Have you never wanted to run away? There are many reasons why young people would want to run away from their homes: some of them are good and some of them are not really. Probably the most important thing for young people to understand is that running away is a lot harder and a lot less glamorous than you might think. There are cold and sleepless nights, there is danger and hunger, there is a general feeling of being lost and not really knowing where you need to go. That being said, there may be legitimate reasons for wanting to run away.
Part 1 of 4: weighing the pros and cons
Step 1. Stop and think about your options
Why do you want to run away? Is there a good reason to run away or are you just tired of your situation? There is a difference between running away for a good reason (you are in physical danger) and running away for a bad reason (you just had a little argument with your parents). Don't make a hasty decision in the heat of the moment, you might regret it later.
Step 2. Think about all the people who might be affected if you run away
Humans are social animals. We bond out of need and necessity, but also because we gain satisfaction by being close to each other. Try to think about the people who will be seriously affected by your decision. You owe it to them. You might not know it, but they think about you all the time.
- Think about your parents. Even though it can't always be seen, your parents love you deeply. They see themselves in you and they want a better future for you than the one they want for themselves. Arguments and disagreements happen with parents. Their love for you never changes.
- Think about the rest of your family. Your siblings, your uncles and aunts, your grandmothers and grandfathers: all of them have a relationship that is deeper than just friendship. It is very possible that your family will feel bad and responsible for your flight, even if it has nothing to do with it.
- Think about your friends. Your friends are the lifeblood of your social circle. They laugh with you, they make you feel better when you're bad, sometimes they even thought of you as a brother or sister. Running away probably means abandoning them.
- Think about other mentors. It may be a teacher, a friend of your mother. Many of us have mentors looking after us. They want to see us succeed and be safe. Your decision will undoubtedly have an effect on them.
Step 3. It should be understood that in many cases running away is illegal
While most countries do not punish minors (someone under the age of 18) who run away, there are countries, including the United States, that consider it illegal. In Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming, running away is a misdemeanor, which means you are outlawed if you are under 18. years.
- However, if your parents or guardians tried to harm you, you should walk away and it's perfectly legal… But you have to do it the right way. Tell a teacher or other trusted adult, or call the police. Make sure you have somewhere to go for a night or two before you do so, so you don't have to go to weird places.
- You might worry that a foster family is worse than your parents, even if they hurt you, but you better take the risk. You might even be able to stay with another family member or friend if you prepare everything in advance.
- Even if you are fleeing to a country that does not have runaway laws, you may still find yourself in court. Over 30 states in the United States consider chronically runaway children to be “children in need of supervision” and to be part of a process that is designed to help children lead better lives. However, minors who are in this process may be fined, have their privileges suspended and be required to undergo compulsory treatment.
Step 4. If you can, ask yourself why you want to run away
There are many reasons why a child would want to run away. Asking yourself the “why” question might help you fix the problem before it gets so bad that you feel like you have to run away. Here are some statistics.
- 47% of runaway youth described a serious problem with one or two of their parents. Is there another adult who could give you advice on how to deal with the problem with your parents? Otherwise, consider going to child protection services.
- More than 50% of runaway youth in shelters said their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving, but didn't care. If your parents ask you to leave the premises or tell you that they don't care if you leave, call or go to child protection services. Wanting to find someone who cares about you isn't betraying your parents. You deserve it.
- 80% of runaways and homeless people reported physical and sexual abuse. If you are being physically or sexually abused, find an adult you can confide in (it may or may not be your parents) and go to the police to file a complaint.
Step 5. Write a list of all the pros and cons of running away
Sometimes putting your thoughts down on paper has a calming effect, making things clearer in the process. Here are some possible advantages and disadvantages of running away.
- The possibility of freeing yourself from neglect, abuse (verbal, physical or sexual) and / or harassment.
- The opportunity to travel, see new places and meet new people.
- Having more freedom and the ability to mature, no matter how difficult it is.
- Learn to rely on yourself, develop your ability to be able to do things entirely on your own.
- The inconvenients.
- An increased likelihood of spending nights outdoors, on the streets, under bridges or porches or even on rooftops.
- An increased risk of depression, isolation and helplessness (32% of young runaways have attempted suicide at some point in their life).
- The increased risks of violence, drugs, disease and prostitution on the streets.
- Feeling like you don't have anyone to talk to, that no one cares about you, or that the things you do don't make a difference.
