getting inked

Travel tattoos and the bloggers who have them

I have always loved tattoos.  After getting my first one, a long time ago, the pain of the experience has always stayed with me. While I admired all the travel tattoos around me, I didn’t have the courage to get another.  However, as travel has become a larger part of my life, I decided to get more ink as it felt right.

Having two travel tattoos under my belt, I wondered what inspired other bloggers to get them. Therefore, I went ahead and asked them. Here is what they came back with.

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Alex and Lisa from Career Gappers

In June 2017, we took off on a one-year career break together to travel the world. Our adventure started in South America; we arrived in Lima, where we began a month-long traverse of Peru.

Our travel career break enabled us to push our boundaries in ways we would never have done otherwise. One of the biggest challenges came just a couple of weeks into the trip: we embarked on the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail has almost become a travelling cliché, but it absolutely lived up to the hype. We had a brilliant camaraderie in our team of ‘Inca warriors’ from around the world, all of whom we’ve kept in touch with since. Over four days of trekking, we made friends for life and witnessed breathtaking jungle scenery, culminating in that iconic image of Machu Picchu at dawn.

travel tattoos peru
travel tattoos – memories of Peru

Throughout the expedition, our local guides educated us with stories about Inca culture and civilization. We learned about the chakana – or the ‘Inca Cross’ – the distinctive Inca symbol that denotes the compass’s cardinal points. We loved this connection with travel and thought that chakana travel tattoos would be fitting mementos from our experience.

The circle in the middle of the chakana represents Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, and that’s where we had our ink done. We had slightly different designs; Lisa got an outline on her forearm, and Alex got a filled variation on his calf. We cherish our chakana travel tattoos! Every day they remind us of the experience we shared at the beginning of our big journey.

Anthony from Megliovivere

In the summer of 2011, I went to Finland to volunteer as a husky dog trainer way up in Lapland. I ended up volunteering there for a total of 10 months. It was an amazing experience, and I learned a lot and met loads of great people.

After my first stint working with huskies, I went even further north in Lapland (almost as far north as you can go in Europe) to work as a reindeer herder with the indigenous people of Lapland – the Sami people. Our work involved long days and long nights working with the reindeer out in Lapland’s frozen landscape. Sometimes the temperature surpassed -40. My beard would have icicles hanging from it.

Anthony Travel Tattoo
travel tattoos – reindeer in Lapland

I did this work for around five months and ended up returning the following winter to do it all again. While there, I visited a museum in Alta, Norway, which is on the site of thousands of ancient Sami rock carvings. As an archaeology graduate, these rock carvings really made an impression on me. I decided that I wanted one of them tattooed on me. This would serve as a permanent reminder of my time as a Sami reindeer herder.

I didn’t get the tattoo until a few years later when I was living and volunteering in Moldova. It depicts a man holding a reindeer by its antler (which reindeer herders do) underneath the gaze of the midnight sun. I have five tattoos, and all of them have a special significance to me. However, this Sami tattoo is my personal favourite.

Char from Memoirs and Musings

I actually have three travel tattoos. Just recently, I got a tiny plane behind my ear. This was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and after I’d had it done, my world felt right. It was as though I had had it all along. Crazy right?

Some may say you should aim for an original tattoo, but I saw this design on Pinterest, and I had to go with it. Simplicity for me personally, is key. A plane not only symbolizes freedom, my constant desire to escape, but a place where I feel at home. When I’m flying and looking at the beauty outside the window, I realize the world is much bigger than my everyday surroundings.

My other travel tattoos are: Wanderlust on my left shoulder, which is pretty self-explanatory. This word is common in the travel world, and essentially, it means a desire to explore one’s existence through travel. I also have a palm tree behind my ear, which is a reminder of where I feel relaxed!

Gratsiela from Blushrougette

I guess I have always been obsessed with travelling. My grandad used to work on a big cargo ship and had the opportunity to visit every country the ship sailed.

