Cut back to last August. I’ve just vacated my apartment, given away or packed up all of my possessions, broke up with my boyfriend, and flown to Prague to begin what would become a 9 month stint abroad. The reality of things is that I was heartsick, homesick, and feeling existentially confused about why the hell I was doing this whole thing anyway. I phoned home everyday, wondering if maybe I should call the whole thing off.

I bonded immediately with Sabina and Ness. While most of the hostel crowd seemed pretty fine keeping to themselves, these two savvy New Yorkers sat in the courtyard and made themselves available for conversation. Together we found places to eat vegetarian food, shopped at vintage stores, and refused to pay expensive prices for boat trips on the Charles River. Sabina and Ness had dreamed of coming to Prague and had finally saved enough for this 10-day trip. They wanted to have the time of their lives and end it by getting tattoos as a memory.


We strolled into Tribo in the 5th district, a hub of tattoo, piercing, and local art culture. Over a few days the girls worked with artist Lukas Polacek to design their American style Calaveras, and I wandered around the store biting my nails and chatting with the kinds of folks I wish I could have just met walking around town, or in a bar. One man made his own hand-bound books and shipped them internationally. Another had been an IT guy, who taught himself graphic design and eventually got into tattooing, and now was winning awards at tattoo conventions. I wanted any excuse to hang out around this place.

Should I get one too? I already had four tattoos and the intention to get more, but hadn’t thought about it so soon. But here we were, in a shop that has good artists and good prices. And this was the beginning of my trip after all. If I got this tattoo I couldn’t just go back to the States and tell everyone, “oh yeah I got this in Prague right before I bailed and came home.” Commitment was something I needed right then.


After extending my stay in Prague a little, plus a few ups and downs with scheduling, Lukas fit me in. This is the work he did (it’s based on some graphic design from the company Rebel 8):


The next day I washed it, rewrapped it, and hopped on my train to Poland, to a city called WrocÅ‚aw that Ness had recommended me to visit. I eventually shook my homesickness, settled into traveling, and my trip got better. I’m pretty sure the courage to keep going came from inside me, not from the fact that I got a tattoo, but now I have a permanent reminder both of the beginning of my first major solo trip and my  own commitment to carry on and see it through the rough patches.

How have you helped yourself through the rough patches of traveling? What makes you recommit when the going gets tough?

post by Jackie Clark

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