Step 6. Give your emotions a week to calm down before making big decisions
Often times, we let our emotions make decisions for us when we think we are rational. It can be a good thing, but sometimes it is bad, because we are wrong in thinking we are rational. To allow your emotions to calm down and really give you time to think about your life-changing decision, wait a week before doing anything. Reach out to people you trust and maybe talk to them. After a week, your rational brain will probably have had time to make a decision.
Part 2 of 4: get started
Step 1. Plan
Think about what you will do if part of your plans go wrong, and make an apology for everything. Here are some things you will always need to think about.
- What will you do if you get sick?
- What will you do if you are caught?
- What are you going to eat?
- How will you maintain good hygiene?
- How will you manage not to stay in the street and to get away from danger?
Step 2. Try to find a safe place to stay with someone you trust
If you've got someone who can help you get away and you can stay with that person for at least a little while, you're pretty much set. However, if that is not a possibility, where are you going to take shelter?
Step 3. Prepare a bag with some essentials
A flashlight. Bring only the essentials. Now is not the time to set a record for the weight carried. Bring food, money, a change of clothes, a jacket or coat, in case it gets cold, clothes with pockets, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and whatever that you will need. If you don't want to be recognized, take with you only the clothes that you wear the least often. A few other things that might be helpful in your quest:
- a multipurpose knife
- an umbrella
- a padlock
Step 4. Try to bring some of your pocket money, but not take enough to get noticed
Maybe 10 euros for a bus or other transport and 50 euros just in case. If you are considering stealing money, find a place where you can get it quickly without being noticed by your parents.
If you have a credit card, definitely take it, since it's much more difficult to steal and use, and you can cancel it at any time. Be prepared for your parents to cancel it, however, when they find out you've run away. Don't use it as your sole source of money
Step 5. Wait until you have a good chance to run away
Make sure you have plenty of time in front of you before anyone notices you're gone. Try to leave as soon as you get to school in the morning or as soon as everyone is not at your home and you know they won't be back for a long time. When planning this, be quick. The last thing you want is anyone in the neighborhood to notice you when you leave.
Step 6. Find transportation
You will probably want to have a quick and easy way to get around. The city bus is your best bet or a long distance bus if you are leaving town.
Part 3 of 4: survive the long term
Step 1. Make up a story
You will have to accept that at some point someone is going to want to know where you are from or what you are doing. You are probably going to need to think about this. Think about something reasonable and realistic, but don't say you ran away.
- Keep it simple. You'll have to remember this everywhere you go because rumors run very fast in this little world, so you should probably keep the same story throughout your life as a runaway, just to avoid arousing suspicion.
- If you're really serious about running away permanently, change your name. Have fun with it, but don't choose something too wacky. But think about it: something common would probably be better, as it will be harder to remember, and your main goal is not to become too well known.
Step 2. Live near large grocery stores or candy stores
These places usually have food samples open to the public for you to sample, but make sure you take a basket with you and try to act like you have a purpose, don't hang around. In addition, you can use the public toilets to wash yourself and do your little things.
It's not glamorous, but you can still go and search the dumpsters in the backs of large grocery stores. You will be greatly surprised at what people throw away. The more you dig through the dumpsters, the more your system will get used to food that is past its deadline. It can be quite uncomfortable at first, but it should get better
Step 3. Find shelter if you don't have one
If you don't have a place to stay, you'll have to find refuge elsewhere. Try to find a relatively safe place under a bridge, in an alcove, in an abandoned building somewhere, or perhaps in a public building that stays open 24/7. If these don't work, try to look at the nearest refuge and check its availability.
- If you just need a place to stay and pass the time, public libraries, churches, university buildings, airports and train stations are all possible options. These places are safe, but usually have enough people to easily go unnoticed.
- During the winter months, you might want to try and find a building with an elevator if you are in a downtown area. Try to climb the stairwell next to the elevator shaft to the top of the building. You might find a room that is nice and warm where not too many people go.
- Stay away from the forest or the desert. These places are generally very rural and will make it easier for those who want to victimize you. As romantic as it sounds, it's really hard to live off-land these days, especially if you don't know anything about plant and animal species. Try to find places with other people around, they are usually safer.
Step 4. You will probably need the money at some point, so learn how to handle it
To stand up is to ask other people for money. It's not very dignified and a lot of people will ignore you, but with the right strategies you could be very successful and maybe even get enough to save some money.
