The Pros and Cons of getting a Tattoo on your Travels

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There’s something about traveling to a new place and experiencing new things that makes us feel alive.

There is excitement on the morning horizon and adventure in the night.

It’s easy to get swept up in a moment on vacation; it’s easy to lose ourselves as we discover new opportunities. It’s also in our nature to try to capture the moments we spend on these journeys.

We take pictures, write postcards and buy souvenirs to try to hold on to what we’re seeing and feeling. In some cases, it may seem like the best way to prolong the experience is to do something permanent and life changing…

Like getting a tattoo.

When it comes to travel tattoos though it’s a roll of the dice. Either you come up a winner with something you’re happy with forever, or go home with something you wish you could leave behind.

a hand touching a new tattoo
Getting a travel tattoos

The Pros of getting a tattoo on your travels

Let’s be optimistic first shall we? There are plenty of people who have gotten a travel tattoo on an adventure far from home and live to love and show off their ink.

There’s something about exploring foreign territory that makes us want to explore new parts of ourselves. Almost everywhere you go some part of the local tourism caters to thrill seekers. Think sky-diving, rock climbing, white water rafting, zip lining, bungee jumping, the list goes on and on.

What they all have in common is this: adrenaline. Each of these activities causes a rush. And so can getting a travel tattoo.

Many people actually cite the surge of adrenaline as one of their favorite parts of the tattooing process. The human body is programmed to respond to pain with both adrenaline and endorphins. They protect us from feeling excruciating pain, by making us feel good.

That’s why in spite of the fact that getting tattoo involves sitting in a chair and not free-falling off a bridge it does fit into the same category of adventurous activities.

Things we might never do at home become viable options while we’re away, so a travel tattoo could seem like the ultimate snap shot of your trip.

It may be an image you’ve considered for a long time or something inspired by the culture surrounding you. So you think; “Do it. Carpe diem dude.

In the best of circumstances you wind up with something you love. An image that each time you see it, you feel the same rush of joy you experienced the day you got it. But there’s a really good chance it could go the other way.

getting travel tattoos

The Cons of getting a tattoo on your travels

a person getting their arm tattooed
Photo: eye Liam

Sometimes the best ideas in the moment turn into really bad memories. Of course, that can happen with a tattoo whether you get it done across the street or across the planet.

But while you’re traveling, the chance to do something lasting can be an enticing temptation. However, there’s a huge possibility that when you are back to your daily routine, the new addition might not fit. It could cause problems at work or awkward situations with family members.

So before taking on the needle mentally take a walk through a day in your life imagining it with a tattoo. Of course, if you’re thinking about getting a travel tattoo somewhere far from home, tattoo regret could be the least of your worries.

Having a request get “lost in translation” isn’t so bad when you meant to order the chicken and wound up with monkey brains. That’s only one night down the tubes. But what if it happens when you are trying to breach a language barrier with a tattoo artist? There’s always a chance your intentions could be, misconstrued and you could end up with a travel tattoo that was not at all what you originally intended.

If you’re going to do it, make sure to have an image with you. A picture says a thousand words in a universal language. If you are choosing a word or character that is not your native tongue, think like a sick person and get a second opinion. Confirm that the tattoo you want means exactly what you think it means.

That way you can avoid the potential of the humiliation of thinking your tat says “strength” when it actually says “cow”.

The Ugly side of getting tattoos on your travels

Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The biggest risk involved with getting a tattoo on the trail is about your health.

The tattooing process involves using needles to put pigments in the skin. Anytime you’re breaking the epidermis and introducing foreign chemicals into the body there can be any number of complications.

There is well-establisheded set of rules and standards that are enforced in tattoo parlors in the United Sates and many other countries. But the further off the beaten path you go, the more you will find yourself in un-regulated territory.

The risks of getting tattoos with inks that contain toxins or unsanitary needles are very real. There are a number of conditions that can develop as a result of getting a tattoo in less than ideal circumstances.

There could be infection, allergic reaction, herpes, staph infections, tetanus, tuberculosis, some forms of hepatitis, and even HIV. Just to name a few possibilities.

If you do want to get a tattoo on a vacation make sure that the place you choose follows some basic hygienic procedures including the use of gloves and a proper needle sterilization process.

Also make sure you know what kind of ink is going into your body, avoid low-grade inks which can have impurities and contaminants.

a person getting their back tattooed
Travel tattoos come with risks

In the end, whether or not you decide to commemorate your travels with a permanent addition to your body is a personal decision only you can make.

But don’t rely on the tattoo removal process to undo any impulsive moves. Yes, procedures exist, but they can still be costly, time consuming and even painful.

It may be exciting and important to you to get this done while you are traveling, in the throes of your self exploration. There’s nothing wrong with that, but think it through.

Be smart, be safe, and be sober if you do it.

Did you get a tattoo on your vacation? Was it a good decision or a poor one? We want to know in the comment section!

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Janet is a writer for New Look a Houston tattoo removal clinic. She is a blogger, marketer and a huge fan of tattoo culture. She also loves traveling to new places and collecting inspiration for tattoos she’ll get done at home.

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