You either love them or hate them, but whatever your stance is on tattoos, you can’t deny the beauty of them.

As a piece of artwork on your skin and a living memorabilia of a time or journey that you want to remember forever, tattoos are personal to the human canvas who wears them proudly on their skin. And with travel bringing about so many incredible experiences, it sure provides the ultimate tattoo inspiration for any who were pondering whether to get one.

5967890349_0ab48fecf2_zDenise Krebs

The majority of us Travelettes are pro-tattoos whether they have them or not. Some of us are already adorned and are fast running out of space (gosh they’re addictive!), whilst others are carefully planning their piece and are just waiting for the right time, artist or cash. But you can guess that travel is a theme and a source of tattoo inspiration with most of us.

Whilst I have a mix of styles on me, the majority of my own tattoos are more or less inspired by the Californian tattooist, Norman Collins AKA Sailor Jerry. You may have seen his artwork on bottles of Sailor Jerry rum and it is definitely a traditional type of tattoo design that is still popular today.

Although I do think that Sailor Jerry’s tattoos are real cool, they do have plenty of meaning behind them that have captured my interest. Sailor Jerry was instilled with wanderlust from a young age and was always revelling in his freedom; traversing the US on freight trains and wandering the countryside. He picked up a needle and began to learn tattooing before sailing the Pacific Ocean with the US Navy. He developed a passion for ships, Japanese culture and the Hawaiian culture of Honolulu which is where he settled to open his tattoo shop. Sailor Jerry’s passions were absorbed into his artwork and provided a relentless stream of inspiration and iconic art that is still appreciated on skin in the 21st Century.

sophie sailing2654727680_1ab6b660b9_zTodd – Flickr

With a Sailor Jerry styled swallow on my neck, an anchor on my shoulder and a palm tree on my back, I can safely say that travel shaped the artwork that I get marked on my skin. No matter what inspires you to enter that tattoo parlour, it’s always so interesting to look into the meaning of the art. Whether it’s to commemorate a trip, a mark of a certain time in my life or a reminder of something I’ve learnt; it’s all personal and intimate to myself. Everyone has their own story behind their tattoos and there’s usually a back story that can really translate that tatt into a thousand words.

IMG_2024Heidi Bendall

I’ve covered the amazing artwork of MISO before (read the full post here), and her tattoos really capture intimate details of life. She would exchange a tattoo with a friend for a dinner, bottle of whiskey or something handcrafted, and would often ink them with a small map of journeys that they had taken in the past.


If you’re keen for a travel inspired tattoo, all you have to do is type into Google ‘Travel Tattoos’ and you can scroll through endless images that vary from the beautiful to the artistic, the unique and the kooky, and of course, the weird and cringe-worthy.

Sure, the designs might have you screenshot-ing for future reference, but I really do find the back stories of people’s tattoos fascinating: why was that design chosen? What’s the meaning behind it? Is there even a meaning? Where did they get it? Did they draw it? Did a friend design it? Did a friend DO it?

30 Sophie Saint Sailing travelettes Croatia

Since travel lust is such a powerful thing that can consume you completely, it’s no surprise that a lot of travellers get inked. To want to wear something on your skin that represents an extreme passion of yours is a great reason to get a tattoo; just take a little look into some wanderlust ladies who champion the travel ink:

Kathi – Travelettes

Kathi decided to get her tattoo whilst we were in Fuertevenura on a surf trip together. The sun, the sand and the surf was the epitome of a lovely trip which got her thinking about stepping into that sunny little tattoo parlour in Corellejo:

“The T stands for three things really. First of all, for Travelettes as writing for the blog made me realise what I want to do with my life, and also my talents, skills and passions. Secondly, it stands for Travel, which is cheesy, but hey! And thirdly, it stands for Thomas, which is my brother’s name (now all I need is get tattoos for the rest of my family members).


I decided to get the tattoo while travelling because I wanted a souvenir from Fuerteventura and I wanted to always connect the tattoo with one of my trips. If they weren’t so bloody expensive I’d just get a new tattoo from every trip in the future… Instead, I’ll keep collecting fridge magnets.”

Nikki – Travelettes and The Pin The Map Project

Nikki is yet to get at tattoo but she’s carefully thought out her decision and her design:

“So I am planning on getting the words “to travel is to live” tattooed on my left wrist. It is part of a larger quote by Hans Christian Andersen that reads “to move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give. To roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.”

