Post updated: March 2021 – Especially in the US, fewer and fewer families seem willing to “take the risk” of taking their kids to a naked place. This was our journey, and a recap of all that has evolved since our kids were little.
I wrote this piece while in France a few summers ago, as was my 20-something daughter, but she wasn’t traveling with us at that moment. In fact, she took a beach trip that day with several friends and acquaintances – all of whom I know – to just an ordinary beach on the Cote d’Azur. Not long into their stay, off came her bikini top. