A souvenir that lasts – 5 tips on getting tattooed while travelling

This is such a touchy subject, and one I’ve actually really been looking forward to writing about. Getting tattooed, while you’re travelling overseas. The irony of this is that “overseas” is different for us all. I live in Melbourne. Maybe you live in London. Or Rome. Or Seattle. Or Vancouver. Does that mean that you, living in Seattle, wouldn’t feel safe getting a tattoo in London, even though hundreds of people are probably seeing tattoo artists there every day??! Of course not, that’s completely ludicrous!

I think that the main issue with this topic is that many people have preconceived notions that:
a) Only irresponsible idiots get tattooed to begin with.
b) If you get tattooed while you’re travelling, it must have been a spur-of-the-moment idea that you probably had while drunk and will really regret it later on.
c) Because it was such a stupid, unplanned decision, you’re probably just going to get it done in some dirty, back-alley garage by a big guy in a torn leather jacket who doesn’t sanitise his needles or even wash his hands between appointments, which he smokes his way through.

While point a) irks me to no end, being the happy owner of we’ll over a dozen tattoos, I’m not writing this as a rant against people’s uninformed assumptions; if you’re not willing to consider the opinions of others and see both sides of a story, I don’t care much about what you think. Instead, I’m writing this for those of you who, like me, are admirers of art, and have maybe seen some work by talented artists across the globe who you might consider visiting on your next trip. Or maybe there’s just a city you really love, and want to take a memory of that city home permanently, and you need to find the right person for the job. Either way, there are a few things to consider….

 

1. Do your research regarding design:
* Don’t just turn up with a vague idea and expect it to be perfected immediately. They’re tattoo artists, not magicians.

* It should go without saying, but if you’re planning to get a tattoo in a language you’re not familiar with, for goodness sake, make sure it means what you think it means, and make sure it’s spelt correctly!!!!

 

2. Do your research regarding tattoo artist:
* If you’ve been following someone’s work for a while, this step is a lot easier. Otherwise, search online for “best tattoo artist in XXX” and read through all the lists that come up – if certain names seem to keep popping up on every list, chances are that’s for a good reason.

* Check that reviews/lists are actually recent and still relevant, not advice from 10 years ago.

* Try asking around on online forums, like Trip Advisor and Yelp.

* If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the native language, be sure you’re going to be able to communicate exactly what you’re wanting.

 

3. On the day:
* Does this place take walk ins or do you need to make an appointment in advance?

* If you need to make an appointment first, is a deposit required? Is it refundable (often it won’t be)?

* Are they a cash only place when it comes to payment, or are you able to pay on card?

* How can you get in touch if your plans change?

 

4. Consider the point in your trip you’ll be getting tattooed:
* Generally, you don’t want to expose your new tattoo to long periods of time submerged in water or exposed to the sun, so if your next few destinations are going to involve swimming and sunning yourself, it’s probably not the best time to do it.

* If you’re a party person, it’s also worth considering how many big nights you’re going to be having, and not getting your tattoo done the day after. Alcohol thins your blood, which means you’re going to bleed a lot more, and that’s not ideal.

 

5. After care:
This will be a bit easier if you’ve been tattooed before – while the general guidelines are pretty similar everywhere, only you know how your body heals and responds to certain ointments. As such, this advice is not to be taken as gospel, but for me, I know that:
a) I need to use Bepanthan cream for 4 – 5 days on my new tattoo, then switch to a gentle, non-scented moisturising cream.
b) my tattoos heal best when they’re kept covered for the first few days, and then left uncovered with a layer of Bepanthan where possible, or covered with plastic wrap over the Bepanthan again if they’re in an area that needs to be covered with clothing.

Knowing this, I packed some plastic wrap, medical paper tape and a tube of Bepanthan – I have sensitive skin, and after so many tattoos, I’m not willing to risk trying anything new at this point when this system has been working well for me for the past 12 years!

 

As you can see, we not dealing with some secret tricks – it’s basic common sense for the most part. If you do decide to get a tattoo in a foreign language made up of some cool characters that you’ve seen on a street sign after leaving a night club after having way too much to drink, and you do stumble into the first tattoo parlour you see with a quick iPhone snap of the street sign, then yes – you are an idiot and no one feels sorry for you and the crappy tattoo you’re going to end up with. For the rest of you who are looking for a lasting piece of artwork as a souvenir from a meaningful time or experience that you can literally carry with you for the rest of your life, I hope this helps! 🙂

 

As for me, I left home wanting to add to my collection, and …

Done by Martin at Sweet Hell Tattoo, Reykjavík, Iceland
Done by Pabby at Downtown Tattoo, New Orleans, USA

It’s that time again…. ✈️

4 months.
17 weeks.
120 days.

23 flights.
25+ trains.
5 road trips.
1 ferry.
15 countries.
50 cities, towns & national parks.
Approximate distance of 75,000km to be covered.