He would bring me little presents and books from all over the world. The stories he would tell only made me want to visit all those places too. I made it my mission to see as much of our world as I possibly can. I was making a travel bucket list in my teenage years, and ultimately, I’m collecting everything on my own travel blog.

wanderlust tattoo
essential travel tattoos

I not only have one but two travel-inspired tattoos. They are part of a collection of six tattoos that I have. A delicate inscription reading ‘wanderlust’ stands at the back of my left ankle. It’s my favourite word as it reminds me of walking this world with a passion and to explore all the places that I have yet to visit. Almost symmetrical, an anchor on my left ankle’s inner side represents my safe point, home, and family.

Yes, I love travelling and exploring, and I never want to stop soaking up the culture of each place I visit. However, it’s always nice to come back home to my anchor at the end of the day and be with my loved ones.

KB from Her Life in Ruins 

I travel a LOT! Like, to the point that my friends started joking that I chase the sun. I’ve always been obsessed with watching sunrises and sunsets everywhere I go. I love the sun’s continuity, like no matter what goes wrong, the sun is always going to rise the next day.

sun tattoo
travel tattoos

In February, I got this tiny sun inked behind my right ear while traveling to St. Petersburg, Florida. My friend, who travels quite a bit with me, decided to get a moon behind her left ear to go with my sun. It was a great bonding experience and serves as a reminder of all the sunrises and sunsets I’ve seen over the years and those I’ve yet to see.

Meghan from Pixieskies

Getting your first tattoo is a big step into the inevitability of wasting all your money on pretty pictures for your body. I chose to combine that step with another great expense in my life – travel. A specific trip didn’t inspire this specific endeavour. It’s very simplistic and was over in about 20 minutes, but I still absolutely adore it.

My first ink was a crossed compass with a difference on my right ankle. Upon first glance, there seems to be nothing special about it, but for me, it has a big meaning involved. Each arrow of the compass has three fletchings (yes, I had to look up the technical term), and it’s no coincidence that I also speak three languages.

Meghan Travel Tattoo
inspiration for travel tattoos

My multilingualism defines my everyday life, from university to socializing. This is also inevitably connected to my love for travel. Asif through my languages, I feel like I’m travelling the world every day, even if I haven’t left my desk.

There’s also the classic meaning behind a compass, finding your bearings in an unknown location. Sadly, my tattoo hasn’t given me any power in doing this at all. I’m usually squinting at Google Maps in every subway station I go to on my various adventures. It’s a nice illusion that I have my life together, though.

My compass definitely wasn’t my last travel tattoo, and I hope it won’t be my last themed by travel either.

Olivia from A Northerner Abroad

Grech, pronounced “GreCK,” is often my opening line when I meet people for the first time, and I introduce them to my Maltese heritage. My family on my father’s side is from Gozo, a small Maltese island. I have inherited from them a difficult-to-pronounce surname, along with predominantly dark features and yet, my mother’s ability to burn. All jokes aside, although I cringe at the inevitable ‘GreCH’ on the first day of a new school year or starting my first job, I am unbelievably proud of my dual nationality. I love to visit Malta as often as I can.

white travel tattoo
family inspired travel tattoos

I wanted to declare this pride permanently in the form of a tattoo when I reached an age my parents (and the law) would allow me. In 2013, while visiting Malta, Gozo and Comino, I took to the only tattoo studio in Gozo. I deliberated designs with the artist, who our family is incidentally related to (yep, it’s that small). The design we came up with features the Maltese cross, a symbol of the Knights of Malta, and an arrow moving forward through the cross. This symbolizes my pride in my heritage, and my independence in transitioning forward with my life.

My tattoo is also white, which I love, as I think it’s something different from the usual tattoo as it’s subtler than the usual black. I still love my tattoo now, five years after that painful afternoon (ribs are apparently a tender spot for needles), and I wouldn’t change any of it!

