The title says it all, but let me explain how it was an accident. I just turned 18, it was my first real travel alone. (In other words, I was a noob. We all start somewhere, don't we?) I hitchhiked from the Yukon all the way to Mexico. It was in Texas that I crossed over into Mexico. After walking the bridge that separates the two countries. I saw on my left a desk entitled "Immigration". I told myself that's not for me, I'm not interested to "immigrate" into Mexico simply visit as a tourist (Palm face! A REAL noob). So I kept walking. A few steps further, a security guard (armed to the teeth), asked me my passport and I handed it over. As soon as he saw my Canadian passport he didn't even open it to see if I had a stamp and let me pass. I remembered telling myself while looking for a bus to the next bigger town, how surprisingly easy it was to cross the border (you mean how surprisingly easy it is to cross ILLEGALLY the border).
As you figured out by now, the real trouble came when I was trying to exit the country. I was at a less frequently used border of Guatemala. A boat ride was needed to get there. When my turn came, I handed over my passport (not expecting a thing). The border officer flipped a few times through my passport (looking for that stamp that wasn't there). After a while, he asked me, "where is your stamp?" I looked at him all innocently and responded, "What stamp?" (Palm face again!) At that moment, the guy behind me, who was following the whole story, said, "Oh Sh**!". Then I realized the kind of trouble I was in. (It was about time to wake up!)
By then I only knew barely a few Spanish words, I was planning to go learn some for a few weeks there in Guatemala. Lucky me, someone in the line behind me was fluent in English and Spanish. So I was able to plead my case. Back then, I had long dreadlocks, a long beard (well long for an 18th-year-old teenager). The scenario and my image were not helping me. Maybe it is my innocent look that saved me... The border law enforcer stamped my passport, then took his stamp and changed the date to a week before. I was over 2 weeks in Mexico, but my old passport only shows 1 week.
I could have been in a LOT more trouble for that. I guess life gave me a break since I was young and innocent. Now... I always double-check my passport at borders. The lesson of the story? If you do illegal things don't get caught... just kidding... Try to learn as much about travelling before heading out. Preparation is the best way to avoid getting thrown in jail (something I should have done).