I am addicted. This addiction is one that I can’t stop. I am addicted to tattoos. More specifically I am addicted to getting a tattoo in every country I live in, to document my time, traveling.
I got my first tattoo when I was seventeen, with a bodged ID (I won’t tell you where). I designed it myself and thought it was the bees knees. Ten years later and I am not all that fond of 17 year old me’s decision. However I don’t regret having it done. It reminds me of who I was at 17; that insecure young girl, trying to navigate school politics and trying to be cool. You know that phase all teenagers go through – if you didn’t, then lucky you.
It reminds me of my first love and the time we went on holiday to Cornwall and I added an inscription to it and he got stars up his arm; which sounds worse than it looked. It doesn’t make me sad that things didn’t work out, or make me miss him; it helps me remember how consumed by love I was. It was crazy and passionate, we were so wrong for each other, but we made some amazing memories.
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I got another one. I remember leaving the tattoo shop at 17 and thinking it was the best thing since sliced bread, already planning my next one. But I held out. Then on a road trip around America, my tattoo addiction was reborn. We had stopped in Venice Beach for the day and one of my travel buddies had decided to get something added to his tattoo, and I went along to have a look. I already knew that I wanted to get a compass at some point, and I kind of just went along with it, without really thinking too much. And I loved it, I still love it.
I got the tattoo at a time when I felt so free and as if I was on the brink of something amazing. This was my first time in another country on my own; with a mismatch of travel companions I had picked up from my time working in California. It was my first proper road trip, it was my first time in America, it was the longest time I had ever left my country for. It was a scary yet incredibly exhilarating time in my life, and my compass represents that; it reminds me to take risks – because you never know what adventure you will find yourself on.
I had already decided that I would get another tattoo when I got to Canada, but seeing as I had decided to live there on and off for two years, I had time to decide what I wanted. After my first season my Canadian boyfriend and I broke up. It was a weird time for me. He was my first boyfriend traveling and even though I love being independent and doing my own thing, I had grown used to having him around. It was comforting, having someone close to you, while I was figuring out living in another country. It was hard adjusting to being independent again, and I hated myself for relying on him as much as I had – emotionally. So I headed down to Vancouver and I got two triangles tattooed on my arm – to represent the mountains I had been living in. I guess in a way it also was a declaration of independence too, he hated tattoos, it was as if I was getting back to myself again.
Before I left Canada, in my last weeks I decided I wanted another one for my time in Canada. So when my roommate was getting her nose pierced, I tagged along to try and get some more ink. I think it is easy to lose sight of why you are travelling sometimes and I wanted to remember forever what I loved about Whistler and what I am always searching for when I am travelling. So I got a mountain, wave, tree, arrow and an anchor tattooed on my ankle. It was my souvenir for my Canadian adventures, ones that I never want to forget.
I had already booked a tattoo for Australia, before I left Canada. A friend I worked with showed me the work of Kirk Jones and I fell in love with his tattoos. He had a waitlist of about 6 months, so I booked in with the hope I would be in Melbourne around that time. I wasn’t. I ended up flying back to Melbourne from Brisbane just for the tattoo, but I am so glad I did; it is my favourite tattoo. Australia has been a huge rollercoaster of ups and downs, but I’m still here figuring everything out. My tattoo in Australia was of a girl’s face and a ship, surrounded by flowers. It will hopefully remind me of how strong I can be, when things go wrong, I can pick up and brush myself off and get on with it – onto the next travel fiasco!
I often wonder what I will think of my tattoos in 20 years time, I imagine my life will be very different by then; I know that my body and skin definitely will be. But I also think what an amazing thing to have when I am old and wrinkly and my memories start to fade, a tattoo for each country I have lived in, always with me, helping me to remember who I was and where I was, and how I lived.
That is why tattoos are my souvenir of choice. Some people collect postcards or fridge magnets, but that isn’t particularly convenient if you are continually travelling. I collect tattoos, and no matter how bad they are or if I won’t want that particular design in ten years time, I will look back with a smile and chuckle about how stubborn and carefree I was then, not caring about future Lauren’s problems.