According to Smithsonian.com, tattoos are believed to have originated with the ancient Egyptians and may have been used as a permanent amulet to protect women during pregnancy and birth. Today, tattoos mean very different things, and are perceived differently among different people and different cultures. Maybe you're covered or maybe you just don't understand them. Or maybe you're exploring the idea of getting your first. Getting my sixth tattoo a few weeks ago had me reflecting on the other 5, and particularly on the tattoo I got when I studied abroad. I don't regret it one bit, and here's why.
It was spontaneous. // Studying abroad is one of the most exhilarating and exciting things you could ever do - so is traveling in general. I studied abroad when I was 20 years old, in between my sophomore and junior years of college. Every day was a new adventure as I explored 8 cities in 5 European countries in 1 month. And I was spontaneous in many ways. I stayed out until I could watch the sun rise on the beach in Spain, climbed the Eiffel Tower in France, paraglided off of a mountain in Switzerland, hiked between coastal villages in Italy, and in Greece, I got a tattoo. In the spirit of living, being, and exploring, my tattoo was something fun and exciting that I was comfortable with. I noticed the parlor just a few doors down from our hotel in Athens as soon as we arrived, and I was excited about the opportunity.
You'll never be the same again - and that's a good thing. // One of the first things you'll hear when discussing tattoos with a skeptical and/or disapproving person is that it's permanent (no, you're kidding?) and that they don't love something enough to put it on their body. But a tattoo from your trip abroad is more than just ink on your body - it's stories, memories, feelings, and experiences. Sure, it might not be something that you spent ages mulling over and perfecting, but it holds value because of where and when you got it, and who you were at the time. It will forever be a part of you and you should embrace that!
It represents an important time in your life. // I'm so fond of the tattoo I got while abroad because it represents one of the most special times in my life thus far. And one of my favorite things about it is that it has meaning in so many different ways. It's one word - ειρήνη (pronounced irene-ee), which means peace in Greek. Prior to the tattoo, I was never a person who wanted another language on my body unless I was confident that I could speak it. But in the 48 hours that I considered the tattoo I would get in Athens, Greece, I found it appropriate to get a word rather than a symbol, and a word that both connected to my lifestyle and beliefs as well as my physical location at that moment. I never knew when I would be back again, and in Athens, named for Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare, it all just made sense. What I liked the most was that my tattoo artist hand wrote it. Especially with everything that is happening in this world, I cherish my tattoo as a symbol of a time where I found peace in the world and peace found me.
If you're still not convinced that a tattoo could be for you (whether at home or abroad), that's okay. It might not be. But I do encourage you to 1. go abroad 2. step outside of your comfort zone and 3. be spontaneous and do something that you'll remember forever.
*Shout out to Ironbrush Tattoo!