As liberating and glamorous as it may seem, running away from home is no fun at all: you'll sleep on the street, scramble for food, and life is certainly not going to be easy. That said, some people live in such bad homes that running away from home is still a better option for them. If you've thought about it calmly and decided this is what you really want, you need to prepare yourself for your escape to be successful.
Part 1 of 4: Getting ready to leave
Step 1. Save some money
The ideal is that you collect at least R$3,000.00. It seems a lot, but without being able to count on other people, it won't be long before this amount disappears. Trust me: it won't be very good to realize that you don't even have money for breakfast the day after departure. Should a difficult situation arise - which most people run away from home do - the money will come in handy.
Of course, this step is only mandatory for those who don't have a job or a place to stay. If you're one of the lucky ones who have somewhere to go, you might be able to support yourself on a little less money
Step 2. Get used to life as a fugitive
Before you actually leave, you need to practice some skills necessary to live as a fugitive, especially if you want your escape to work. This means two things:
- You need to learn how to find food. Once you're out of the house, you may need to eat on the tray or, who knows, even dig through the trash. Since it can be difficult to get used to such a reality, it's a good idea to practice in advance. See other ways to find food in the section below.
- You need to learn to sleep in uncomfortable places. During the escape, you may need to sleep on park benches, behind bushes, in alleys, etc. This means that you are unlikely to spend the night on a 1000-thread Egyptian sheet. Fortunately, sleeping in uncomfortable places is only difficult for those who are not used to it. Just train in advance and when the time comes, you'll sleep anywhere.
Step 3. Leave home with a destination in mind, if possible
People often run away with nowhere to go and live like nomads for a while. As fascinating as this lifestyle may seem, be aware that it is also very harrowing. It's better to have a place where you know you can shelter until you can support yourself. If you had to leave the house today, where would you go?
- Shelters and youth hostels are a good start. It is undesirable to live in such an environment indefinitely, but at least you will have a home while you try to reorganize your life.
- A friend or family member's house is also a good option, but be aware that this can put them in conflict with their parents - if they report you missing, your host will be required by law to say they know where you are. However, if he doesn't suspect you've run away from home, you'll have a roof over your head and food on the table for a few days.
Step 4. Pack your bags carefully
Ideally, you pack your luggage in a good quality, waterproof backpack (you never know when you'll have to face rain). Inside, pack a good sleeping bag, a flashlight (with extra batteries), a compass, winter clothes, a knife to defend yourself, and your most important or valuable belongings. If you have some space, bring a pillow as well. What doesn't fit in your backpack, you'll have to leave behind.
You have to carry it with you wherever you go, like a backpacker. This is annoying, but it's useful and safe. Also, remember that your luggage and the way you carry it make a certain impression on those around you. Do you prefer to look like a backpacker, a tourist or a fugitive?
Step 5. Leave a note
It seems counterintuitive, but hiding a note at home is a way of making clear your intention to flee. Without this information, the police will have reason to believe that you were kidnapped or, worse, murdered. Both cases generate far more thorough investigations than a breakout case, increasing your chances of being found.
Put the note in the best hiding place you can. Some time after your escape, your parents will call the police, who will make a thorough search of the house and find the note. If the note is found by your parents, on the other hand, they will call the police immediately, giving you less time to get away
Step 6. Choose a time of good weather
Running away from home in the height of winter, when temperatures are close to (or even below) 0 °C, would be as shrewd an idea as Napoleon's when he decided to invade Russia in January. To be more likely to complete your plan successfully, wait for the mood to improve. Remember that you will spend a lot of time - day and night - homeless in the first few days, which is difficult enough without unfavorable weather conditions.
Sleeping in a warm house makes us forget how cold the night can be. Bring long underwear and warm clothing with you, even if you think you won't need them. Prevention is better than cure, and maintaining body heat is a basic necessity
Part 2 of 4: Starting Your Journey
Step 1. Take a bus or train
When you leave (either after school or at night while your parents are sleeping), head to the nearest bus or train station. Read the station schedule and board the first available train or bus. Once you board, you will be safe. Here are some things you should consider:
- If you plan to cross country borders, do so within the first 12 hours of your escape. If your parents register your disappearance, you will be easily recognized by a customs inspector.
