HI Hostels Blog

Getting a tattoo to mark your travels

Sarah Donachie's tattoo shows the co-ordinates of her home town
Sarah’s tattoo shows the longitude and latitude of her home town

Guest bloggers Sarah Donachie and Alex Durham are travelling around the world and have been away from their homes in St Albans, England, for about six months.

Like many travellers they have marked their journey with a commemorative tattoo. Here the 24-year-olds answer Hostelling International’s questions about their inky emblems.

What’s been the best place you’ve seen on your travels?

Alex: The Olympic peninsula in Washington state, USA, was one of a few highlights. Vast blue mountains, arrogant deer, occasional birds of prey, eerie mist, mossy enchanted forests and hidden waterfalls. It was a nice peaceful part of the trip spent mainly hiking and animal spotting.

Sarah: Caye Caulker, Belize – it’s a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea where the pace of life is slow and the sealife is out of this world

Sarah and Alex on their travels
Sarah and Alex are currently working in Australia

What’s been not so good and why?

Sarah: Port Angeles – well I can only say I didn’t like it in part as we visited the Olympic National Park from here which was incredible, but the downside was that we stayed in the grottiest rundown hostel (if you could call it that) I’ve ever experienced. We rocked up not really sure that we were in the right place to be greeted by a shirtless man and naked baby, sent to our Harry Potter-style room/cupboard and left as quickly as possible the next morning!

Alex: Vegas. I’ve been before and the first time it was weird, but the second time round was just a depressing confirmation of what I already knew. Vegas is a horrible, tacky, money-swallowing time warp.

Any hostel recommendations?

Alex: I stayed with HI a lot in the US and they are a safe bet because they all have a reasonably high standard of cleanliness/ facilities. The HI in Portland was great because they served muffins for breakfast, for free, and they were huge. In Cancun we found a good HI which caters exactly for what you need to do in Cancun – which is drink excessively and don’t think too much about what you did afterwards. There’s a hot tub on the roof, free tequila, friendly staff and they organise big nights out to spring break style beach parties, which are definitely to be done once, but maybe not twice.

Sarah: In the USA we stuck to HI hostels after our experience in Port Angeles! In particular we stayed in a really nice HI in Portland which was in the perfect location, had friendly staff and was clean – what more could you ask for!

What’s the best thing about travelling?

Sarah: Meeting people from all over the world and learning about other cultures.

Alex: When you travel you open yourself up to the world and its opportunities. It’s easy to leave (unless you have a mortgage), you can always come back, and your life becomes rich with possibility.

When and where did you get your tattoo?

Alex's waning Moon tattoo

Alex: The small one on the back of my shoulder was done in a grotty Hertfordshire town in 2012 following three months in India I will never forget. It says ‘pointless’ in the language of Kerala – Malayalam.

I wanted to get a tree from a forest in Washington on my arm for our entire US trip this year, and probably over-thought it. Then the day before I got it with some friends in San Diego, I decided to get waning Moon phases there instead. I don’t know why –  I like the Moon.

Sarah: With the friends I was travelling with, we all decided to get tattoos in San Diego after hesitating and questioning whether or not to get them for almost a month

What does your tattoo signify or represent if anything?

Sarah: My tattoo is the geographic co-ordinates of my home town – pretty small on my shoulderblade.  I will always remember my home wherever I am.

Alex: The script on my shoulder is meant to be painfully cool and ironic; I didn’t know what I wanted written there and I like the Malayalam script, which looks like a bunch of whimsical swirls. The moons on my arm are filled with craters, like me. They don’t mean much but I like the way they look and they remind me of a moment in a day at a time in my life. If you squint they look like partially eaten jaffa cakes.

What has been your friends and family reaction to your tattoo – how did you let your family know?

Alex: My mum was skeptical and disappointed with me for getting my shoulder tattoo, which is tiny and relatively elegant. When my parents saw my moon arm tattoo, which is bigger, on Skype, they barely batted an eyelid. Maybe the video froze and they still haven’t seen it.

Sarah: I chickened out of telling my parents for a few weeks which wasn’t difficult as video Skype is always difficult in hostels! But then I told them on Skype and they were surprisingly OK with it – I think they expected me to do something ‘crazy’ on this mammoth trip.

Would you get another one done?

Sarah: I always said I’d only get one but now that I’ve got one I’d consider another – as everyone does! Maybe a small infinity sign on my hand.

Alex: I think I’m done now, but everyone says that.

Have you seen any other tattoos that travellers have that you have liked?

Alex: A guy we met had an old and very elaborate atlas as a sleeve. It was incredibly detailed and beautiful, but I wouldn’t get anything that big. Tattoos should be fun but they’re also a commitment.

Sarah: I’ve seen a few compasses that travellers have which I think is cool, although I wouldn’t personally get it. My sister went one better and sent my a compass necklace for my birthday that always points to St Albans, my home town.

Alex and Sarah near the sea
Alex (left) and Sarah hope to keep travelling in 2014
  • Have you had a tattoo done during your travels or perhaps when you’ve got home to remember a journey? Share your photos and comments with us – we’d love to see them. Send us a comment on this blog or email us at socialmedia@hihostels.com

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