The Story Behind My Travel Tattoos
For everyone who doesn’t know, I have seven tattoos. In this post, I will talk about five of them because they are the ones I acquired while traveling. Everyone likes to collect souvenirs as they travel. These tattoos are memories I can take with me as I traverse the globe.
How do I choose what countries I get tattoos from? It’s a feeling for me, I don’t get one in every country, or even on every trip I take. I decide to get a tattoo when I feel my life shifting in another direction, or I am unbelievably happy. When I feel like I am in an amazing place in my life, I want to mark that moment in time permanently. Everyone has their reasons for jamming ink into their skin, but that isn’t what I want to talk about. I just figured I’d share the stories behind all my travel tattoos because I enjoy them.
This is in the order I got them…
Ubuntu (Muizenberg, South Africa)
This was my first tattoo outside of the United States. I decided to get it in Muizenberg, South Africa on my last day in the country after living there for 4 months. Ubuntu is a Zulu term meaning humanity. This term is more often used in a philosophical sense meaning the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all people. Nelson Mandela used it often in his presidency after the apartheid ended.
I love what this word means and represents AND I happen to share the same birthday as Nelson Mandela so I thought it would be a great tattoo to have. This was the beginning of my travel tattoo collection, which is fitting because South Africa is the trip that changed my life in so many ways. It was the beginning of my lust for travel and opened my eyes to life outside the USA. I am so glad I have a permanent reminder of that time in my life. Not to mention it is a great reminder to always be kind and caring; spread love not hate people!
Dream Catcher/Compass (Sydney, Australia)
I was itching to get a new tattoo, and after living in Sydney for a while I decided it was a perfect place to add a new memory to the collection. This tattoo has nothing to really do with Sydney or even Australia, but it has a lot to do with my inner basic betch and my lust for travel. I wanted something to mark my time in Sydney because I LOVED that city and could honestly live there for the rest of my life. What could be more travel basic than a dream catcher/compass combo tattoo.
I joke about how basic it is but I also love it! It was the first time I went into a shop, explained my idea and then trusted him to draw up something cool. I didn’t know exactly what my tattoo would look like until I showed up on the day to get it. He had three drawings for me to pick from and after I chose one and tweaked it a bit he tattoo’d it. All of my previous pieces are simple and small with a set design. To let him have free reign over the design of my tattoo was great!
I was in such an amazing place in my life and needed a memento to mark it. Sydney was another solo trip where I moved there for a year to work and travel. Little did I know at the time of the tattoo, but it was the best year of my life. This tattoo is a reminder of the happy times and all the amazing things that can happen when you step outside your comfort zone and explore what the world has to offer.
Yant Putsoorn (Koh Tao, Thailand)
Bamboo style tattoos have a long history in Buddhism and Southeast Asian culture. For hundreds of years, monks have tattoo’d yantra’s on people because it was believed they offered protection. Today, monks still continue these practices. Monks are forbidden to touch women, and therefore cannot tattoo them. This makes it much harder for me to get the tattoo in the traditional style and blessed by a monk. In Chang Mai, there are locals who will take you to monks willing to do these sak yants on women. It’s very secretive and you really have to do your research to find someone. I did find someone who makes it a “tour”, the only problem is that I am a chronic procrastinator. Well these “tours” book up months in advance… I had two days left in Chang Mai, so I realized this was not going to happen for me.
Since my dreams were dashed, I instead found a tattoo shop that could still give me the bamboo style tattoo. I found Koh Tao Bamboo Tattoo which had a 5-star rating AND you can keep the bamboo used for your tattoo which is a fun souvenir.
I decided on Yant Putsoorn, for my tattoo because I liked the meaning behind it. Now, I would not consider myself religious; Christian, Buddhist or otherwise. I really enjoy most of what Buddhism has to offer though. I did some research on different sak yants and came across yant putsoorn. This sak yant contains the “Na Moe Put Taa Ya” mantra which is chanted in prayer. It is the initial 5 Buddha’s or 5 ways of dharma. Outside of the center yant putsoorn, are smaller chants to improve your horoscope, make you lucky and safe, healthy and happy, wealthy and wise.
XXX.I.MMXVI (Koh Tao, Thailand)
This tattoo was 100% unplanned and has a hilarious story behind it. I will try to shorten the story as much as possible. Let’s start at the beginning though… I met a girl traveling and we became quick friends, we traveled together for a little over a month around Malaysia and Thailand. It was the last day of her trip before she was heading back home. We had been talking about tattoos and I was slowly convincing her to get a bamboo style tattoo. She had been thinking about getting one for a while so it was an easy decision for her.
Jump to the tattoo shop. She decided to get a date, important to her, in roman numerals. Jokingly, I mentioned I failed Latin in high school, and I set out to write up the date. (Bet you can see where this is going) I write it up, we triple check its correct and she gets the tattoo. Jumping again to her packing to leave. As I am putting lotion on her brand new tattoo I notice something looks different. Suddenly, my stomach falls out of my ass and I realize the date is wrong. I have a quick mental breakdown before telling her what has happened. The date was supposed to say 30.06.2016 but it actually says 30.01.2016. I freak out over the guilt, and because she is an amazing human, she laughs and tells me its not my fault.
I run through the options on how to fix this mistake: cover up? tattoo removal? Then I tell her “You know what, F** it we joked about getting matching tattoo’s, I am going to go back and get the same date tattoo’d on me”. That was the only way I could see to turn this mistake into a funny story. She had to catch her boat in 15 minutes, so I pinkie promised I’d go back and do it. We said our goodbyes and she was gone. Two days later, I went back and got the same exact (wrong date) tattoo’d on my ribs. Does the actual date mean anything? No, but I now have a funny story whenever someone asks what it means. Not to mention, my friend doesn’t hate me and we still talk and plan for future travels together.
The Tent (Savannah, Georgia)
This tattoo is the reason I decided to write this blog post. It is a brand new tattoo (3 days old). I have been living in Florida for almost 6 months now, slowly saving for my move to New Zealand. Recently, I felt exhausted and run down, I hated going to work every day. I was going to go crazy! I had two days off and decided to take a quick trip to Savannah with some coworkers. Even a quick trip traveling to new places in the US revived me.
I was on a travel high, exploring a new city, relaxing on the beach, and experiencing camping in summer. (It was hot for real). On a whim, we decided to get tattoo’s because I think all three of us were experiencing that travel high. So what made sense? A tent of course! We had an amazing time, so why not mark our happiness permanently with ink.
It might seem silly to some people, but I am so happy with it. After the trip I had a new and improved attitude at work and nothing could destroy my mood. I love spontaneity and any time I look at this tattoo, it will lighten my mood. It’s a simple reminder that even if I am in a life rut, I have the ability to change my circumstances. Travel is my antidote to all problems, even if its a three hour road trip.