- The further away from home you are, the less likely you are to be recognized. Although this idea sounds strange, it's easier to remain anonymous in a different country (especially if you live in Europe), whose inhabitants will assume you're just a tourist with a lot of baggage.
- Do not tell your story to other passengers. It is unlikely that any of them will feel sorry for you - in fact, they are likely to feel sorry for your parents and notify the police. If someone asks a lot of questions, make up a story or tell them you're not in the mood for conversation.
Step 2. Don't let electronic devices reveal your whereabouts
Don't take your cell phone, iPod, iPad and other such devices with you - they can all be used to track you. If your plan depends on a communication device, set aside money to buy a simple cell phone and credits during the trip. This solution may not be elegant, but it is the safest.
Do not update your social networks. Write "I'm tired of this life, I'm running away from home!" it's not a good idea. Also, never use your old accounts on social networks (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Youtube, Gmail, etc.) after your departure. If you access these profiles, the police can determine your location
Step 3. Change your appearance if necessary
With the authorities looking for you, it will be harder not to be recognized. To avoid arousing suspicion, disguise your most obvious features - your hair color and hairstyle, for example. Cut and dye yourself (in a public bathroom, preferably) and, after finishing, clean up residues and traces well: if the police have access to a sample of your hair and confirm your identity through a DNA test, your chances of getting caught increase considerably.
If possible, gain weight (in moderation). Parents and authorities tend to look for a thinner version of the missing person, as it is thought that they will have difficulty finding food
Step 4. Never try to contact friends or acquaintances unless you are 100% sure the person will not notify the authorities
The truth is, a fugitive's life is very lonely. The temptation to call a friend will arise, but if your desire is to let go of the past, you can't give in to her-only if you're absolutely sure he wouldn't turn you over to the police.
Still, be cautious. The friend can tell someone, who can tell someone else, who in turn can notify the police. It's very difficult to know where gossip can go
Part 3 of 4: Surviving as a Runaway
Step 1. Find a place to sleep
When you don't have a bed available (which can be most nights), the best places are bushes, parks, woods, or empty fields. In summary: avoid sleeping in the middle of the city. If you can't get out of it, however, find a place that has people around 24 hours a day, such as a bus terminal or a train station.
- Know that the greater the number of people around you, the greater the chance that some police officer or worried passerby will want to know why you are sleeping in the street. Create a compelling story in advance.
- If you're going to spend the night in an empty place, it also needs to be empty at dawn. A church parking lot looks safe on a Saturday night, but you'll regret sleeping there as soon as you open your eyes on Sunday morning.
Step 2. Spend as little as you can on food
Food is expensive. To make a cheap meal, just buy bread and a few slices of cheese from a bakery. Also, try to arrange "free" meals. Here are some ideas:
- The bins in the back of supermarkets and restaurants are filled with food (not always old or spoiled) that could not be sold. Visit them in the evening, after these establishments close, and maybe you'll find a feast.
- Scour the surrounding buffets and event centers on holiday days. What is not used can be yours!
- Ask. Employees of restaurants, cafes or hospitals can be sensitive to your situation and donate food scraps to you. Just ask politely and with an innocent smile on your face.
Step 3. Get a job if possible
People aged 16 and over can get a job and support themselves. This is the best way to ensure a steady inflow of cash - besides, you don't have any plans to return home, do you? With a phone number, an address and a clean look, finding a job won't be that difficult.
If you're under 16 or can't reveal your identity, look for temporary activities or odd jobs - which usually involve some sort of heavy lifting (but that's better than nothing). To find out which places are available in your region, read classifieds and flyers left on public bulletin boards
Step 4. Find cheap housing
You have basically four options: live with a friend, on the street, in a shelter or break into an abandoned property. Each has its advantages and disadvantages (invading property is illegal, for example). But it's important that you find a home soon - ideally, you get a job and rent a room (negotiating directly with your roommates, not the owner of the house). Try to live as a nomad as little as possible.
