Some people collect postcards or shot glasses, others keep a journal or write songs, and some people will get a tattoo to commemorate the time they have spent away. A tattoo is a perfect way to remember your life-changing travel adventure forever, but it's important to follow a few guidelines to keep your inking experience a positive one.
- DO think about what you want for a substantial amount of time. Life can change quickly on the road as you travel between new places, and it's entirely plausible you might change your mind about a design or body location within a week.
- DO chat to a tattooed friend! They know you and know their own experience, so they're in a good place to offer advice.
- DO research the artist. Even if you have decided to get your chosen design spontaneously one day, make sure you go to a professional and don't just walk into the first place you see! I would recommend going to a few different places to discuss quotes, and what different artists specialise in. Don't be afraid to ask to see examples of their work, and a quick Google search will show you reviews both good and bad.
- DON'T get your tattoo while you're drunk. Not only are you more likely to make a regrettable decision, but this also biologically isn't the best idea as thinning blood affects the skin's ability to absorb the ink.
- DO go somewhere clean. Tattoos and body piercings can also increase your risk of blood-borne viruses such as HIV, or hepatitis B and C, through the use of unhygienic equipment. Make sure the tattoo artist unwraps a new needle, and if the parlour doesn't feel sanitary then don't hesitate over leaving and trying somewhere else.
- DO make sure to research the language and any cultural symbols you might include if you want your tattoo to represent your travels. Don't get lost in translation, and be prepared to answer the question "what does it mean?" While the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can help you in many situations, translating your tattoo is not one of them...
- The FCO website does, however, have 225 country guides that will help you research the religions or laws of the various countries you will be visiting, and keep your tattoo culturally sensitive. British tourists have been deported or prevented from entering Sri Lanka due to tattoos of Buddha, tattoos are forbidden among Sunni Muslims and so frowned upon in primarily Muslim nations such as Malaysia or Turkey, in Georgia (USA) it is illegal to get a tattoo within an inch of your eye socket, and in Japan tattoos are often associated with criminal gangs, and so are banned in certain public places such as swimming pools, gyms, and even some hotels. While it's unlikely you will be able to get your travel tattoo in one of these places, be wary of where you are headed on the rest of your trip!
- DON'T ever use being on the road as an excuse not to keep your tattoo clean! You want to remember this trip enough to have it permanently inked on your body, so you probably don't want the story to end with "yeah, and then it got infected...". My top tip is to purchase post-tattoo supplies like anti-bacterial soap and moisturising lotion that are small enough to be taken on a flight! I made the mistake of getting a tattoo the day before I was supposed to fly onto another city, and was stood in a shop trying to find moisturiser that didn't have fragrance and was small enough to take in a clear plastic bag on a plane, which was more than a little stressful. It's also worth checking whether an infected tattoo would be covered under your travel insurance.
Before you embark on your travels make sure you have checked the latest FCO advice for everywhere you plan on going, and keep up to date on their Twitter and Facebook channels.