I did this in 2001. I moved 260 miles from home with a girl I had met only a few weeks previously. I didn't tell anyone I was going, I simply went to a new area and created a completely new life.

The circumstances surrounding my 'disappearance' were simple, I believed I had nothing and wanted to go in search of something – I didn't even know what I was looking for but I knew that being away from everyone and everything I knew would mean that I wouldn't have anyone to judge me in my new circle.

About a year later I made contact with my sister and nieces – then my mum.

I had just started to regain my family and was due to 'come home' and see my dad on 23 November, 2003, who I hadn't spoken to since I left. He had died without warning two days earlier.

In answer to the question, it was the decision that left me with 'demons' that I can never get rid of. If you're thinking of leaving, take a moment to realise that returning may never be possible.

Anthony Surage

In the mid-Eighties, when I was 20, my best friend disappeared and was presumed dead while we were traveling. I was unfairly accused by both his family and mine of foul play (and later cleared of all suspicion, rightly so). But during that time, I left the US and returned to Europe, though my immediate family never knew where I was.

Being unmoored from my childhood and all I had known, I have had to reconstruct my sense of self away from all my friends and family.

Receiving counselling from the right person helped me greatly in allowing myself to be who I was becoming rather than who I had been. And secondly, after my parents died (one in 2005, one in 2010), I felt freed from that need to hide that had haunted me for so long.

Despite the intense loneliness I experienced for much of my adult life, being disappeared for so long allowed me both the challenge and privilege of learning to be intrinsically and authentically me.

Michael Jaimes

I once picked up a hitchhiker who was going 'home' after a 26-year absence. He was excited to see his old home town after all those years, but when we got there, nothing was as he remembered it. The house he grew up in had been torn down years ago. None of the people he remembered were there any more. The school he went to had been converted to a girl scout camp. The stores he went to as a kid were all gone. Nothing was the same. Home was but a fading memory, and when he left, he was in a state of shock. The roots he had held on to for all those years were gone.

Charles Norman McCormick

This is an edited answer from What's it like to disappear for years without telling anyone? which originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

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