No matter how you spin the numbers, it’s gonna be big. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to start writing this post, only to be completely overwhelmed by figures and logistics and emotions, delete everything, and promise myself I’d come back to it later. Only, now, there is no later; we leave tomorrow.

This trip has been in the works for what feels like forever. We started talking (dreaming) about doing something like this when we first met thirteen years ago. I started to genuinely contemplate it in 2013 after we’d gone on a four week trip to Egypt and Europe, which I’d previously thought of as an impossible feat. I let that simmer for a few years and finally decided without a shadow of a doubt that it was going to happen in January 2015, at the end of our 6 week trip around America.

When I take a step back and look at what we’re doing, I know that it’s not that big, in a lot of ways. People pack up and leave for a lot longer than four months. People pack up and leave without having booked any flights or accommodation, they leave with just a passport and a one way ticket and a vague idea of that the next step will be; I’m not so disillusioned to believe that our “little” four month trip around the world is even making a scratch on the glass ceilings in that regard.

But for me, personally, it is smashing those ceilings. I’ve written about this feeling before, about the odd feeling of discontent that came to me in Egypt when I realised I’d finally managed to get everything I was meant to get – a university degree, a job, a home of my own, a wonderful marriage – and I still felt kinda empty, unfulfilled. For some people, they’re complete once they have their dream career, their children, their perfect house; travel undeniably  fills that void for me.

I come from a pretty traditional Italian family. I’ve followed the steps of their game so far. Uni degree. Job. Home. Husband. After that, I was meant to “settle down” and have kids, in the footsteps of the path set by generations of women before me. So this little four month time out from the real world isn’t just a vacation or even a “travel experience”; it’s my middle finger to the traditional world, my way of saying “you know what, I actually don’t have to follow the path.” This is me finally following my heart.

Bone broth: What it is, how to make it & why I’m trying it

So, I’ve been drinking a cup of bone broth every afternoon for the past 17 days. And as odd as I thought the prescription of it was for my gut problems, my time spent investigating it on Google has informed me that its actually becomming a bit of a “thing” right now. There are dozens of articles and posts already swimming around out there from multiple perspectives/health issues, so I’m going to add my experiences and health perspective to the pile, too.

 

WHAT IS BONE BROTH?
Its exactly what it sounds like, actually. A broth made by simmering marrow bones in water for several hours (like, 12 hours minimum). While the health hipsters have only just climbed on board the broth train, my Italian family (and many more like mine) have been doing this for generations. Having mostly grown up in small towns and provinces around Italy, and not being particularly wealthy, my ancestors had to learn to use every single part of the animals they had to slaughter in order to feed their families, and that included the bones. As kids, we’d always get a bowl on mum or Nonna’s brodo when we were sick – the old-school, uncool, billion year old, Italian, original bone broth.

WHY IS IT A THING NOW?
Let me back track a little so I can answer that question properly…

I’ve been plagued with gut issues for around 5 years now, bounced back and forth from doctor to specialist and back again, trying everything that’s been suggested and prescribed to absolutely no avail.

A few weeks ago, at my wit’s end, I went to another appointment, this time with a naturopath specialising in gut issues. All I could tell her for certain was that in recent hospital tests, I had tested negative to coeliac and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), extremely positive to fructose malabsorption, and had a history of severe lactose intolerence as a baby.

Among several supplements that I was to try, I was also prescribed a modified GAPS diet for a few weeks, which for me, includes the following guidelines:
– no sugar or processed foods
– no gluten
– no grains
– no cow’s milk products
– bone broth, kefir and sauerkraut daily

As the name suggests (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), it’s now been well documented that there is a strong link between the gut and the mind, with a rather high incidence of people suffering from depression and anxiety also suffering from gut disorders. Exhibit A, me.

So back to the original question – why bone broth? It’s believed that the gelatin in the broth (that comes from those long simmered bones, particularly knuckles and joints) can be incredibly helpful in healing dodgy gut lining. It’ also said to help boost the immune system, which is great for those of us with gut issues, as our immune systems are generally not in prime condition. While there are certainly more studies needed to verify these claims of good, there are certainly no harmful side effects to drinking a cup of broth each day, and with the staggering numbers of people who swear by it and nothing to lose, I figured I’d give it a go – couldn’t make my current game of Russian Roulette every time I sit down to eat any worse!

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
How long is a piece of string? My investigations led me to a ridiculous amount of recipes, all with slight differences in ingredients and method, and all claiming to be the right way of doing it. I call bullshit and came up with my own recipe, combiming the plethora of online advice I found, what I remember from my childhood, and plain common sense. I will say though that this is a long process, with the broth simmering for at least 12 hours, soma slow cooker would be much easier and safer than a pot on the stove!