- Pick the right location. Find a high-traffic area where people walk, such as outside of a mall area, a grocery store, or a place where people walk out with cash. Ask customers for money after they leave the store, not before. Otherwise, ask drivers for money at a busy intersection. Make sure you are on the left side of the car, where the driver's seat is.
- Smile and ask people politely and gently for money. You won't get a lot of money if you look mean, frustrated, or unhappy. When someone gives you money, thank them with a smile and a friendly remark.
Step 5. Don't use the foreign accent ploy
Some people think that faking a foreign accent is tempting, but it's usually a bad idea. A foreign accent draws attention to you. People will want to know more about you and your culture, when you should really try to be as invisible as possible. Also, faking an accent is extremely difficult, it doesn't matter how good you think your foreign accent is, what matters is everyone else.
Step 6. Take care of yourself
This part is by far the most difficult, especially maintaining a healthy diet and good hygiene. Hospitals are known for keeping their washrooms exceptionally clean and for providing good privacy. Here are some other tips you can use to maintain good hygiene even if your mind is weak.
- Use bathrooms in supermarkets. There isn't a lot of privacy, but there is very little traffic. Think about it: how many times have you used the toilet in a grocery store? You will probably be able to give yourself a nice little hand bath and use some of the soap provided for free.
- Use lubricant to shave and straighten your hair. It sounds weird, but it works. Put some lubricant on your skin and work it gently with a little water. Shave, being careful to wash the razor immediately. If you need to straighten or tame your hair in the morning, a little lube works wonders and isn't even seen afterwards.
- Shower in public pools, as well as colleges and universities. If you pretend to be a student, often universities won't ask you to show your ID card. It doesn't work all the time, but it's worth a try, especially if you regularly trick them into believing you're a student.
Step 7. Decide what happens when you run out of food
Make a plan and if you run out of suitable options, consider going home, or if you're really serious about your runaway, try to start a new life.Get a job, shelter (it doesn't matter if it's bad, it just needs to protect you from the elements), and make some friends in your new town.
Step 8. Control your desperation
When you go wrong and have nowhere to go, you might start to feel pretty hopeless. Try to control that emotion instead of letting it push you to do reckless things. Find the right food for your stomach, even if it means spending every penny you have. Take a deep breath, even if you think it's wasting your time. Think about a time when you felt powerful and resourceful, ready to take on the world. Control your desperation by controlling your attitude. There is no problem that cannot be tackled with a little imagination and courage.
Part 4 of 4: Protecting Yourself From Problems
Step 1. Avoid hitchhiking
Keep in mind, if you decide to hitchhike, that there are drivers who can harm you. They might abandon you or even hurt you. However, on the other hand, there are also some really good people out there who would like to take you with them. You have to know how to read the driver and make a decision.
- Try to hitchhike with a nice lady, a family with several children, or a car with passengers. They'll probably want to ask you where you're going or what you're doing, so have a cute little lie handy. Don't tell them you fled far from your house and tell as little as possible.
- If a scary-looking person offers to take you, ask them "first" where they are going. When she answers you, tell her that you are going to a different place, preferably far away. If she says she can take you there, politely decline and cut the discussion short. Wait for her to go.
Step 2. Protect yourself
If you are in a large city with a lot of people, be aware that there are people who may pose a threat to you. Pack something you can defend yourself with like pepper spray. However, being aware of dangers and avoiding them is usually better than having to face them.
Stay away from people who threaten you. Stand up straight and keep your cool, but don't argue or make the situation worse. Try to go to a well-lit, public space where there are a lot of people. Usually there is strength in numbers
Step 3. Don't get enlisted in prostitution
Don't let anyone do anything to you because you are comfortable with that person, and if you feel desperate enough that you think you should have recourse to them, seek help. Local charities and churches will help you without asking too many questions.
- Prostitution is a common result of running away. In fact, a 1998 study showed that 43% of runaways, boys and girls, were forced into prostitution after leaving their homes. It's almost half.
- Because of the high probability of prostitution and also because of the poor hygienic conditions, runaways are much more likely to contract HIV / AIDS. Be very careful.
Step 4. Avoid drugs
Homeless youth are significantly more likely to fall into drugs. This can lead to illnesses like HIV / AIDS or even death from overdose. Not to mention the other side effects of drug use. Be careful and don't take drugs no matter how bad you feel.
Step 5. Try to avoid getting arrested
Homeless people are much more likely to be arrested, usually because they are a nuisance, whether they are loitering or breaking into people's homes. You need to avoid having to spend a lot of time in jail, so pay attention to where you go, how you look and how you act.
