That time I got my first travel tattoo, in Lesvos

I’ve had the tattoo on my mind for awhile now. I knew I wanted something to connect me with Newfoundland and Labrador, and I knew I wanted it on my wrist. The outline of the province was what I ultimately settled for, seeing as how it’s a pretty distinguishable shape, and one that invokes a sense of peace whenever I look at it.

The only thing missing was my nerve.

When Lena and I were liberated from WWOOFing, we decided to do a little road trip around Lesvos. Clearly the thrill of freedom and adventure got to me. We spent the first day roaming around Mytilini, the prettiest little port city I’ve seen in Greece yet. While most islands are quiet this time of year, Lesvos is a constant buzz of activity. It’s one of the few islands that doesn’t depend on tourism to survive, and most of its energy is focused on Mytilini.

We spent most of the day roaming the streets and the market area, or sitting at cafes along the waterfront with a beer or coffee in hand. But we kept passing this really unique looking tattoo shop with tons of wall art outside its front door, and I couldn’t shake the idea of doing something spontaneous. I’d already shaken off the shackles that kept my life stagnant. I was exploring my lifelong dream destination, backpacking solo, and recovering from a year I’d rather forget happened.

“I want to look into getting a tattoo,” I told Lena.Lena, stoic as she is, barely batted an eyelash.

So we went to Skin Deep, where the lady at the front desk started chatting with us in a long stream of English. Lena and I both marvelled over her perfect accent.

“I’m Australian,” she said.


I told her what I wanted, and showed her the image on a computer. I described where I was from, while the others gathered around listening intently.

“And this place really exists?” she asked. We had a good chuckle.

photo 4 (1)

The guy responsible for my tattoo was a badass, as you’d expect. A handsome badass, who didn’t speak English, but motioned for me to sit in his tattoo area. I started climbing onto the seat, and he quickly stopped me, saying, “No, no!” Lena explained I was supposed to sit on the chair next to it and extend my arm onto the seat. We all laughed a lot, my cheeks aflame.

“I’m new,” I apologized.

The art took about an hour, and it was surprisingly painless. Perhaps because it was only a rough outline, or perhaps because I am a badass myself. (There’s some statistic that says redheads feel less pain than most people. But I’m a whiner, so I doubt it.)

Newfoundland tattoo

I felt it was significant that I finally made it to Greece, my dream destination for a decade, and decided on a random island in the middle of the Aegean to create a connection to my little island in the middle of the Atlantic. I woke up one morning in Turkey after a few nightmarish dreams of home. Glanced at my wrist; was comforted.

photo (8)

I completely love the results. Do you have any travel tattoos?

  • April 15 2014
    Tammy Burns

    No travel tattoos, but a travel piercing. Got my belly button done in Sydney, Australia. In King’s Cross, of all places. Both the worst place to go while also kind of the only place I felt I could poke a hole in my abdomen. Was a disaster. Ended up taking forever to heal; I battled on-and-off infections for months. Then the ring started to tarnish — not a good sign, of course. Back home, I went to a tattoo/piercing parlour in Toronto and asked them to look at it. The piercist gave me some raised eyebrows. The ring wasn’t surgical steel (obviously, given the fact that it now was a shade of dull pink rather than silver). He replaced my ring for me, gave me some wash solution for it, and it healed up within a couple of weeks. Not my best travel memory, but somehow I think the mess of it makes a better story.

    • April 21 2014

      OMG! Had a similar experience with my belly button piercing. I got it when I was FOURTEEN years old, for real, and it was piercing with an ear piercing gun. It never quite healed properly.

  • April 15 2014
    Flora Baker

    I had two tattoos done in San Francisco on my year abroad; one on my foot and the other behind my ear straight after, both inspired by a necklace my mum wore throughout her life. It wasn’t impulse but I needed to wait for my dad to visit with the necklace in tow so I could get it right!

    I also got my nose pierced on total impulse in India because the girl I was travelling with was too scared to get it done by herself. Such a good decision :)

    • April 21 2014

      LOL, best reason ever. I love nose piercings. Maybe the only piercing I’d get, other than ears.

  • April 15 2014

    Love it! I have an outline of the world on my left forearm. I also thought it didn’t hurt that bad, so let’s go with being badass and not the fact that it’s just an outline.

