The other day, a friend (who has no visible ink) told me I needed to capitalize on my tattoos. Use them to my advantage on the YouTube channel. Make them part of my persona. To which I replied … “I have tattoos?“.

Well, I replied in my head that way. For you see I don’t typically remember that I have them. I know, I know … how can one forget that they have two full arm sleeves full of drawings? Seems impossible, and yet it’s the truth. I look down and only see … my arms.

It wasn’t always this way. When they’re new it’s a whole different ball game. Most of them you love, because you and your artist spent a lot of time designing and preparing. And when they appeared (and healed!), you couldn’t stop looking at them. Until one day you did. And then there are the “what the f*** did I do?” ones. The designs that looked so good on paper and when they appeared on you … not so much.

I have four such tattoos, and I’ve come to look at them each quite differently:

  • On my left arm lies a world map that I created. And I named the continents as I saw fit. In a fit of humor I decided that the most obvious one would be called Sapo Cachondo. Or loosely translated … Horny Toad. At the time it seemed funny. Now I’m wishing I could write over it with anything but that. (And I may one day fix this one). So yea, sometimes great ideas simply aren’t great.
  • Same map, on the back. There is a smaller continent that I named in Spanish “Love Forever”. Only I must have been drinking because what I told the artist actually came out as “Love Never”. Not exactly true. I was thinking of adding ‘sin’ to it, making a double negative and therefore a positive … but it kinda grew on me. It’s now a tribute to those times in my life where love seemed so far away. A Freudian Slip, as it were.
  • On my right hand there is a saying in Arabic … I Am A Nomad, I Am Free. What it really says (and I’ve had so many native Arabic-speakers confirm this) is ‘Pybye vytvee eaff hsgs 34 tgts’. The lesson here is never trust Google Translate. 🙂
  • And finally … on my right arm I have this “tree’ that runs the entire length of my limb. And I love just about every part of it. Except … and you knew there was an except … the trunk. It’s an absolute straight line in a field of nothing-else-is-straight. I hate it, absolutely hate it. I’ve had it touched up on occasion to try to break up the lines, but it’s still a frickin’ straight line. And this is on an art piece dedicated to circles! Alas, there is nothing I can do. But! As I mentioned earlier, I don’t really notice my ink anymore. So I’m no longer obsessing over it. Small wins, right?

But back to “The Advice”. I think it might have some value, my playing up the tats on the channel. Making myself somewhat distinct from the rest of the pack. But it honestly never occurred to me to do so. And it still feels like it shouldn’t. How can something so normal to me be so distinct to someone else? I’m not even sure how to play them up. In what context?

In 2017 I traveled to Barcelona Spain, there to live for a few months. I had both sleeves back then as well. And … no one else there did. Visible tattoos were kinda frowned upon. Not that anyone was rude to me, but the “side eye of disapproval” stares were noticeable. I would meet others who had ink (well hidden) and they would proudly pull back a sleeve or a piece of clothing to show me … and then quickly cover back up. On that trip I was constantly reminded that I was different. Skip to 2019, same city. EVERYONE had ink! Although it seemed that arm sleeves were uncommon. They had instead … leg sleeves. LOL! My guess is that everyone just wore long pants before and viola!, major ink was obscured from the public eye. A calendar page flips, tattoos are now acceptable, and so shorts are worn instead of slacks.

The point being, there are moments in time when my arms are more than arms. They become a billboard. And I’m not sure how to advertise with them. Or even if I should. How does one tie a palm tree tattoo in with visiting Kenya? I don’t see the connection. Perhaps it’s just acknowledging that I’m living my life in such as way as I see fit, and extend that into how others can themselves live their lives to their own fullest. It’s a work in progress. But it does explain why I renamed my YouTube channel to “THE TATTOOED TRAVELER with Rick Higgins”. Maybe I’ll never make it a part of my overt schtick, but acknowledging the fact that differences in one area can cascade into others is a worthwhile pursuit.

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