Step 6. Be careful around other homeless people
A lot of people are homeless because they are just going through hard times and these people can be perfectly wonderful. But there are also a lot of homeless people who are very desperate or mentally unstable. In some, where mental health care is noticeably inadequate, many people with mental health problems end up on the streets. These people can be dangerous and can attack you for no reason. Try to avoid being in the presence of other homeless people to ensure your safety.
- If you have little food, go to a supermarket and SEEKLY go to a shelf. Grab some food and head to the bathroom to eat. Throw all boxes and packaging outside. Then, go out unnoticed, preferably with a large group. Never go to the same store twice or the employees will notice you.
- If you still decide to run away for good, you should probably try to change. Think of it as a “new beginning”. Changing your name is a good start. A new haircut and makeup will make you different from your old you. Try on new clothes as well.
- If you are carrying your stuff in a backpack then you are going to look like an average kid going to adult school.
- Also, do not stay in a place where your parents or the police will be able to look for you. Your boyfriend's house, the home of your family members, and the homes of close friends are the first places they'll check out.
- This should be pretty obvious, but avoid places where you can be seen by someone who knows who you are and who could in turn report you to the police. That is why you should try to keep a good distance between yourself and your house.
- Avoid places where you like to spend all your time. A restaurant or a video game room that you like will be places that the authorities will check.
- You can use public toilets in malls and stores, and you can meet your hygiene needs in public swimming pools or in gym locker rooms.
- Wear a cap or something that reasonably covers your head / face when traveling on a train because CCTV footage at the local station will be checked.
- Stay in a place where you know your parents and authorities are unlikely to find you, such as with a trusted acquaintance or friend that your family does not know.
- This is essential, do not update your social networks! Do not add new friends to your old account. You just have to leave it, but don't get rid of it, you know, just in case. Create a new account for your fake name if you feel the need to, but remember, it's risky!
- Also, try not to wear something that will make someone recognize you. For example, if you always wear a Roger Federer cap, don't wear it!
- Don't tell your friends you're running away. They might tell your parents. Unless they are loyal and will help you get away.
- If you have good skills in nature, you can try to pitch a tent and start living there for a while. This is not a good permanent solution, however.
- Bring something to do when you run away. You might get bored.
- If you do get caught, be honest about why you left.
- You can just pack some clothes and just stay away for a night. Your parents will receive the message and you will avoid the dangers of a permanent escape.
- Running away is usually not the answer, but staying with friends is safer than sleeping on the streets.
- Remember that no matter how successful you are running away, you will likely end up returning home eventually.
- Leave a note to let your parents know you weren't kidnapped. Don't give out too much information, either!
- You could take turns staying with friends. Start somewhere where no one is going to look for you, then after awhile or if another person notices you, leave that place and go to a different person. However, you will need the plans for each house to determine the best route out in an emergency. You should also make sure that you don't leave ANYTHING behind that could give clues to the authorities.
- Tracking devices have recently been found inside cell phones so even if they are turned off they can still be tracked so DO NOT take yours with you under any circumstances.
- Do not take your cell phone (unless you can change your number or your SIM card and still), your debit or credit card with you, as they can be used to track your movements. If you need to call someone, borrow a phone or use a pay phone. If you need to buy something, always pay with cash.
- Be careful if you are hiding in another person's home, because your hosts may be accused of harboring a fugitive.
- Leaving the loving family behind is the hardest part, so make sure you do it (if you insist on running away) for the right reasons and not just because you want to get attention.
- Be prepared for when you run out of food and cash as it will happen and you may have to resort to grocery store samples, public restrooms, and mattresses from bedding stores, if possible.
- Use common sense. When you run away, you can run the risk of being caught, assaulted, raped or killed. It is something that you might regret for the rest of your life.
- Bring one thing you're good at to get a job.
- If you are a victim of abuse, do not accept it. Talk to someone you trust and get help.
- Don't run away just because things are bad at home right now. Think about it: if she has a chance to improve over time, there's no reason to run away. But if there isn't, do what you think is best.
- Be sure you want to do this, because chances are you won't last long on your own.
- Think about it seriously. Don't do it just for fun.
- Finally, running away can cause your parents and siblings more heartache than you might imagine.
- If you are being punished and think it is unfair, you just have to think about what you have done and how many times you have done it. Also remember the good times you had with your family. You can forgive them and not run away at all.
- Do you really want to run away and risk your life? Think about it.