When I say that traveling while being a tattooed person is it’s own experience, I’m referring to those if us with substantial parts of our bodies covered with artwork that cannot be covered up. I’m NOT referring to those of you who have a handful of small pieces in easily concealable spots because, honestly, we’re looked at much differently—and that’s okay!
Once you hit a certain point of coverage, you expect the stares. Especially as a woman who falls under the category of being heavily tattooed. Stares can come from both locals and tourists and can occasionally turn into hands; hands grabbing us, rubbing our artwork to see if it’s fake or if it will rub off. The stares aren’t always meant to be offensive or taken in a negative light, but you’re likely already being looked at for being a foreigner and adding tattoos on top of that makes it a recipe for feeling uncomfortable.
There’s not really a whole lot you can do about how people view the art on your body, but it doesn’t do much use to get frustrated over stares. On the other hand, if people are touching you and you aren’t comfortable with that, SAY IT! There’s no harm in speaking up. If it’s a friendly local who doesn’t seem to hold any animosity towards you and is taking a closer look, simply remove yourself from their touch and walk away. If there’s attitudes involved, f*** it, give it right back.
The questions. Ohhhh, the questions!
Are they real? No, I draw them on every morning with a Sharpie.
Did they hurt? No, I’m a sadist who enjoys being stabbed, pulled, and rubbed for 5+ hours.
What do they mean? Read above answer.
Yes, people can be curious. But hearing the same questions over and over from people who 85% of the time have no real interest in the answer and only want to start talking about their grand master plans for a whole sleeve is DRAINING and ANNOYING.
In the “Western World” we’re lucky that, generally speaking, we don’t have to deal with any sort of taboos, prejudices, or cultural no-no’s when it comes to being tattooed or getting tattooed (outside of the obvious don’t be hateful/offensive/gang affiliated). The same thing can’t be unanimously said around the world–there are certainly cultures where tattooing is illegal and tattoos are looked down upon. This could have many different implications, including having to cover up your tattoos, not being allowed entry into certain places due to being tattooed, being viewed as a prostitute or being a sex object because of them, etc. Before going to a place that isn’t considered under the umbrella of the Western world, I highly recommend researching what the cultural norms are regarding them and being respectful of that–if you’re asked to cover them up, do so without fighting it. You will be in their country and should be abiding by their rules, de facto or de jure.
Being tattooed while on the road can also loop you into a really cool, interesting culture and introduce you to many people you may not necessarily have connected with otherwise. It also allows you discover incredible artists from around the world and obviously get ~zapped~ while traveling!
Protip: Find a good artist–my favorite mode is via Instagram because you can see the work that has been geotagged at certain shops and can also use popular tags such as #insertcitytattoo or #tattooinsertcity if you’re visiting a larger city, as most tattoo artists use hashtags like these in order to get their pages seen.
When it comes to getting tattooed while traveling, be weary of the design you choose; be sure to be culturally sensitive to the country in which you’re getting tattooed in. Google is a fantastic resource for finding out if there are certain designs or motifs you should avoid or if there are certain styles that you should go for; read: don’t get a Buddha tattooed in Thailand (or at all, really–it’s seen as incredibly disrespectful to Buddhism). You can’t rely on your artist to clue you in on what may be offensive or wrong, so do your own due diligence and do 10min of Googling before the needle starts buzzing.
Friendly reminder, regardless of how tattooed you may or may not be: don’t expect tattoos to cost significantly less outside of places like the US and Canada; tattoo artists still have the same education, training, use the same materials and equipment, and still have overhead and bills that they need to pay. If an artist quotes you a certain price, don’t gasp at it in horror and complain about it being too expensive because “that’s what you would pay back home”. Respect the craft. Respect the art. Respect the artists. You get what you pay for in many cases.