Adam Vu had just about everything a young tattooer could want. He had a private studio in Dana Point. His loyal clientele allowed him to have relatively steady income doing the types of tattoos he enjoyed doing. He even had a solid network of friends, family, and other artists to help him along whenever he needed something
But that wasn’t enough.
Vu left his studio in January to accomplish a long-term goal: to tattoo on all seven continents. It would make Vu only the second person to conquer the feat, as old-school tattooing icon Lyle Tuttle finished his journey two years ago at the age of 82.
Of course, Vu isn’t starting from scratch. His current voyage, on which he intends to spend roughly a year, will be the longest of his career. In addition to tattooing in several locations, the artist’s serious case of wanderlust has led to another project: modifying paintings in cheap hotels around the globe (read more about that in the first Trendzilla of the year).
As Vu sees it, being the second — not to mention youngest — person to tattoo on every continent is one of the biggest accomplishments he could possibly achieve.
“If I were to die tomorrow, this would be the one thing that I did of any lasting substance,” Vu says. “I accepted a long time ago that I’m not going to be the best at tattooing because there’s no such thing. You don’t have to be the best to do this; you just have to want to do it.”
His refined “prison-style” blackwork tattooing is clean and stands out from nearly anyone else’s ink, but he knows it’ll never be for everyone. Tattooing on every continent, on the other hand, is an accomplishment no one can ever take away.
“There’s supposed to be a club of the first seven guys to do all seven,” Vu says. “It’s the only club I’ve ever wanted to join. I think we’re all supposed to tattoo a ‘7’ on each other or something, but I don’t even care about that. I just really want to be part of that club.”
Just being a part of that club isn’t enough for the ambitious ink slinger. While Tuttle spent decades trekking around the globe, Vu plans to knock out the record in one trip — impressive for his first time around.
“If you’re single and don’t have kids, it would be easy to do all these different places in three years or in seven years,” Vu says. “You go somewhere, tattoo there, and then come home and recuperate. I didn’t want to do that; I wanted it to have some extra meaning and get it all done without taking a break.”
While many tattooers complain about having to go to another state for a convention, Vu believes he’s better when he’s on the road. Vu travels the world for fun and to visit his girlfriend in Germany. There’s just something about living out of a suitcase that’s appealing to the artist.
“I’m at my best when I’m traveling,” Vu says. “After I graduated college, I learned more in one year on the road than I ever would’ve in twentysomething years of schooling. You can’t teach creativity, and you can’t teach life experience, but those things go hand-in-hand if you’re traveling. You don’t even know what kind of a person you are until you travel.”
Follow Adam Vu’s journey and see more of his work on his Instagram: @adamvunoir.