Monday, May 16, 2016

Travel + Tattoos

As we prepare for our last minute summer travel plans I wanted to share the background and inspiration behind several of my tattoos.  Originally published on the Educational Tourist Blog...

As an artist I often find myself evaluating art.  Why did the artist do this?  What did they use it for? What was the point?  Sometimes it's obvious, a tribe needed a tool, a painter wanted to document a sunset, a mother mourned a child, there's a million reasons why anyone would do anything, and part of the beauty of art, is sometimes we don't know why.

For myself and my own artwork, the question is often, what do I want to say? and more importantly how do I want to say it?

Not only as an artist, but also as a mother; I find the need to document.  Here are my daughter's first steps.  This was the date I met my husband.  Here is what I wore to a recent family wedding.  I often find myself collecting memories.  It's a also what draws me into blogging.  I want to take photos of all the things we do and write reminders to myself, sharing them with my readers is a bonus.

I love the idea of keeping something forever, it's part of why I love photographs.  Most photographs will outlive me. I can collect my stories though images and remember details I might otherwise forget.  And it's the same reasoning that draws me to tattoos.  I carry my tattoos on me, everyday.  They all tell a little story, things that were important to me, references to people I care about and places that matter...

Today, I wanted to share a bit about my travel tattoos.  It started after a trip to Europe in 2009.  I'd been to Spain once before, loved it and wanted to share my favorite places with my new husband and we celebrated our one year anniversary in Barcelona. When we got back to the states, I decided I wanted to start collecting tattoos for all the places I loved. To start my collection, I thought the Spanish Coat of Arms would be a perfect start.  Spain was the first foreign country I'd ever been to {I went there for the first time when I was seventeen with my high school Spanish class} and it's one of the places that always feels like 'home' to me.

I often dream of walking along La Rambla towards the beach, getting lost in the alleyways of the quaint apartment buildings. I see Catalan flags hanging from balconies. I taste patatas bravas and tortillas paired with sangria de cava.  I enjoy the view of The City and Mediterranean Sea from Park Güell. But, it's not just Barcelona I love and miss, it's the flamenco dancers in Seville, and museums in Madrid.  It's the whole country I love.  And even though the Spanish flag no longer carries the Coat of Arms, I felt like it was the most iconic and best embodiment of the place I loved.

Then, a few years later I decided to add another special place to me.  Switzerland.  I've never seen somewhere so clean and beautiful before.  I love the weather and the Alps. I love the simplicity of daily life, even their bigger cities in Switzerland feel like small towns.  Everyone there is so polite and kind.  But it was the Lion of Lucerne that really made me fall in love.  Through out the countryside there are giant rock carvings into the cliff sides of the mountains. But tucked neatly into Lucerne is a small pond and a rock carving.

The sculpture tells the story of loss, and is a reminder why the Swiss Guard's only job is to defend Switzerland.  We've all heard the phase, remaining 'neutral like Switzerland.'  And, that's because up until the 19th century Swiss Guards were mercenaries, meaning you could hire them to fight your battles.  That all changed after in the late 18th century when over 600 Swiss Guards were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, defending King Louis XVI, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France.

Why would I want to remember something so tragic? Why would I want a sad, dying lion on my arm?  It's a constant reminder that myself and my family are most important.  I try to remind myself not to worry about other people's problems or issues. It's not a matter of not caring, it's about knowing my limits, I can't defend everyone, I can't help everyone.  My obligation is to my family.  I need to be present to protect them.  This doesn't mean I can't be generous or that I don't want to help.  It means I will not sacrifice myself for someone else's cause.  I know a dying lion might be morbid to have marked on my skin but the message is what I find beautiful and empowering.  Take care of myself, my family, my home first, and keep those I love safe, my morals are not for sale, I will not help the highest bidder.  I will protect my family and those I love.

As we continue on with our travels, I always look for meaning in our adventures, what can I add to my story? What can I learn from this memorial or monument? What can I teach my kids from this trip? What do they find beautiful or empowering on our journey?

And while I'm asking all the questions, I'd like to know about you, where have you learned a life lesson?  What do you find beautiful? What do you miss after you travel?  What do you find yourself reflecting on once you're home?  And most interesting to me of all, is how do you document your journey?

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