The words ‘holiday tattoo’ carry with them indelible memories of the time I sat with blurred vision and wobbly footing at the back of a Thai tattoo parlour after a somewhat hazy night at the Full Moon Party.
Fortunately, I was not the one having ink scratched into my skin, but I sat there listening to the screams of my best friend as she had a sun burnt into her ankle. It would forever remind her of this moment; the distinct smell of the chicken carcass that was hanging above our heads, the double bed that I was plonked on with a giant teddy for company, the crying newly-made singleton girl on a “getover him” holiday with an identical solar design carved into her hip. The good times.
This was not one of our proudest moments; it was downright stupid. It’s the kind of horror story that leads parents into attempting to talk their beloved, wide-eyed children out of frivolous travelling expeditions. It’s reckless, immature, and dangerous, and yet, so many do it! What’s the attraction? A lash-back against your fear-filled parents? A permanent stamp of freedom? A way to get that tattoo that you have always fantasised about on the cheap? Probably all of these come up as justification for taking the plunge into the permanent. Whilst scaling hedonistic heights, we look for something to remember it by and sometimes a conventional souvenir just won’t cut it. It has to be drastic, it has to be adventurous, it has to say, “I don’t care”.
It has to surpass the dreadlocks that can be conditioned smooth, the piercing that can be taken out, the Peruvian jumper that can be left at the back of your wardrobe. It’s there to keep one foot firmly stuck in the days of our youth as we finally take steps into adulthood. The shape of this teenage token may spring out of our state of mind at the time of commitment but having ‘The Best of Times’ spanning your butt cheeks may not be the best reminder of your younger days. It may however, come in a more artistic form, such as having Maori art emblazoned across your shoulder or a Japanese translation of ‘LOVE’ wrapped around your wrist, to symbolise our childish enlightenment.
So I come back to my friend who still has that tiny misshapen sun fixed to her skin to conclude on the real reason as to why people get a tattoo when away. I ask her, “What do you think of when you look at your sun?”. She replies, with a playful grin, “What an awesome time I had.”