Saturday, April 11, 2009

How To Live Under-the-Radar

Over at Code Name Insight, there have been a couple of interesting posts recently (see links here and here) about how to live a 'low profile' life, below the government's or other authorities' radars. But it got me thinking about the situation that probably faces more people - transitioning in and out of 'the system,' and the benefits and difficulties that brings.

This isn't as radical as it sounds. This is for anyone who's gone off backpacking on a shoe-string, strung together some low paid/cash in hand type jobs, helped out friends or friends-of-friends with house-sitting or other odd jobs in return for board and lodgings, or even just had a partner who's taken the reins and had everything in their name...

Before setting off on my travels back in 2007, I had to spend a fair while disentangling myself from many of the systems that kept me in my place. Shutting down contracts for phones and internet, cancelling direct debits for services I no longer needed or wanted, writing letters to inform the tax authorities that I was leaving the country so they could strike me off their list for the year... It was a complicated effort, they don't like to make it easy for you, but with each contract cancelled I felt a notch lighter and freer. This is well worth it, I thought to myself.

On my return, I was faced with re-instating many of those ties. But I was more wary, not out of any political motivation, but simply because its all such a hassle. It made more sense to avoid contracts and debts and accounts with all these different services and agencies. Pay as I go, cash, upfront, as and when I need something.

It is easier. Except when you want or need something from that system.

Code Name Insight wisely states that if you want to live a low profile life, then don't work in the military or any other sector that requires a security check. He's not wrong. I work in Health and Social Care, and in the UK every time you get a new job in that sector, you need a new criminal records check to be carried out - its called an Enhanced Disclosure (what a lovely turn of phrase, all woolly and fluffy). Its a very important procedure, we don't want criminals and abusers working with the most vulnerable people in our communities. But it does not cope well with people who haven't been 100% traceable all their days.

Sat in an office with an official, we tried to fill in the form together. I had to give all the addresses I'd resided at in the past 10 years. Unsurprisingly given my life over the past 10 years, there were not enough boxes on the form. And then there were the stints when I'd been of no fixed abode; away off backpacking, crashing on friends' or family's sofas, catalogues of hostels and campsites and benches in trainstations or airports, sleeping in cars, working for short periods of time for board and lodgings in a not entirely official capacity... always moving on.

Getting out of the system isn't easy, but getting back in again can be exceptionally difficult.

Will there come a day when it goes beyond inconvenient to come back into the system? Governments are increasingly regulating and controlling life. Will a system be devised to effectively monitor under-the-radar lives? Or will it be easier for them to simply exclude anyone without a seamless, official, trace-able history?

Have you found yourself living under-the-radar? Was it an intentional move, or just the way things worked out? And how has it been, getting back in?

Interested in Under The Radar living? You might also be interested in:

4 Secrets of A Surveillance Society: The Power of Inconvenience

Picture by ToastyKen


gavin said...

Interesting...have you read this blog from Tim?

Traildreamer said...

Thanks Gavin, yeah I had seen the Tim Ferriss post, but hadn't really made the connection with the Code Name Insight posts or my own ideas. Jason Bourne is just too glamorous/OO7 for me to identify with, and my own under-the-radar antics happened all too accidentally. I re-read it after your prompt, and its very cool, but still too mind-blowing. Could you imagine managing to keep on top of all that intrigue and paper-trails? Keeping it legal but shadowy at the same time?!

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