Retha from Roaming Nanny

In the fall of 2014, I got a divorce. Although it was my choice as I decided to leave, it didn’t make the divorce any easier. It’s like starting life all over again. You’re lost and confused, and to be completely honest, everything sucks.

About a year later, still a little lost, I went on a trip to India. I knew very little about the culture at the time and was excited to experience a place so different from my home country. During a visit to a Hindu Temple, I learned about Ganesh (also spelled Ganesa or Ganesha), the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles.

deity travel tattoo
travel tattoos come from unexpected places

Throughout the trip, I learned more and more about Ganesh and what he stands for. The more I learned, the more I felt like I was meant to go on this trip. That he was with me, helping me get through everything in life that was bogging me down.

Upon returning home, I still felt the same way. Little things that would bother me before, a memory, an old photo, didn’t seem to bother me as much.

 I knew it was because of Ganesh. I wanted him to be with me in a physical sense, as well as a spiritual one. I got my first travel tattoo the year before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, so I thought a tattoo would be a perfect way to honour Ganesh and the trip helped me heal.

Karlos from Karlos International

One of my greatest passions in life is following the Eurovision Song Contest. The Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s biggest annual music event, and it has been going on for over 60 years. The countries of Europe come together in a musical equivalent of the Olympic Games. Over 200 million viewers watch the contest each year.

In 2011, I travelled to the contest for the first time with my friends. It was hosted in Germany as Lena had won the contest with her song, ‘satellite’ in the previous year (the winner gets to host). So, we headed to Berlin to see the amazing city and to watch Eurovision with the locals.

We arrived at the hotel and across the street was a tattoo parlour. A devilish idea popped into my mind. What better way to celebrate my love for Eurovision than with commemorative travel tattoos? We did some quick googling to check the venue was ok.

My friend and I emerged an hour later, etched in matching Eurovision ink. We took the ‘V’ from the Eurovision logo at the time, which was also a heart. Mine is on my ribs, and my friend’s sits on her shoulder. We’ve vowed to fill the tattoo with a union flag when the UK next wins the contest (although we could be waiting a while).

We celebrated Eurovision into the early hours in a German gay bar, even stepping in to sing along after the satellite signal failed. Our matching tattoos went down a storm. The UK finished 11th, which is an amazing result (we really suck at Eurovision).

I now travel to Eurovision every year, which is why I started my blog. I also have a great souvenir from the first trip. I love telling the story about our spur-of-the-moment travel tattoos, and having ‘Eurovision ink’ is an excellent ice breaker at parties.

My travel tattoos

When it comes to choosing travel tattoos, the choices are endless. I knew I wanted something that related to travel, yet wasn’t sure what to get. After many contenders, I ended up getting the word “numinous” on my arm. The word, Latin in origin, describes an experience that makes you fearful, yet fascinated. Awed yet attracted. The powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired. I chose it, because that is how travel makes me feel.

girl on a patio in Rome with an arm tattoo
travel tattoos are addictive

I wasn’t done with travel tattoos, so I got another. The second is a map of the world with a compass as a background. There are a couple of faint stamps intertwined with it as well. After all, you need a compass to navigate the world, and we all love to collect stamps in our passports. It felt right, and I love it. What also makes it special is that I got it here in Italy, our second home.

Travel tattoos – inspiration for ink

Travel tattoos are as versatile as the people who get them. I love hearing the stories behind them, especially when it comes to travel tattoos. There is something to be said about carrying a memory or an experience with you. Whether it’s a feeling, something that represents a special place or personal history, travel tattoos can reflect it.

If you like reading about travel tattoos, you might also enjoy To all the places I have loved before!

What is so special about travel tattoos in particular? I think they become an extension of those that find themselves drawn to faraway places and new experiences. They also represent personal journeys, and histories and are as much a part of where we’re going as they are a part of where we’ve been.

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