Don't steal anything from the people who house you, no matter how serious your situation is. This will make you a criminal, giving the police more reasons to want to find you
Part 4 of 4: Dealing with Potential Problems
Step 1. Get a ride
Maybe you've decided that you can't stay where you are right now. Everything is fine. If you don't have the money, hitchhiking is one of the alternatives at your disposal. The practice is illegal in many countries, but sometimes it's the only way out. The most important details to consider are the following:
- Stay at a gas station near a federal or state highway. Approach drivers who seem approachable (the drivers most likely to offer a ride are the youngest or the elderly; avoid people in a suit and tie, middle-aged, or looking crazy). If there is no gas station nearby, stay on the shoulder of a low speed-limit road or on the access road to a highway. And stay in a place that gives drivers time to park their car after they see you.
- When a driver stops, be friendly, cheerful and do not show discomfort with the situation. So, start evaluating him: would you dare to be alone with him? Trust your instincts - if they say no, refuse the ride; if they say yes, get in the car, put your backpack on the backseat, and put your hands on your knees where the driver can see them (to show you're not a threat).
Step 2. Clandestinely board a train
You need to travel for free but are afraid to hitchhike? Be a stowaways on a train. Moving around like this causes some tension, but it's very efficient. Here's what you need to do:
Go to your local train station and make a copy of the schedule. Find the timetables for trains that pass through the city you want to reach. When the first one parks on the platform, sneak into a car in the middle of the composition when no lookouts are watching. Feel as if you were already on the train before this stop, always paying attention to whether there is a ticket agent near you - whenever you see someone approaching, go to the bathroom. If he knocks on the door, answer him promptly, but pretend to be upset by the intrusion. Your other option is to spend the entire trip circling the train cars without sitting down
Step 3. Prevent theft
The world is not very friendly, especially for someone who is homeless and has to deal with other homeless people. If you are indiscreet and appear fearful, you will be an easy target for criminals and will likely end up losing your money and belongings. Take some precautions:
- Maintain a confident posture wherever you go. Showing apprehension is an invitation to people interested in taking advantage of others. To defend yourself, provide a knife (this tip is not very encouraging, but it is important).
- Use a backpack with a secret compartment if possible. In the event of a robbery, criminals may not remember to look at the lining of your bag (in which you keep a small, flat object such as a notebook).
- Adventurers need special underwear with pockets. It is unlikely that a thief will search your underwear. So, keeping your money in it gives you a little more security.
Step 4. Know your situation under the law
In the United States, for example, under 18s are legally prohibited from running away from home in nine states: Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. If you are caught or return home, you will face the penalty provided for that violation. The issue varies from one country to another, however, even in countries where escape is not illegal, minors are sent back home as soon as they are found (even if they do not want to return). If you think about leaving your home, know what can happen to you if your plan goes wrong.
- If you run away from home several times, you will have custody claimed by the State, which will classify you as an abandoned minor and place you in an orphanage (or other temporary home), where you will await a decision from the Family Court. Because of this possibility, avoid at all costs being caught by the authorities.
- If you are caught by the police in a foreign country, do not use your mother tongue. In such a situation, it is important to be bilingual (even if your second language is not spoken in the country you fled to). In order for the police not to discover your country of origin, do not let them know your native language.
Step 5. Call an abandoned child support service
If you are in a bad situation, don't hesitate to ask for help. Institutions can refer you to a shelter or arrange a ticket (by bus or train) back to your parents' city. Many offer psychological care and have volunteers willing to listen to your problem.
In the United States, call 1-800-RUNAWAY. In England, call the Childline association, which provides a similar service, on 0800-1111. To contact Covenant House, a Los Angeles-based shelter for juvenile fugitives with branches in several North and Central American countries, call +1 (323) 461-3131.Inhabitants of Brazil and Portugal should contact the social assistance secretariats
- Create a new name and make new friends to combat the feeling of isolation.
- After you turn 18, find a way to let your parents know that you are alive and well, as the search for you will continue until you give a sign of life.
- If you want to flee the country, go to a safe place. If you are a 15-year-old girl, fleeing to Ciudad Juarez is not a wise decision. Also, learn to speak the language of the destination country in advance.