Why Tattoos Are My Travel Souvenirs.

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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. FullSijzeRender

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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28 Comments

  • Reply tjtoffolo January 23, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Very cool art. I am now 49 and nearly got my first tattoo 20 years ago, but I was unsure; but now wouldn’t mind one and my skin is still ok for now so I think you will be fine.

    • Reply Pops January 23, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Thank you! You should get one now 😉

  • Reply Mary Leong January 23, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    I love your colourful tattoo! It’s so addictive – I have two and am currently saving up for one of a mermaid on my thigh 😊

    • Reply Pops January 24, 2016 at 6:53 am

      Thank you! That mermaid sounds amazing!

  • Reply intrepidista January 28, 2016 at 12:25 am

    And what amazing souvenirs they are! Way better than another keyring! The one you got in Melbourne is absolutely stunning. I want to get a travel tattoo myself but have no idea what to get.

    • Reply Pops January 28, 2016 at 12:30 am

      Thank you! The Melbourne one is my favourite! 🙂

  • Reply traveltorecovery1981 January 28, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Wow I love the girl you got in Australia. I’m currently tattoo Virgin as too scared incase I don’t like it lol

    • Reply Pops January 28, 2016 at 3:52 am

      Thank you! It’s a big decision, if you don’t like it you’re stuck with it! Maybe get a small hidden one to start 😉

  • Reply Jessica Beare January 28, 2016 at 1:51 am

    I agree with you, it’s so easy to get addicted and I did SO WELL until I moved to Thailand. I got my first one when I was 20 after two years of planning and LOVE it, and then I managed to hold off 4 years (although at one point I booked an appointment and then ducked out). I think it’s great if you can plan your own design or really spend time thinking about it. My next one was terrible, it’s on my ribs and was done with bamboo and is wonky and I cried and nearly passed out (it’s rather large). It was supposed to be done in colour but the artist did it in black, and told me to go back but when I returned he completely ignored me. I hated it for a while but now it’s actually grown on me because it’s authentic, it’s Thai, and it tells a story of being flippant and deciding on the spot. I then got another two months later that I really love and the artist helped me design it for me including different symbols for different things in my life. I really want to get another before I leave Thailand but I’m trying to stop myself haha! It’s just so cheap to get them done here!

    • Reply Jessica Beare January 28, 2016 at 1:52 am

      Also I love the Whistler one on your ankle!

    • Reply Pops January 28, 2016 at 3:51 am

      Yeah I definitely think the ones you plan and think about are the ones you love, and if you have a good designer who takes the time to create it how you want it. That’s like my 17 yr old tattoo, I would never get it now, but it still tells a story for me! Haha yeah I want another one already, but trying to hold out for the next country!

  • Reply Mel | illumelation ✈ (@illumelation) January 28, 2016 at 2:52 am

    That is one seriously beautiful tattoo you got in Australia! I love the mountains from Vancouver, too. It’s wonderful that you’ve adorned your body with stories and memories so meaningful to you and your ideologies. I’ve never taken the plunge because I feel like once I start, I won’t be able to stop, haha! Is it as addictive as everyone says? Or, rather, would you get another tattoo that isn’t related to your travels?

    • Reply Pops January 28, 2016 at 3:48 am

      I am totally addicted to them! I already want another one and my last one was only a month ago. But I’m going to hold out until I’m on my next trip, keeping the travel theme going. If I stopped travelling I would maybe stop getting them, but I love having a different one for each country! Thank you for your kind comments 🙂 maybe start with a small one 😉

  • Reply boozybackpacker January 28, 2016 at 3:00 am

    LOVE.
    love love love love love love love love love.
    If you ever come up to Idaho/Spokane, you need to look up a tattoo artist named Cassie Eisenhour. She’s flippin AMAZING.

  • Reply boozybackpacker January 28, 2016 at 3:00 am

    Also…
    love love love love love love

  • Reply Sara Beth January 28, 2016 at 3:34 am

    Such a cool idea. I love the cluster of symbols on your ankle and the meaning behind them.

    • Reply Pops January 28, 2016 at 3:48 am

      Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Sierra January 28, 2016 at 6:43 am

    This make me so happy! I’m not a tattoo person myself (yet… ) but I’ve always admired the brave souls like you who remember their stories, and the different chapters of their story, in ink.
    It’s such a beautiful, tangible testament to the emotions we live.

    • Reply Pops January 28, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Thank you 🙂 your comment makes me really happy!

  • Reply karyn181 January 28, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Yes! I agree with this so much. I have two large backpieces that I got almost 10 years ago and I haven’t been able to get any ink since because I’ve been putting other things first, but there is nothing like a tattoo for making a phase in your life. In some cultures tattoos were traditionally given when a person learnt lessons or went through initiations in life, and travel is constant learning, so it’s perfectly appropriate to mark your growth in this way! 🙂

    • Reply Pops January 28, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Thanks 🙂 they make me smile every time I look back on where I got them! My dad doesn’t quite see them that way mind, but he’s gonna have to get used to them! 😉

  • Reply Ashleigh Goh January 28, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    I love collecting travel tattoos too! I have 2 travel tatts, one from Bali & another from Thailand 🙂

    • Reply Pops January 29, 2016 at 1:36 am

      Awesome! I’d love to see them 🙂

  • Reply Olga Maria Czarkowski - Dreams in Heels January 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Interesting! I have a friend who does that too. I personally do not like tattoos for my body, but I do appreciate them on other people 🙂 Happy Travels!

    • Reply Pops January 29, 2016 at 1:36 am

      Thank you 🙂 they definitely aren’t for everyone, but I love mine now!

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