Feeling tired of Estonia’s endless winter, it’s time to plan a nice trip filled with turquoise waters and infinite sunshine. The smallest possible suitcase filled to the brim with tank tops and goodbye depressive little Estonia! Time for awesome adventures and parties, see you in ten days. A couple of swims and fiestas later and emotions are running high: it calls for a celebration to remember this unforgettable trip for the rest of your life! The right way to do that is to get a tattoo. But is it really a good or smart idea?
The motivation for this post came from my own clients and their stories. Quite a few have had a tattoo done on vacation and opinions on the outcome are from one end of the spectrum to another. To be specific, by vacation I mostly mean exotic and warm locations, most of all Thailand. It acts as a good choice for examples because it’s a popular holiday destination for Estonians and I myself have visited multiple times and remember some tattoo studios catching my eye.
When clients have asked me about getting a tattoo on vacation, my first question is always what kind of holiday will it be? In terms of aftercare, it isn’t smart to go for a swim or in a sauna or bath during the initial healing period (up to 2 weeks). Tattoos do not enjoy being soaked. Not planning to swim in exotic blue waters? Okay, one less issue. However! You also shouldn’t expose your tattoo to sunshine during healing, nor wear sunscreen; in other words, it has to be covered at all times with a breathable, airy fabric. Running around in a bikini or exposed torso not quite a part of your lifestyle? Yet another problem solved. During the healing period, drinking fermented alcohols like cider, beer or wine is also not recommended. A single glass here and there will not cause problems but if you tend to turn into a temporary alcoholic on trips, your tattoo will not be happy.
If you’ve realised you do enjoy those classic holiday charms but a vacation tattoo is a complete must have, get it done on the last day before your journey back home. Obviously only as long as you are not sunburnt to shreds or even worse, already peeling. It is very unpleasant to tattoo sunburnt skin both for the artist and yourself.
Taking all these nuances into account, you are still prepared to sacrifice a couple lazy days for the sake of a tattoo. As you can find a salon on every corner of Thailand, it’s simple to step into the first one that comes along and just get it done. The prices are great too! But just like at home, try to think straight for a second and realise that tattoos are forever and it would be nice for them to have some level of quality. Plus hepatitis probably isn’t that great of a souvenir. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to do your homework and find sterile salons with talented and experienced artists. Although it might lead to a lighter wallet by the end of trip, it’s worth it to respect your body.
As for Thai tattoo culture, one of the most common reasons to get inked for locals are the legendary Sak Yant tattoos: they’re only done by specific monks who add a protective spell to the piece through a special ritual. To find the right artist, it’s vital to properly do your research – all kinds of random salons and artists falsely advertise themselves as doing authentic Sak Yant tattoos.
Sak Yant tattoos hold a very special meaning and long history for the locals, and hence tourists are also expected to show respect for the craft.
I personally find that tattoos gotten on vacation can hold a very special value but it should be something to plan long in advance. If you typically aren’t someone who would spontaneously get a tattoo anyway, I do not recommend making a rash decision with permanent consequences on your trip.
Have you gotten a tattoo on holiday?