Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Attention to Detail or: How I Ended Up with a Sleeve Tattoo (sorry mom)

On Sunday I did something I've wanted to do for quite some time now:

I started my passport stamps tattoo! 

Even when I was little I wanted to travel to other countries, but I was never able to do so until 2007, when Mickey and I went to visit Leta while she was studying abroad in London.

From St. Paul's Cathedral

(Before that there was a brief trip to Sault Ste. Marie while I was on family vacation in Michigan, but that was before you needed a passport to go to Canada. It hardly counts.) 

Since then I've been fortunate enough to travel many places. As an undergraduate I received Loyola's Ricci Scholarship, which allowed me to study in Rome, Italy for one semester and in Beijing, China for another.

The Vatican

Tiananmen Square

While I was in Italy, I visited my cousin Erin and her then-boyfriend-now-husband Rembert in The Netherlands, I toured Greece with friends, and I visited my friend Mark in Scotland.

On Rembert's bike in Amsterdam

Overlooking the Aegean Sea in Greece

St. Andrews Links (for Dad)

I traveled all around Italy and China, too. Couldn't miss that opportunity.

A few exclusively domestic years passed, and then my lovely mom announced that we were taking a family vacation to Ireland. 

Cliffs of Moher

A year or two later, I was bored at my job, and jealous of my roommate, who had just returned from a trip to South America. I searched Travelzoo to locate the cheapest foreign plane tickets I could find. That's how I ended up in beautiful Montreal. All by my lonesome, too!

Wandering Old Montreal

It's been about three years since I last traveled abroad, but this summer, thanks to my MFA program, I'll be spending two months in France. I'm hoping to visit Turkey as well, since I'll have a friend there at the time. Toulouse is in the south of France, so I may pop over to Spain--but it seems a shame to spend only a short time in Spain. I'd definitely like to visit Andorra as well. It looks so tiny and cute on the map! 

Essentially I've been enormously lucky. While I realize that I did work hard to get the Ricci Scholarship, and to get funding for my travel this summer, and so on, it would be foolish not to recognize that I've had more than my fair share of good fortune in terms of traveling the world.

That's one reason I wanted to get the tattoo: to remember to always be grateful.

Not only have my trips abroad given me some of my best memories and most cherished experiences, but they have also fundamentally shaped my opinions and my personality. For instance, I credit my ability to confidently talk to strangers to my time in Italy and China--especially China. When nobody speaks English, shyness is not a positive attribute. I wanted the tattoo so that it would grow along with me while I continued to physically and mentally expand my horizons, and now I have its beginnings, and I'm so pleased.

I knew that the tattoos would have to be larger than regular passport stamps in order to capture all the tiny details, but I admittedly did not realize how much larger until my artist (Josh Bailey of Heritage Tattoo--thanks for the recommendation, LeeAnn!) showed me the stencils. I never thought I'd be the type of person who could pull off a full sleeve, but when he put the stencils on me, it just made sense. 

It's not quite a full sleeve yet, but I imagine it won't take too terribly long to get there. I only got 5 out of the 8 current stamps on Sunday, as it was too painful. I'll get the other three (Montreal, Rome, and Edinburgh) in May. I only want to get tattoos for the first time I travel to a country. That way there won't be twelve Heathrow stamps or something. Eventually they'll start to overlap, which will look fantastic. I've decided upon a tattoo that will only look better as time goes on! How clever of me.

The size was a bit overwhelming at first, but the barrage of compliments I've received has bolstered my confidence. (Thanks, by the way, if you paid me a compliment in the past few days. I love you!) I know some people won't like it (sorry Mom), but hopefully they'll be able to understand why it's so important to me. 

Now it's time to let them heal up, finish the semester, and plan my travels.

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