Would You Get a Tattoo Abroad?

I love tattoos.. I love the stories behind them and the light in someones eye when they talk about what their tattoo means or where they got it. Can you guess what kinds of tattoos fascinate me most?

You got it, travel tattoos. Whether the person got the tattoo on their travels or the tattoo is a symbol of their love of travel, they are by far the most interesting and the closest to my heart. I also love script tattoos since I connect with words more than images.

the mural that my tattoo artist painted on the wall.

It seems that every time I leave the country, the itch for a tattoo comes back and boy is that itch strong. I have mixed feelings about getting tattoos while you’re traveling. I’ve done it, twice actually, but each time it was such a pain to keep clean and let heal. It meant that this past summer, traveling through the scorching hot countries (this initially said cities.. dear lord. clearly final exams are not good for me) of Cambodia and Vietnam, I wasn’t allowed to go in the water. That when it poured with rain, I began to panic about the fresh tattoo on my ankle that was about to be splashed with dirty water from the puddles I was walking through.

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I have three tattoos, the first I got at home and the other two both done in Thailand (read about my elephant tattoo here).

Yes, I know, cue horrified looks and questions of whether I was drunk when I got them. No, I wasn’t drunk. The first I got in the city of Chiang Mai on my very first weekend in the country. Me and some girls I had just met decided that we were going to get tattoos. All of ours turned out great, some getting the five lines of protection, another girl “no regrets” in Thai and me “and so it goes” on my wrist. Mine turned out good, at first. Until two days later when I couldn’t resist tubing in a river that elephants bathed in daily. I blame that for the way my tattoo looks now.

I can't say I took my own advice, it wasn't the cleanest place.

There are a few important things to consider before getting a tattoo abroad.

  • Is this a spur of the moment decision that you’re going to regret later? Or will it actually hold meaning to you in a year’s time? I mean, if anything, at least it will remind you of the destination you were in. Don’t make a hasty decision. Think about it, you have time. This is important to remember especially if it is your first tattoo.
  • Are you planning to go swimming during your trip? Swimming can alter the appearance and healing process of a new tattoo. You should wait at least two weeks for the flaking and peeling to be done and the scab has fallen off.
  • Are you drunk? If you are, it might be wise to wait until morning before making your final decision. Not only will you wake up with a pounding headache and a strange tattoo on your body, drinking will also make you bleed more during the tattoo process. The end result of that is more scabbing and an uglier tattoo. (Many countries won’t tattoo you if you’ve been drinking but we all know that some will).
  • Make sure the tattoo shop is clean. Are their needles individually packaged, brand new and sterile? Does the artist use fresh latex gloves? Is the ink fresh and being poured into small disposable cups?
  • Check out the artist’s books. The tattoo artist will usually have a book of previous work he or she has done that you can flip through to see what you think of their work.
  • Are you getting a word or phrase from another language or a symbol from another culture? Make sure you do your research! Think of what you want and if it’s a word or phrase, ask a bunch of different locals what it means. You don’t want a word in Thai that you think means “happiness” but actually says “food” or something stupid. That’s embarrassing.

I personally think that getting tattoos, whether at home or abroad, is awesome and I know I will be getting many more on my travels. All of what I said above is just guidelines, some things to think about. Ultimately, getting a tattoo is your decision. After all, I know a few people who’ve ended up with gorgeous tattoos after a night of drinking in Thailand. I also know people who had only thought about what they were getting for an hour before they decided to get inked and they still love it. What do you think about tattoos in general? Have you gotten a travel related tattoo?

If you have a tattoo travel story or photo that you would like to share, submit it to whirlwindtravel@hotmail.com

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Memories of a Summer Highland Fling PLUS Bucket List: Sleep in a Haunted Building

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change
that goes on, deep and permanent, in the
ideas of the living,”
– Miriam Beard

In the summer of 2010 I slept in a haunted castle. Or so I was told that it was haunted by several ghosts and well, that is good enough for me. Carbisdale Castle is located near the Kyle of Sutherland (in the Scottish Highlands) and was built for a duchess. How cool is that? Nowadays, Carbisdale Castle is used as a youth hostel and it turned out to be one of the hostels that I stayed in for a night during my five day adventure of the Scottish Highlands. Nestled up on a hill and surrounded by woodland, the castle was a beautiful place to spend the night. However, that didn’t stop me from being terrified to go to the washroom, look in mirrors, or open my eyes even a peep once the lights were out. Unfortunately… (ok, so I’m secretly thankful!) I did not encounter any ghosts. But I did sleep in a castle that was said to be haunted. So, that bucket list goal was accomplished! Maybe now I need to add on a new bucket list goal: have a real, ghostly encounter? Even the thought gives me the creeps.

I’m hesitant about joining tour groups. It doesn’t matter where I go, if I go alone or with a friend, I am always convinced that I can just do it on my own.. and also, I always think it will be a lot cheaper than it would be to go on an organized tour. Despite that, I chose to sign up for a tour of the Scottish Highlands with a friend of mine. The two of us, along with a girl she had met earlier on her travels were all booked for the same tour: The 5-Day Highland Fling, a five day tour through the company Haggis Adventures. Those five days turned out to be the best five days I had ever had and, to this day, they are certainly still very high up there on my mental list of best days ever. I was extremely happy that I decided to book through Haggis Adventures. My group, whom we all dubbed “The Ayemac Clan” and even got a girl to draw a lovely crest for ourselves, was amazing. Truly the greatest group of people.

During the next five days, memories were made that will continue to last me a lifetime. Within five days I did many things. I did whiskey shots before lunch. I called out to Nessie and was fully prepared to offer a girl from our group as a sacrifice. I played in Neverland, the home of Peter Pan. I touched a tomb that has now cursed me with bad luck for eternity. On the other hand, I dunk my face into a freezing river in order to have eternal beauty. I rode around in the biggest, brightest yellow bus with the words Wild and Sexy on it for five days. I sat and saw a train cross over the Harry Potter bridge. I learned some traditional Scottish dance moves. I kissed Hamish the Hairy Coo. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. And whenever I see the letters DSL, I think of Deep Scottish Love, without fail. I actually asked a Scottish guy last summer if he knew what DSL meant and I was very, very disappointed that not every Scottish person knew what that meant, as I had believed.

I have always meant to write a post about my time on the Highland Fling tour but for some reason just never got around to doing it. Over the last two days, a video made by one of the guys in our group was rediscovered and has been circulating Facebook. I’ve watched it five times today already and have shown it to people who probably don’t actually care. So, I thought I would show it to all of you as well! Enjoy! And thank you, Rob, for the incredible video!