Tattooed travels

Mar 102011
Authors: Chadwick Bowman

An Odell brew is the best complement to hear a story like this.

It begins on the Orkney Islands, an island archipelago in Northern Scotland. At age 15 Jamie Bradley was kicked out of high school for what he says was “general rowdiness.”

Bradley’s head is shaved bald and his body tattooed. He is a non-traditional student originally from the town of Bewdley, England. His rich English accent is as noticeable as the tattoos covering his right arm, which he adds with each destination in his travels.

At 18, he had a son in Scotland but left for England to start his own courier business. After years of long hours and a difficult work, he grew unsatisfied and discontent with working the same job in the same place for the rest of his life. He decided to head south.

“My trip to Indonesia was a chance to decompress,” he said. Though he ran into troubles.

In Bali he jumped into a taxi-van carrying tourists. But he wasn’t a tourist, it turns out; he was a captive and his driver was a would-be

“They were amateurs,” he said. “It took me a while before I even realized I was being kidnapped. It didn’t matter, I didn’t have any money.”

After a shouting match, Bradley said they him left in the middle of the jungle as he watched them disappear. He says he is forever indebted –– as he grasped his beer and raised it above his head –– to a man in a Range Rover who picked him up.

Eventually making it to Australia, and after a few weeks Down Under, he decided he “fancied this lifestyle” and stayed for 15 months. But he again grew restless and based solely on a recommendation of a friend, he left again –– this time for Thailand.

With $150 in his pocket, he said he had a big first night out in Bangkok. 150 dollars turned to $20. He immediately realized that he needed a job. He heard of work as an English teacher in a town called Chiang Mai.

Bradley made it to Chiang Mai and began his teaching career, but he learned that those with college degrees get paid more. Obviously, he didn’t have that.

His brother had a degree from the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England. After receiving a photocopy and making some minor alterations, his brother’s degree in Literature became his own.

He met a woman named Olivia, who would later become his wife. Though happy in Thailand, he again got restless.
“I like to keep moving,” he said.

He moved with Olivia to Vietnam and lived in Saigon. As his ventures became more extensive, so did the tattoos on his body. It wasn’t difficult for the “college graduate” to find a new teaching job in Saigon.

Olivia became homesick and convinced him to move to Chicago.

Though his travels thus far were vast, he admitted, “Never in my life did I have intentions of moving to the U.S.”

He met his future in-laws, got married and had a daughter but again grew restless working difficult jobs and long hours. His wife, a high school teacher, was ready to move as well. He decided to go back to school and earn a real degree, and move to Fort Collins.

“I fancy this lifestyle,” he said, and after everything “I’m finally doing what I was meant to be doing. Something that I should have done in the first place … though I regret nothing.”

He is studious and a dedicated father to his daughter. Bradley currently studies journalism, Asian cultures and Japanese, hoping to return to the Eastern part of the world.

Toward the end and a few beers later, the conversation came back to his son, who is now 19. Though they are not close, he says they stay in touch and that he visits every once in a while.

Bradley said he is always re-inventing himself, and he’ll keep getting a tattoo at every new stage in his life. His word of advice to me was to make sure I have a good ink artist and think out my tattoos. “This shit is permanent.”
Chadwick Bowman is a senior sociology and journalism major. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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