I have always loved tattoos. After getting one, a long time ago, the pain of the experience has always stayed with me. While I admired all the 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.
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.
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 cardinal points of the compass. We loved this connection with travel, and thought that chakana tattoos would be a fitting memento from the experience.
The circle at 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 an outline on her forearm, and Alex a filled variation on his calf. We cherish our chakana tattoos! Every day they remind us of the experience we shared together 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 the north of Lapland. I ended up volunteering there for a total of 10 months. It was an amazing experience, and I learned lots 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 the frozen landscape of Lapland. Sometimes the temperature surpassed -40. My beard would have icicles hanging from it.
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 my 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-related 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 I look 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.
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 the inner side of my left ankle represents my safe point, my home and my family. Yes, I love travelling and exploring and I never want to stop soaking up the culture of each place I visit. However, at the end of the day, it’s always nice to come back home, to my anchor, 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 continuity of the sun, like no matter what goes wrong, the sun is always going to rise the next day.
Back in February, I got this tiny sun inked behind my right ear while traveling 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, as well as 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. This specific endeavour wasn’t inspired by a specific trip. 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. My multilingualism defines my everyday life, from university to socialising. This is also inevitably connects 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, that of finding your bearings in an unknown location. Sadly, my tattoo hasn’t given me any powers 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.
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 symbolises my pride in my heritage and my independence 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.
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 after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, so I thought a tattoo would be a perfect way to honor Ganesh and the trip helped me to heal.
Russell from RJ Fraser
My travel tattoo was inked during a solo trip to Thailand back in 2012. I quit my job at the time and booked flights to meet friends in Australia. I had a six-week stop in Thailand, to volunteer and teach English in schools around the area of Khao Lak, north of Phuket.
All the volunteers were raving about a small tattoo studio in town called CT Bamboo Tattoo Khao Lak. The local artist there works with needles attached to bamboo sticks, instead of the tattoo gun most commonly used. The designs, detail and quality were better than anything I’d seen before.
I decided I wanted to get some writing in Thai to represent my time in the country. I chose a song lyric from one of my favourite bands I had seen live before leaving for the trip. I chose “Nobody Said It Was Easy” (Coldplay) for my arm. I had it translated by the local guesthouse owner who was English, but had been living in Thailand for over 20 years. In addition, I had it verified by a few more locals!
In the end, I was really happy with the quality and the intricacy of the writing. On the other tattoos I’ve had done by machine, the ink has faded and blurred, but this has remained like new. It was also much less painful!
I was a bit skeptical about the use of bamboo sticks and the potential risks this posed, but all needles were sterile and the studio was exceptionally clean. I’m now happy that I have not just any travel tattoo, but a tattoo done with bamboo.
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.
My second travel tattoo 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 inspired ink
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 all.
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, histories and are as much a part of where we’re going, as they are a part of where we’ve been.
Do you have any travel-inspired tattoos? Let me know!
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About the author:
Travelling in the footsteps of history and blogging about it. Forever Indiana Jones wanna be. Come along for the ride!