3 countries, 4 conventions, 5 weeks

Tight schedule, multiple airports and trains, poor coffee, irritating noises and lack of sleep. For many of us traveling is a part of our work. How to combine the work trips to normal routines? How to stay creative? And most of all, how to stay sane?

Me in London, photo by @beva_tattoo

Autumn is the busiest time of the year for me. People want tattoos now more than during summer. The plans made during the holiday start to become concrete. Also, it is the time of tattoo conventions! During five weeks I attended to four tattoo events in three different countries: In Finland Jyväskylä and Hämeenlinna, London in England and Mons in Belgium. 

At the same time I have been tattooing at the home base Below Zero Tattoo in Tampere. I have run basic errands. Taken part in my studies and planned our new webshop. We just had an opening party for a new photography exhibition by Rock’n’Tits. And we organized a charity event to raise money for a local crisis center Osviitta. I would lie if I’d say I’m not tired.

Why do I travel?

If the everyday life is busy enough, why even travel? Why would I add more weight on my shoulders?

When I travel, I get further away from my daily chores, places and people. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my normal life but sometimes it is SO nice to step outside the bubble. My brain gets more room to process stuff when I don’t have to worry about dirty dishes. It is easier to see the big picture from a distance. On the other hand I feel that I can function better under a bit of pressure. When I step out from my comfort zone I get new, even surprising ideas.

There is lot of waiting when traveling. I call it ”the empty time”. Naturally, part of the time goes to working with sketches and replying the e-mails but there are some moments for something else as well. I often think about my life in general, especially when traveling alone. Where will I be in five years? Is everything ok right now? Do I want to change something and how? For some reason my favourite spot to do this is train. Being on the trails is like being nowhere. I’m not at home anymore but not yet at the destination, either. Thoughts travel on different waves on the road.

I love learning new. This is inevitable on trips. I am not talking only about work-related stuff but in a more broad way. In every country there is something new to learn: perhaps history, different food, local language. Being curious and ready to learn helps me to better understand myself and my surroundings. There is now ”right” way to live our lives. It gives me a feeling of freedom to be myself. 

At tattoo conventions the seating is usually decided by the organizer and very often I work next to people I have never met before. At the bigger conventions there can be artists from all parts of the world. The conversations for example with a Spanish or a Russian artist can bring brand new viewpoints to my tattooing and art. There can be big differences how our industry is viewed in different countries. It is a good reminder to be grateful of how much tattooing has grown.

Ah, inspiration!

Seeing new places and meeting new people definitely reflects to my own life. At the conventions I love to see the well-set tables, talented tattooing and fun personalities. Everyone wants to bring out the best they can. Finding new tattoo styles, nice art and new ways to do things always gives me a kick to challenge myself more.

I get inspired when walking in cities and just looking around. In London we managed to squeeze a visit at the National Gallery in our schedule. Four hours wasn’t enough to breathe in the knowledge and talent from the centuries. I realized how rarely I visit museums and exhibitions in Tampere! While examining the Monets, Caravaggios and Michelangelos I promised myself to take more time to do more of this.

Seminars and workshops are fantastic ways to learn new. For the London trip I had booked an oil painting workshop by the amazing artist Chris Guest. Before the trip I had so many things on my mind that I almost forgot the brushes at home! The workshop was a small, relaxed four hour painting session that had definitely open and positive vibe. We got to ask questions through the workshop and even I felt a bit nervous in advance I really enjoyed the time. The way mr. Guest explained about his painting procedure and answered the questions made the tough things feel clear and simple. I got so much out of the workshop that I have totally new excitement to paint!

This far I got at the workshop

I always carry some kind of tool to take notes with me. It doesn’t matter if it is an actual notebook or an app on your phone, just write! The key is to write the thoughts down, the big and the small ones. Some ideas may never lead to anything but some actually might. It also allows me to concentrate on the trip itself rather than contemplating the thoughts too much on the road. And when I return home, I read the the notes through. Nice way to end a trip.

How to survive the tight travel season?

