I got my first tattoo about a month ago.
I waited a long time for it. I’ve considered other tattoos over the years, but each time decided to wait a year to make sure I still wanted whatever it was that I was considering. I’ve been waiting five years, and while what I got isn’t precisely what I’ve been imagining for those five years, it’s precisely what I wanted.
Five and half years ago, I walked a portion of the Camino Portugués, the Portuguese branch of the Camino de Santiago. I dreamt of the Camino for seven years before I set foot on the Road. I’ve dreamt of it for the five and a half years since I turned back in Vilarinho, since I sat in the plaza outside the Catedral, swearing I would return.
Everyone who walks the Road carries or wears a scallop shell to mark themselves as a pilgrim. For years I’ve liked the idea of having a tattoo based on the scallop shell, a permanent and tangible reminder that I am – or want to be – constantly seeking, moving forward, deeply connected to the world around me.
The Road is marked with wayfinding devices – some permanent, erected with official placards, and others spray-painted on curbs. For years, I thought about having a rough arrow on the inside of my wrist – an approximation of the yellow arrows I saw on stone walls and the backs of signs. I liked the idea of a wayfinding device as a reminder that I am seeking direction, and that help will always be provided when it is needed most.
And so I settled on both: the stylized scallop shell used as a wayfinding device. I nearly cried when the tattoo artist brought out the sketch and applied the temporary to my arm. The pain was intense in a purgatory way, just as the physical and emotional pain of the Road were so long ago. I left euphoric.
I’m so happy with it, with what it means to me, with the intentions formalized by the inscription on my body. Estoy peregrina. Voy a viajar a Santiago.