Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Permanent Souvenir

When we started our RTW trip last August, we knew we couldn't purchase any souvenirs during our travels unless we were willing to ship them home immediately as we did not have extra space in our backpacks. We have stuck to this with only minor exceptions. However I knew that one way I could have a permanent souvenir of our trip would be to get a new tattoo. I started thinking about possible designs months ago. I was tempted to get one many times earlier in the trip but worried that due to our fast-paced itinerary it would not have time to heal properly. Now that we have slowed down a bit, I decided to get one here in Chiang Mai.

This is not my first tattoo; in fact, it is technically my fourth. Some of you may be shocked to read this, but the reality is I got my first tattoo long before it became so popular for everyone to have one. At the time, I was involved in a complex, emotional relationship. My boyfriend had keys to my apartment and often left me roses to show me how much he cared for me & missed me when we were apart. He frequently would put two roses, intertwined, on my bed. When my childhood friend, Karin, & I took a girls-only weekend trip to the Smoky Mountains in the fall of 1997, we both decided to get tattoos on the spur of the moment. We didn't make an advance appointment; we just walked into a tattoo shop in Gatlinburg, TN late one afternoon, quickly had designs drawn up, and got our tattoos. It took no longer than one hour. We were completely sober but afterward we went to a bar for a much-needed adult beverage!

I do not have any digital photos from that trip and my prints are buried somewhere in storage boxes, but I can tell you the tattoo was of two intertwining lavender roses approximately 1.5 inches tall and was positioned in my right thigh/crotch area. It was meant to represent the love I felt for my boyfriend at the time. In the Victorian tradition of sending symbolic flowers, two roses meant “We are a couple.” Lavender roses meant “love at first sight” and two roses intertwined signified engagement and marriage.

As you've probably already figured out, the relationship did not last and the tattoo lost any of its original significance. Luckily it was in an obscure place, not even visible when wearing a bikini, so I didn't really mind having it. However I wasn't inclined to get another one for over 10 years!

I got my second tattoo, a Great Horned Owl in June, 2009 on St Marks Place in the East Village, NYC. I decided to have it tattooed over the roses so it is also in my right thigh area but is approximately 3 inches tall.
You would never know there were roses here before!
The owl is sacred to the Greek goddess of learning, Athena. It has symbolic meanings of wisdom/intelligence, mystery, and transition. As I had already announced my resignation from my job and was in the process of leaving New York City to start preparing for my round-the-world trip, the owl was a goodbye present to myself and commemorated the start of a new chapter in my life.
showing off my barley tattoo during a brewery tour
My third tattoo, Two Row Barley, was applied on March 11, 2010 by Christy Fish at Adorn Body Art in Portland, OR The idea behind this one should be obvious to any of you that know me well: it's a key ingredient in my favorite beverage! Portland is the beer capital of the world, with 32 breweries in the city limits — 38 if you include the entire metro area. That’s more than any other city on earth! (These stats are from 2008/2009 and I know at least six new breweries opened in the city in 2010.) Whenever we do return to the U.S., Greg & I are planning to relocate to Portland.
My latest tattoo is a leaping tiger. I got it a few days ago, on January 28th. It was applied by "Mr. Eagle" at Naga Tattoo here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is on my left shoulder and is approximately 5.5in long.

this is the traditional Thai tattoo book from which I chose the artwork

I was born in 1974, the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar. According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2010 was also the Year of the Tiger, which commenced on February 14, 2010 and ends on February 2, 2011. Thus I wanted to get the tattoo prior to February 2nd!

Eagle sketching my "old school" tattoo on paper

In the Chinese zodiac, the tiger is a sign of bravery. In Buddhism, the tiger is symbolic of the light within; that soulful, inner light that (ideally) navigates mankind. And in the myths of Japan, the tiger is almost always connected with heroism, warriors and victory in battle for its keen intelligence, stealthy mannerisms and undeniable power. Part of the reason for choosing this tattoo, besides the symbolism mentioned above, is that my middle name, Nicole, which is of Greek origin, means "victorious people".
showing off my new tattoo
I have plenty of ideas for future tattoos so it's just a matter of when & where. :)

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