Border guards hate me.
I’m not sure what it is. I have a few guesses at to what may bother them, but quite honestly, it’s a little annoying. Every time I cross a border I am looked at with a suspicious eye, or two. The stamps on my passport are warily flipped through, while they glance at me thinking the worst.
I see it in their eyes.
‘Day trading, travel writer you say?’ Asked with more than a little skepticism.
I get it. I have a dream life. I travel the world, staying for indefinite periods in exotic countries. This is not normal for a 31 year old of any nationality. It’s an even more foreign idea for a Colombian border guard, who quite possibly has never left the country, to wrap their mind around why and how I want to spend seven months in their country for any “legitimate” purpose.
I understand that it must look a little shifty when my stamps read as such: Colombia, Ecuador, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Argentina, UK, Netherlands, Argentina. And those were just the stamps collected in a few months.
This, unfortunately, has not just been a situation during my recent journey. On a ski trip to Wyoming with a friend about six years ago my whole car was picked apart, including a drug dog search. On top of this, my friend and I were questioned separately regarding our “motives” in the United States.
Rob was a fellow day trader, and he brought an extra monitor on the trip, along with his laptop, keyboard, and mouse. I wasn’t aware it was illegal to bring these items into the United States, but it apparently didn’t sit well with the badge wielding militia.
In the end, they let us get on our way. They questioned the legitimacy of my claim of a cigar being a Dominican (it was actually a Cuban, sneaked that one in,) and after a three hour delay were on our way to Jackson Hole.
On the way back the Canadian patrol apparently didn’t want us bringing in contraband. I’m not sure what they thought was so shifty about us, but once again we were detained while my car was searched.
This was one week after the drug dog searching, CSI wanna-be interrogation which we had endured on the US side of the imaginary line on the 49th parallel.
Well, Rob had a bit of a surprise for this young Canadian border guard. He bought something in Jackson Hole as a prank to pull on his girlfriend. We could watch the border guard searching our bags through a glass wall. The reaction we witnessed when the border guard pulled a fur thong out of Rob’s bag was worth the entire inconvenience.
Another time, when going for work in the States I had to provide documents proving that I was employed by a Canadian arm of a US based company. For some reason, US border guards believe that every person on the planet wants to become an illegal immigrant in their country. Let me assure you, this isn’t the truth.
Then there was my flight out of Colombia.
I get it. Colombia has a reputation for a certain white substance. This white substance has made its way around the world, and much of it has been transported in the stomachs and suitcases of young white males looking to make a buck.
I was waiting in the security line in Cali (Colombia’s third largest city,) when a guard came directly up to me and asked to see my passport. He asked me a few questions, held onto my passport, and directed me towards a little room.
I wasn’t sure what was going on, but whatever it was, I didn’t like it. There was one other traveler in the room next to me. A guard came in, told the guy next to me to go through the walk through x-ray machine. I was next. Once they had determined that I hadn’t swallowed kilos of coke, I was free to go.
Other times aren’t as severe, but I’m always looked at with a weary eye. That is, unless I’m going through with a woman. Apparently I am much less shifty if a woman is with me.
I don’t usually travel with a woman at my side, but I’ve had the good fortune a few times to do so. A couple of times with my ex-girlfriend, and once with a female friend.
The difference in the reaction from the border guards was uncanny. Smiling faces. ‘Have a pleasant journey.’ No prying questions. No suspicious eyes. I guess it goes to show you the effect that a beautiful woman’s smile can have.
So what’s my suggestion if you have this same problem? One, make sure you didn’t swallow any cocaine before travelling. Two, take the bands off of your Cuban cigars before entering the USA. Three, take a beautiful companion with you. Follow these three rules, and you should be fine, and maybe a little less inconvenienced.