As I mentioned, life doesn’t stop even there are trips and conventions going on. The tattoo shop is in business as usual and there are the everyday errands to run. In order to keep the wheel spinning, it is important to plan ahead. 

Getting used to traveling

I have traveled a lot and I believe it makes the work trips easier. I am originally from the far north place called Salla. I have lived in many places around Finland and around the world. So, home has always been far away. Eventually, one gets used to the waiting, the luggage dragging and the ticket purchasing. At some point, even the tight schedule is not something to stress about. The security checks, offline series and flight delays start to feel familiar.

Planning the practical

I try to lock down the important dates as soon as possible. This is important due to my work is based on appointments only. There has to be time marked for work trips as well as dates for the actual traveling from a place to another. I have to admit that booking the flights and accommodation could be done a bit earlier than a week prior the trip, but hey, there is always room for improvement, right? 🙂 

I have tried to become better in preparing the trip. Good luggage helps a lot. I like the fact that there is a certain place for every item. I have this ready-to-go packet for my toothbrush, shampoos and other stuff. The tattoo equipment has own bags. After planning the packing system well, there goes no extra energy in actually doing it. In my opinion I am doing the luggage circus quite well, although I do get some feedback from a colleague about the amount of stuff I ”need” for conventions. 🙂 

An important part of preparations is cleaning the house before leaving. I would advice to shop and cook some food to be ready in the fridge or the freezer. It is so much nicer to return home when the first thing isn’t worrying about vacuuming or making dinner. I confess, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes there can be unpacked bag in the bedroom when I come home from another trip. Sometimes I do order a pizza. Well, like I said, there is always room for improvement!

Not alone

While planning the trips one has to remember to think about own resources. How much can I actually do? What else is going on in my life at the same time? Even though I had a super tight schedule, I knew it wouldn’t last forever. Before working as a tattoo artist, I have been working for example in a tourism industry in seasonal jobs. In some twisted way I enjoy the project-like assignments and hard working seasons. It makes me feel alive when I can push my limits harder than usually. As long as there will be an easier time ahead.

During this kind of ”trip season” I find the support of the closest ones super important. To be honest, I couldn’t do this all by myself. It is necessary to tell family, friends and colleagues before hand that it is going to be a bit busier than usually. To tell them that there might not be time for having coffee or going to the cinema. I am lucky to have such understanding people around me. Sometimes I can get carried away with projects and amount of work and that’s when they step in. They bring me back and remind that at some point rest is needed.

At our tattoo shop, we have an amazing team of talented artists who support each other. We often travel together for work. Sometimes there can be colleagues from other tattoo shops as travel companion. Working and traveling with others always give more than doing things alone. If I do travel alone, there are usually familiar faces in the events to share the time with. I like the feeling of belonging to something and sharing thoughts with others. 

Morning walk in London with @joel_honkala

Anything can happen

There can be many unexpected situations during the travels. Hotel booking can go wrong or you have forgotten to pack the work light. Tolerating chaos and stress is a must in order to enjoy the trip. It doesn’t matter how much I have prepared myself, there can always be a surprise I cannot control. During the years I have learnt to find the good in all situations instead of giving up and being negative. Who knows what good might come on the way, just by accident!

In my opinion the key to reduce stress while traveling is to keep an open mind. I accept that I might not be in charge at all times. Plans and schedules can change. Sometimes I get sick or customer has to cancel the appointment. So what? Something good always comes out from the trips!

Remember, why travel

Good preparation of the practical stuff helps the actual traveling and can reduce disorder. The most important thing is still to understand why travel. After every trip it is good to make a summary how the trip went and what good came out of it. Especially on work trips there are goals to achieve. What can I improve? Is there something new I can bring to my everyday life? 

For me traveling is life. I get so many positive things out of it that I couldn’t imagine my life without it. When you do things that make you happy, being a bit tired doesn’t really matter. 

How about you? Do you travel? If you have any tips how to make traveling smoother, please comment!

Thanks for reading! Time for the next trip: 9 days!