someone gets to read my experience.

12. A fresh outlook on life.

I moved from the United States to Taiwan. And, while I will likely only be here for a couple of years, it’s amazing how much it helped. It cured the depression I never even realized I had.

EDIT: Never expected people to be interested in my story. Unfortunately I am at work on a break, so I have to be brief. But, basically, I never realized I was “depressed” in the United States. I mean, I wasn’t sad all the time. I had friends. I did well at a top tier university. None of that characterizes a depressed person, right?! But, I never felt very excited about anything. I just felt as if though I was going from box to box, looking for happiness. Wake up, get in my car. Drive to class. Leave class, go to a restaurant. Go home. Want to have some fun? Meet friends in a bar. It was all driving in a box to another box and convincing myself it all mattered. I just thought that’s what life was, and the fact that I was always sorta “meh” was what being human was.

Then, I got a grant to move to Taiwan, and I did it. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I suddenly feel like a person for the first time. There is a large, large, LARGE sense of community here. I feel like things matter. I don’t just drive from place to place, eating at identical restaurants. I realize I am perhaps being a bit cryptic here, but it just feels like things “matter” more here. Go out to eat? It’s not always going to be a chain restaurant that looks like all the other chain restaurants, due to all the building codes and ADA regulations. I might find myself in a bit of a shack, run by a family for decades, where people pour their heart and soul into the food. I know I am being general here, and I KNOW that “real” restaurants exist in the US, too. But, in general, I feel like Americans have traded variety for security. We like the security of knowing we can travel to another state and find the same 10 restaurants. We like the security of strict building codes, knowing that all the door handles are the same design in case of an emergency. And, of course, there are merits to all of this.

For example, in Taiwan, people will park all over the sidewalks, and you often find yourself dodging around parked cars when walking, into the street. As an American, I sometimes freak out and think, “WHY ARE THEY MAKING PEDESTRIANS WALK IN THE ROAD?! ASSHOLES. THIS IS A SIDEWALK! AAARGH!” And, this isn’t about sidewalks. But this draws to a larger metaphor. In America, you’ll get a ticket in a second for parking on a sidewalk, and pedestrians never have to worry about walking around cars on a sidewalk. To me, that is trading variety for security – we want to make sure every road is safe and “up to code,” and as a result, all you ever see are empty sidewalks. In Taiwan, just walking down a block can be a fascinating experience, as you never quite know what you’ll see. I worked in an un-air-conditioned building in Taiwan’s 100 degree summer, and I was sweating all the time. As an American, it bothered me so much, and I took several showers a day. Then you realize, “I’m human, it’s hot, I’m sweating… so what?” It’s that overall mindset and general ideology that “freed” me in Taiwan, and made me feel like a person again. I’d rather just live, rather than attempting to set up a utopia of safety and comfort.

So, me? Personally? Hopping on my scooter, driving through slightly-un-okay-level dangerous streets, not knowing if I can always find “that restaurant I like,” and knowing that every street will bring something completely new (good or bad)…. It changed my life, honestly.

I am pre-preemptively worried that someone will misunderstand this as a Taiwan vs. America argument, which it isn’t. If you can be as happy as I am right now in America, then more power to you. I am legitimately happy for you. But me? I can’t. I needed a change. And, it wasn’t until I made the change that I realized how badly I needed it. If you feel like you need a change, maybe you should just do it. Something like moving to the other side of the planet may seem insane and almost impossible. Well, it is. And that is exactly why you should probably be doing it.

EDIT 2: Wow, I am overwhelmed by the positive feedback here! It honestly warms my god damned soul to think that I maybe nudged even one person out of a rut, let alone dozens or more. I have been getting some negative feedback as well about my generalizations of America, which I expected. I didn’t really “plan out” my post as much as I just wrote it on the fly based on what I was feeling, so some of my examples (building codes, restaurants, etc) aren’t perfect. They were only intended to capture what I feel is the overarching ideology of Taiwanese life, but they definitely ain’t perfect. Also, I in no way “hate” America, as it made me who I am today. I attempted to explain this in my last paragraph, but I didn’t do a great job. Anyway, whether you liked my post or not, I fucking love you guys – keep on keepin’ on. And remember, though it almost always seems like there is, there rarely exists a good reason to not do something big if you think it might be just what you need.

11. People can still be toxic even if they’re related to you.

I am assuming you cut ties with your family as well. What do you think about the countless movie and TV series references to “family is the most important thing in the world” and some ideas in psychology that put your relationship with your parents above everything else? I am asking because I moved away from my family and I don’t miss them a bit, and most people think I am a monster for doing so. I wonder if we might have emotional problems in the long run.

10. Not so far, but far enough.

Faked a big move and cut ties with family and friends. I live about 20miles from my old home and kept my job. It has been 2 years and my anonymity remains intact. Happy life without the drugs, drama and abuse. Still keep in contact with my little brother, but that’s it. Everybody thinks I now live in Russia. Edit: details.

9. When you can totally reinvent yourself from scratch.

I dropped everything and left without telling anyone where I was going. I hardly packed anything, just grabbed what I needed and left the state. I go by a different name now and I have no regrets. I was in a terrible place and now I’m so much happier.

I think the only difficult thing is how to figure out who I am now. I spent so much time living for the people around me that I didn’t even know who I was. Do I even really like to bowl? Is this really how I want to dress? But I get to re-learn and re-explore myself slowly and it’s a wonderful journey.