    • April 21 2014

      Ahhh I know a friend who has a similar one to that and it looks SOOOOO good.

  • April 15 2014

    My brother (who is a tattoo artist so obviously not afraid to get tattoos like I am) gets a tattoo everywhere he travels to. Pretty cool really. He’s gotten them throughout the states, Thailand, Switzerland, Hungary. He is like a walking scrapbook!

  • April 15 2014

    Oh buddy! A Newfoundland tattoo, I friggen loves it. I’d definitely get home tattooed on me too. If I wasn’t a chicken.

    • April 21 2014

      Hahahaha friggen loves it. Yeah it wasn’t very painful, I guess because it’s quite a simple design. No colouring.

  • April 15 2014

    Awesome!! I’ve never gotten a tattoo while traveling, but I DO have one travel-themed tattoo so far: a compass rose with a globe at the center on my forearm.

    • April 21 2014

      Ooh! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. Is it on your blog?

      • April 22 2014

        No, I haven’t written about my tattoos on my blog yet, because I have 2 more travel-inspired ones that I want to get soon! I should eventually write about them, though…

  • April 15 2014

    I help in my boyfriend’s tattoo shop in Thailand and it’s always so interesting to hear the stories and reasons behind the designs people want…congrats on your first travel tattoo!

  • April 15 2014

    Awesome! Looks really good! I have one tattoo already, but I’ve had another one in mind for a long time. I’ve just been waiting for the right time to get it, and I’m thinking next year when I embark on my round the world trip I’ll get it… it’s a latin phrase that translates to “she flies with her own wings”.

    • April 21 2014

      Yessss! LOVE that. Was thinking my next one will be script

  • April 15 2014

    Love the tattoo. You Newfoundlanders have some provincial pride. I mean I like Alberta and all, but honestly I’d never really consider getting a tattoo of it. No tattoos, travel or otherwise, for me yet, but maybe one day.

    • April 21 2014

      Bahaha! Well, to be fair, NFLD has a pretty cool shape. AB might be a little less recognizable, lol. Like Saskatchewan’s motto: Hard to spell, easy to draw.

  • April 16 2014

    I’m not a tattoo person, but I do have a couple of travel piercings. Also, if I were going to get a tattoo, it would probably be something Newfoundland related. What a wonderful way to remind you of home when you’re on the road. Love it!

    • April 21 2014

      Yes! I love when people notice and ask me about it. :) My body doesn’t deal with piercings very well, haha.

  • April 16 2014
    Filipa Chatillon

    Big Fenix on my back. I did it in Argentina.

  • April 16 2014

    My travel tattoo story is so much less high-minded than yours! A girlfriend and I were traveling in Thailand together and were so enamored with our trip to Tiger Temple that, while in Phuket (and after several fish bowls of Sang Som rum cocktails) we got matching “whiskers” tattooed on our right index fingers. Such a fun(ny) story and certainly a memory for the ages! I am definitely hooked and look forward to my next destination tattoo (although with less rum this time). :)

  • April 16 2014

    I’m a Newfoundlander too, so I love the thought behind it and the simplicity. Also, forearm tattoos are something that I’ve always loved – I mean if you’re going to get a tattoo, have it somewhere that people will see it! Very classy and very awesome.

    • April 21 2014

      Thank you!! I LOVE where it is. I want one on the other arm now, haha.

  • April 16 2014
    Stiletto zombie

    I have one Erik is doing for me at white scorpion in carbonear. It’s a sloth coming out of a flower from our trip we took to Costa Rica with scentsy last year. I’m excited :)

  • April 16 2014

    well done for your braveness!

  • April 22 2014

    I have one tattoo I got as a result of traveling as well! About 3 years ago I went to Peru alone and ended up making some great friends. Little did I know, these people would become my best friends and I would continue to travel with them! So the 5 of us had a reunion in Denver (we’re from Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Alaska and Australia) and decided spur of the moment to get matching tattoos. I had never even thought about getting a tattoo before that weekend with them. Even though we don’t get to see each other often, now we have a connection for a lifetime!

  • May 08 2014
    Katie Featherstone

    Wow, I’ve always been tempted, but never quite had the nerve.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.