Three years ago I was scrolling through a friend’s Instagram feed and I came across an image that made me pause. The print was of a monarch butterfly, in all white. One half of the image was the traditional butterfly print with wings spread, the other half was of the continents of the world, arranged to complete the other half of the butterfly. I loved the symmetry of the image and the fact that it combines a butterfly that is often associated with growth, transformation and flight and the continents which of course to me says travel. Not to mention it also tapped into my tendency to get sucked into staring at maps. I quickly snapped a screen shot of the image on my iPhone and thought to myself, that would be a great tattoo one day. In fact, I may have actually written that in the Instagram comments.
According to the geo location tag on the image, it was taken in a bar in NYC that has since closed down and I’m not sure who the original artist is, but I kept that picture saved in my photo feed, you know, “Just in case”.
Not being able to draw even the simplest picture, I know I loved the idea for a tattoo, but I figured, that image was way too complicated for someone to draw and ink up. Why I let my completely unartistic self make that assumption is beyond me. Finally I showed it to an artist friend who assured me that if someone could draw it, it could be turned into a tattoo and then I really started to think about making that my third tattoo.
At the start, my first tattoo had nothing to do with travel – it was based on an image I saw one day and thought looked cool. For me it was more about getting over the fear of getting my first tattoo and just doing it. But I did get the tattoo when I was living overseas in London so there was automatically a travel aspect tied to it. Then after a while I realized there were five segments of the tattoo which correspond to the number of oceans on the planet and the images were a bit wavy and mimicked motion, so I thought that they could represent overall movement and travel. It’s a bit of a stretch, but when people asked me what that tattoo meant, that’s how I began to explain it.
My second tattoo came 11 years later. It’s a simple design made up of just two words: “Journey On…”. I had attended an excellent conference the year before about living an unconventional, “non-cookie cutter” life. In one of the workshop, the presenters encouraged us to take out a Sharpie and write a word anywhere on our body that spoke to us. The word that popped into my head was “Journey” so I uncapped my marker and wrote it on the inside of my left wrist. I liked seeing it there. Of course it indicated travel, but it also spoke to me as I knew I needed to make a change in my life particularly in relation to my work situation. I wasn’t happy at the job I had and I knew it was negatively impacting other areas of my life. Less than a year later I had worked out a way to save enough money to quit that job and take off on a 5 month journey through Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe. To mark the occasion, I decided to use ink that was a bit more permanent than a Sharpie to tattoo the word Journey on my wrist. I added the word “on…” to remind myself to keep moving forward. Also because I didn’t want to be confused with a diehard fan of the band with the same name.
In 2013, I came across the image I started describing at the beginning of this post. At first it was just a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” thought, then after some more time I began to think seriously about turning it into a tattoo, but I was waiting for “the right time”. Eventually, I realized that there really is no “right time” and I decided to go for it. As much as I wanted to get it done overseas or wait to do it just before a big life event like my other two tats, I knew I just wanted to have it done rather than waiting for a significant reason. So I researched tattoo shops in my area, scheduled an appointment with an artist who came highly recommended (thanks, Julia), lined up a friend to come along for the fun (thanks, Andreanna) and after an hour of somewhat tolerable levels of discomfort, I came out with tattoo number 3. And I love it.
I have to give a shout out to Lantz at Shoebox Tattoo. He does amazing work, puts you right at ease and runs a very professional shop. Thank you, Lantz!
And guess what, even though I thought the timing was completely random, in actuality it wasn’t (thanks, Universe). I had said that I wanted to do it just before a big life event. Well, even though I didn’t see it coming, two days after getting my tattoo, I learned that my job of 3.5 years was ending: a casualty of a department reorganization. So now I’m faced with the choice of going back for more of the same career wise, or looking at this as an opportunity to follow my heart and escape the cubicle once and for all. I’m still weighing my options, but heavily leaning towards the latter. Watch this space to see how it all pans out.
I don’t know if there will be a tattoo number 4. I’m not planning on it, but of course I didn’t plan on number 2 or number 3 either. If something hits me, I may just go for it. Do you have any tattoos inspired by, or that inspire travel? Leave me a comment below…I’d love to hear about them.
Photo credit and a huge thank you goes out to Greg Hatton. I couldn’t have done these photos myself, and even if I could have I would not have captured it as well as he did. Check out his work on his Instagram feed (@renaissainceman) or on his soon to be released website www.impaci.com.