8. No regrets is an awesome place to be.

I didn’t do anything drastic like change a name or fake a death; I merely chose to cut out the terrible people in my life. My father abused me growing up, including sexually molesting me. While coming to terms with this as a young adult, I tried to kill myself. After leaving the mental hospital he mocked me. That was when I saw the light and decided to cut him out. A year or two after that my mom decided to a) uninvite me to christmas, and b) kicked me out the day before the holiday when she realized i didn’t intend to go. i left, she changed the locks. i decided to leave totally, and merely left town, blocking everyone there on my fb (didn’t want my wherabouts getting back to my family.) i live within an hour’s distance, never had a run in since. nor egrets.

7. Leave the toxic people behind.

I didn’t fake my death to start over, I just moved. Unless you’ve done something illegal or owe a shitton of money, just moving across the country will be drastic enough to ensure that 90% of people you’d want to avoid never contact you again.

A few months ago, I threw my hands in the air, said “Fuck it,” and moved several states away. The fresh start is awesome, and I’m so much happier now. I have just about everything I’ve ever wanted here, and I love the fact that I don’t have to relive ancient history every time I pass a landmark that reminds me of something.

Just cut ties with whoever is causing you grief, regardless of who they are or what their impact on your life is. Excise the tumor, and then pick up and go. Don’t ever let them back in, either…because cancer spreads.

EDIT: Wow, this blew up overnight. I’m more than happy to answer any questions that anybody has. And also, thank ye kindly strangers for the gold.

6. Very good advice.

I have an uncle who attempted suicide four times and failed. For his fifth, people were pleading with him to try anything else. I went to a park with him and smoked a joint and he told me he was planning on killing himself again. We sat in silence and jokingly, I suggested he just start over. If his life was bad enough to end, then he could end his life that he’s living and just starting a new one, in maybe Arizona or some far away shit.

Two months later I heard he left out of state and got a new phone and maybe a new name. I found an M&M container with a thank you note and three perfect joints a couple weeks after that.

I’m sure he’s doing ok.

5. This honestly sounds like a dream.

My story is definitely less extreme than some on here, but it is probably more realistic for those of you considering a big change. And I didn’t have to completely restart my life.

I got married about 15 years ago, and was on track for medical school. We were excited about our prospects but we wanted our lives to be an adventure. The expectation was that we would move to Boston and work 80 hours a week. It would have given us both strong careers, but…

So I went to medical school in Ireland. She got a job in Dublin. I worked hard through medical school, but our weekends were in Paris, Rome, Budapest, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice, Porto, Tunis, Athens, Oslo, Berlin, and so many more. We could NEVER have afforded even two of these trips from the States, but from Dublin they were dirt cheap. Our target airfare was £15 each way.

We lost a lot of friends in those 6 years but not the good ones. And goddamn it was an adventure.

4. Sometimes you just need a fresh start.

I didn’t have to fake my death, but I was an active heroin addict in my old life so I guess it’s possible that people think I’m dead or in jail. Shit I got lucky not to be.

When I got clean I also moved a few hundred miles and cut ties with everyone except my family. It’s much easier to stay clean living somewhere without a ton of history of drug use, no reminders. I also am in a new college.

Overall it’s pretty good; I have a quiet and productive life, not much socially but I have people I can call if I feel the urge to not be alone. Loneliness is an issue but I try to remember that it’s better than living like I used to and isolating myself with erratic behavior.

So overall I’m pretty content with the whole “fresh start” deal.

3. Sometimes rearview mirrors are no good.

I don’t plan to fake my death or anything, but i am planning a move in the coming weeks. I have a bit of cash saved up and I’m actively seeking employment at the new location. Once I have a few nibbles there I’m buying a one way bus ticket and I’m not looking back. 400 miles away and no former friends or family members to bother me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Edited to add:

For those of you who are curious I have moved. I had about $3500 in the bank to spend. I posted an ad on craigslist, believe it or not, seeking temporary housing and was contacted by a local who agreed to let me stay for a couple of weeks just as long as I paid the agreed on amount up front. Once I had that ironed out after emails and phone calls I packed a bag with the stuff I wanted to take and I walked to the bus station. I went in blind but I knew that if worse came to worse I could find someplace for a couple of days if everything fell through.

My original estimation was incorrect, my new home ended up being 600 miles away from my old home. I arrived, paid my rent for the agreed upon two weeks, and visited four other longer term places for rent.

As of right now I am away from my old life, I have a longer term place to live, my rent has been paid for two more months, and I have a couple of job prospects. I am still unemployed, but the only thing I have to pay for in the coming months is food and I have enough for that.

2. Fill up your own clean slate.

I’m about to do this, I live in a fairly small city in Southern California, and I’m constantly running into people I didn’t want to see again from high school, ex-girlfriends, girls I regret never asking out, douchenozzles that are more successful than me, people younger than me having babies, etc. and friends who are just stuck,

Basically reminders of things I don’t want to be reminded of, and things like getting stuck in life and never progressing. Also high school, this is a big high school town, you can’t fucking escape it.

So I’m finishing up my associates at community college and using that as an excuse to transfer to a college in Hawaii. I have no family there, no friends, no acquaintances. Nothing. I am really looking forward to the clean slate.

1. Whatever keeps you alive.

My brother in law did this, essentially. He tried twice to kill himself, and was just living day to day on meds, trying not to feels.

There was a girl in high school who he had a crush on, but she moved to Texas(we live in Florida.) About a year she contacted him on facebook, and they started talking, and it really seemed to help him.

So, one day, we get a call from his work asking where he was(they knew he had problems before), so we start freaking out. Luckily he answered the first time we tried to call him. He had been on the road for about 6 hours already heading out there to see her. He initially was just gonna see her for a week or so and come back, but his engine died when he got out there, so he decided to stay. 5 months later, and they are together, hes slowly getting off his meds, and hes happy.

I’m fascinated and could read these all day!

I’m going to assume nothing like this has ever happened to you, but if it has, we need details!