I’m used to zooming past border officials as I travel between countries. I basically get a free pass once they see my occupation is ‘engineer’ and I’m traveling for tourism. I altered this winning combination once I became a house sitter.
House sitting is a win-win agreement between a homeowner and a house sitter. Typically the homeowner wants to go on vacation but doesn’t want to abandon his pets or garden. So he looks for a stand-in.
The house sitter is that stand-in, caring for the house & pets in exchange for free accommodation. House sitting assignments vary in duration.
After quitting my job as an engineer, I wanted to travel internationally and started house sitting so I didn’t need to pay for accommodations. (Oh how I miss a steady paycheck.) My first house sitting assignment was a two-month stay at a beach house in Mexico.
After I completed the house sit and came home from Mexico, it became clear to me that the immigration officers of my home country were suspicious of long-term travelers.
“You’ve been in Mexico for how long?”
“Two months.” Geesh, stop hassling me already. I just want to get through customs and get home.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a freelance writer.” Uh oh. I’ve been freelancing to earn money and marked ‘writer’ on my immigration form. This is apparently a red-light warning for an immigration officer.
“What were you doing in Mexico?”
“House sitting.” This received a blank stare from the now stern-looking immigration officer. Blank, tinged with a little ‘I’m not amused’. I stammered that I was looking after the house of an American snowbird couple.
“How do you know them?”
Oh Jesus. “The internet. I found them on a website that’s like a dating site where homeowners look for caretakers. I applied to house sit and they liked me.” Even to me this sounded sketchy.
“Do you have any drugs?”
“No!” Do you? Because I could use something to take the edge off right now.
“Writers don’t make enough money to travel. They go to Mexico and bring back drugs.”
“Well I used to be an engineer. I’m traveling off my savings for now.”
And with that the red-light went off. Officer ‘now-friendly’ told me that he gets suspicious of people without a stable career who go on vacation for a long time. They go, run out of money, and get desperate.
After a few more relaxed questions, the officer filed my immigration form and deemed me worthy to enter his country. I didn’t tell him that I thought he was prejudiced, but I did thank him for the nice interrogation.
Since then I’ve accepted another long-term house sit, this time in Costa Rica. When I return I’ll be certain to mark down ‘engineer’ as my occupation, because it’s not worth the hassle of (truthfully) calling myself a freelancer.
And as for my hopes of being a successful writer, maybe I’ll become a drug mule instead. It sounds more profitable.