The reason I am getting it is because a few years back my mother gifted me a push pin map with “to travel is to live” printed across the bottom (a quote she selected) and the map inspired The Pin The Map Project and my travel writing career!”


Missy Barrett – Palm Tree Gypsy

The word ‘Wanderlust’ pretty much speaks for itself, but Missy from Palm Tree Gypsy got it done in her home town in Kentucky before she set off to work on an island. She chose this tattoo as it reminded her of a song she used to sing around Christmas, “I wonder as I wander”, and it perfectly matched her travel spirit.


“If you love something enough to dedicate it to flesh, you should wear it proud! Get them if they have a story or meaning, or to mark a journey or hurdle that you have leaped over in your life.”

Kirsten Asher – Traveling DASH

Kirsten celebrated the fun of spontenaity when she was roaming San Diego with her best friend of over 27 years.

“She mentioned the second part of Henry David Thoreaus quote which is “Live the life you have imagined” – I happened to love the first half “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams” and it was one of those beautiful days so I thought…why not get a tattoo of it!”


Angelica Wilk - Brooklyn Chick Travels

“My tattoo is in Latin and means “she flies with her own wings”. I got it mainly to represent independence, but then I began traveling and writing as a blogger. Now I work as a solo flight attendant on 50 seater delta planes. The tattoo could not ring more true!”

Nat – Nat Wanderlust

Nat has 11 tattoos on her body and they mean so much more to her than mere doodles: “Tattoos are so important to me. They can help you express yourself in positive ways and I need colour and art in my life – this is the perfect way to incorporate that.”


Polly Barks – A Girl and her Travels

“I got my tattoo at Faux Pas tattoo shop in Moscow, Russia. It’s a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s seminal work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “Buy the ticket, take the ride”. Whatever you think of Thompson, he was a serious influencer in the mid-/late-60s and I loved his work growing up.

Polly Barks

He was absolutely an ego-driven asshole, but he was also a man of great creativity who left an indelible mark on those in search of the next great trip (drug-fuelled or otherwise). The ink splatter is a little homage to the incredible(y terrifying) illustrations in the original book.”

Kate Heceta – PeregriKate

“I truly think that tattoos are a personal choice that nobody else has the right to pass judgment on. Whether or not a person got a certain tattoo because it has a deeper meaning or just because it looked totally bitchin’, it’s their body and their right to do as they please with it as long as they’re not harming anyone.”

sarahSarah – Coffee With A Slice Of Life: A chilli in Chile

Tara Povey – Where Is Tara

“I have a little plane behind my ear. I got it when I decided that I wanted to make a big change in my life. I left my job, started my blog and set off travelling. For me the plane symbolises my active pursuit of everything I truly want in life. It reminds me that I can always JUST GO if I want to, nothing’s stopping me.

whre is tara

It’s got a few other meanings too; my dad was in the air force and I’ve always wanted to get a pilots license. I don’t like explaining tattoos too much, but travel is a massive part of my life. It always has been, and I’ll love this tattoo forever.”

Sophie (Me!) – Travelettes and Saints on a Plane

As I mentioned, I have quite a few that are travel related. The palm tree on my back was done in a friends bathroom as I simply love those trees and they remind of me sunnier times. The feather on my arm was designed by a friend who I met in Melbourne and I literally love her to death. It’s a reminder of all the happy memories we spent in Australia and I wonder if I’ll ever see her again (sob!).

But my simplest tattoo, and almost my favourite, is a plain circle on the inside of my left arm. It was hard leaving Australia; my home of nearly three years. I experienced so much over there and grew a ton as a person – it broke my heart to have to leave the amazing people who had shaped what I had become.

This circle represents that everything goes on. Everything will change, nothing stays in place, but as life goes on it will bring about new and exciting things. Change is scary, upsetting and unsettling, but it’s bringing forth new adventures and the good times will come back around – full circle.


So whether tattoos are for you or not, there’s no denying that travel can shape some beautiful tattoos with some interesting backstories. As a living souvenir, they can remind you of the lessons and times you’d rather not forget, or an image that just makes you feel something.

Think carefully over your design (or be spontaneous!) and choose a reputable parlour, for God’s sake. But from the point of view of a tattoo advocate, the love for travel is the best reason to get a tattoo and commemorate your adventures in life.


Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog and instagram: @saintsonaplane