Sanitizing Your Phone for Travel: A Guide for Adulterers

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

I recently traveled to Italy with hub to visit friends.

Was I worried about covid? Of course.

Was I worried about missing a connection or losing baggage? Yes.

But what worried me most was crossing into the US with a secret.

My secret? Having an affair, writing about it — extensively—and making money from it.

Adultery isn’t just a lifestyle for me, it’s a business — and business is good.

Why was I worried?

You will never be more vulnerable to scrutiny than when crossing an international border — ever.

They can ask you anything and search anything you bring with you, including your virtual life contained in your phone — and you have no right to refuse if you want to enter the country.

When you enter a foreign country, whether visiting or passing through, you are already in that country, and that’s done for a very specific reason. What’s that? So you are subject to their laws, which allow them to search and detain you.

If it wasn’t like this you could just turn around and leave — with those drugs securely stuffed up your butt. But the time to do that was before you decided to go because once you’re talking to the border agent your butt is theirs.

So why did I care?

I conduct most of my business with my phone. It’s all legal, of course, but as many of you may have guessed, Teresa J. Conway is not my name. Not surprisingly, most of my online accounts are registered in that name, so I can keep track of them, and in some cases, for business tax purposes.

Unlike you, hubby doesn’t know Teresa J. Conway. He only knows boring old Teresa, who’s been looking a little more tired lately. The Teresa who stopped talking about sex a decade ago. The “until death do us part” Teresa who writes about romance and sex as a hobby and has made a little money at it.

He’s happy to leave it to me and hasn’t asked questions. I’d like to say it’s because he respects my boundaries, but he’s just not that interested in the things I do anymore. It’s just how it is after a quarter-century.

What would change that?

Knowing how often I lift my skirt.

How would he find that out?

Picture standing next to your spouse at the security counter when the agent asks you to step aside for a secondary inspection. A secondary inspection can last anywhere from minutes to hours, and the best way to make it last hours is to have a secret.

Like an alternate online identity linked to sex.

Immoral sex.

It wouldn’t matter that it was legal sex or that I could answer questions until the cows came home. The immoral nature of my sex would be enough for them to dig in more. Enough for them to ask hub if he knew anything about it. When he said he didn’t, there’d be more questions. And more questions.

“Who is Teresa J. Conway, and why do you have her accounts on your phone?”

“That is your pen name? What do you write about?”

“Do you plan to work while in the US?”

“How long have you been doing this?”

“If we ask your husband about this pen name, what will he say?”

“So you say you run a business, does your husband know about it?”

And then,

“Sir, are you aware your wife is an author?”

“Sir, do you know your wife’s pen name?”

“Sir, did you know your wife has written a book and over 300 stories about adultery using her pen name?”

“Sir, did you know your wife calls herself Your Faery Godmother of Adultery?”

If they let me pass through, which they likely would, how do you think the next two weeks of vacation would go?

And that would be that.

What I did

Instead of risking everything, I sanitized my phone, deleted all my Teresa-related sexy/business apps and email accounts:

  • Ashley Madison
  • Medium
  • Twitter
  • Telegram
  • Kik
  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Google Chat
  • Email —
  • Cleared my private browser
  • Deleted messages from my lover and imposed a “no emoji” rule
  • Double deleted all my sexy photos, as well as screencaps (over 600!!!)
  • Removed any references to Amazon despite having some legit works there
  • Etc., because I’m sure there was other stuff I scrubbed.

What sanitizing a phone means

In a digital environment, you can’t truly delete anything. The best you can hope is to conceal your activity enough to prevent detection during a cursory search. There will still be evidence on your phone, and you don’t have to be much of an expert to know where to look.

You might think you’re clever after cleaning your phone, but if you’re a border security agent who looks at 100 phones a day, you’ll know what you’re looking for.

They also look for what’s missing. This is probably where most people get caught.

Being too clean is as bad as being dirty.

You have to leave things for them to see, like your socials, and some chat/messaging apps. If you get rid of too much, they’ll notice and hand your phone over to someone who will have no problem uncovering your secrets.

The idea here is to remove enough layers to conceal your dirt in a way that won’t lead to the sorts of questions I’ve outlined above.

Cleaning my phone took about an hour as I continued to remember apps.

Don’t act guilty

And never act like you have something to hide. Not everyone can do that, in fact, few with something to hide can. But after four years of spinning lies and coming home dripping from my lover while playing happy families has given me a lot more experience than the average bear.

I figured a reasonably boring phone with all the usual mom stuff on it, like Words With Friends and the FaceSpace, my private and professional email accounts, and a bunch of boring pics not showing my boobs, would do the trick.


Was I overreacting? Probably, but my phone was a mess, so it was worth the exercise. Complacency kills, and just when you think you’ve got your security shit sorted — you don’t.

When you think you’re secure, you have to go back to basics, and this trip was the perfect opportunity to reset that. I’m not kidding when I say the US Border Service can basically do whatever they want with you when it comes to your privacy, and you have no right to say no — and gain entry into the US.

Sure, you can refuse, but they’d send you home, and your trip insurance won’t cover that. And hub would also want to know what was going on.

The other reason I cleaned up was that hub and I would spend a lot of time three feet from each other. He might want to use my phone for a pic, or google maps, and then what?

We were going to be too close to take that risk.

I was left with two impressions after doing this exercise:

  • I’m a very dirty girl!
  • My phone will get me killed if it’s ever compromised.

© Teresa J. Conway, 2022

Author of How to Cheat: Field Notes from an Adulteress, several short stories, I'm active on Medium @teresajconway where I sometimes share my blog posts.

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