I did two versions, one beef and one chicken. I suspect the beef broth (made with marrow bones that the butcher sliced into smalled pieces for me and a few ox tail bones) was closer to what it’s “meant” to be like; once cooled, it formed a gelatinous mass with a nice layer of fat hardened over the top. The chicken one (made using the carcass of a roast chicken we ate for dinner) was a lot thinner – no jelly, no fat layer. They both tasted pretty good on their own, to my surprise (and relief), and would make great soup bases.

Beef Broth Recipe
– 1.5kg beef marrow bones, cut up by the butcher so the inner parts are exposed. Knuckles and joints are great, so is cartilage and fat and meat; use it all!
– 2 carrots
– 3 celery stalks
– 5 brown mushrooms
– 8 bay leaves
– 1.5 tsp turmeric
– 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Place the bones on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes.

2. Take the bones out of the oven and place them into your slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Fill the slow cooker with enough water to cover the bones, set on low heat, put the lid on, and ignore it for 12 – 18 hours. I’ve been putting mine on before dinner and turning it off the next morning at breakfast time.

3. After it’s cooled a bit, I ladel my broth through a sieve into empty peanut butter jars to freeze. Some websites recommend glass jars, but I’m not willing to risk them in the freezer!

HOW DO YOU EAT/DRINK IT?
I’ve been taking my jars out of the freezer and putting them in the fridge to defrost slowly over 24-36 hours. Then, I take it to work in a travel mug, sprinkle a little salt in it, heat it up around mid afternoon in the microwave for 2 minutes or so, and sip it down!

It can be used as a great soup base if you’d rather incorporate it into a meal, and a lot of people also prefer to have it in the morning with their breakfast, but I like it in the afternoon when I tend to get the nibbles.

 

SO, HAS IT MADE ANY DIFFERENCE?
Honestly,  it’s hard to tell… one thing I have noticed though is that while I’ve been experiencing severe stomach pain and bloating most afternoons for a very long time now, I actually haven’t really had that while I’ve been on this GAPS diet, which has been wonderful! Whether it’s the bone broth though, or the probiotics, kefir, sauerkraut, gut relief supplement, foul tasting herbal elixir, or a combination of the lot, I don’t know. But I figure I’ll stick with it a little while longer!

Photo Journal: An Italian family tradition – tomato sauce making day

There’s actually not all that much I want to write this morning; I’d rather the photos do the talking. Last weekend heralded our family’s annual tomato sauce making day at my grandparents’ house, something I’ve been meaning to capture on film for a few years now. As you may have notices from my blogging habit, recording memories is important to me, and I wanted to share some of the pictures I took to give others a bit of an insight into a centuries old Italian tradition that continues in the backyards of countless emigrants in Australia today…

img_7188

img_7195

img_7197

img_7200

img_7206

img_7212

img_7245

img_7249

img_7253

img_7260

img_7261

 

Project Cookbook complete: Meet THE KITCHEN PASSPORT!

Well this is mighty exciting to be able to finally post… Say hi to the little book I put together:

THE KITCHEN PASSPORT:
Getting Around The World & Bringing It Back To Your Table

The little passion project I started two years ago got a little out of control and ended up as a kind of cookbook / travel guide / journal hybrid, almost 170 pages long, with 63 recipes, full colour photos and notes from around the world, and I’m pretty excited to say is finally finished and ready to fly out into the world!

cookbook2

Let me tell you a bit more about it and why I decided that I wanted to share it…

This book is a collection of recipes inspired by meals I’ve enjoyed on my travels, as well as some of the stories behind them, the places I first ate them, the markets I visited, and the people I met on the way. My hope is that anyone who does find themselves with a copy can use it as part cookbook, part travel guide, part voyeuristic look into my diary.

cookbook4

Food plays such a huge role in cultural identity and is one of, if not the best ways to get to know a new city. It has the power to bring together strangers, to communicate entire histories, and to create amazing memories which will still be with you as you eat that same dish 10 years later. My greatest travel memories can be recalled so easily through the senses of taste and smell; through food. I want to give others an easy way to either recreate food from their travels, too, and others still (and maybe more importantly) a way to taste a bit of the world they haven’t visited yet.

cookbook1

I’m neither a professional chef nor writer. I have no training in photography or visual design. I’m just another girl who wants to leave behind some of that which I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. I hope this little book inspires some to travel and brings back fond memories for others. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed taking the adventures that are behind it.

cookbook3

If you’d like a bit more of a preview of the book, or to actually purchase a copy, follow the link and head on over to Blurb Books, where it’s being sold in hardcover, softcover (unfortunately printing “real” books these days isn’t a cheap venture, I’ve done my best to keep the costs down!), eBook and PDF formats, with pricing (ex GST & shipping) below:

Hardcover: AUD$55.15
Softcover: AUD$38.79
PDF: AUD$9.99

cookbook5

And if you do end up with a copy, I really, truly do hope you enjoy the escape from reality and return of fond memories while reading and cooking from it 🙂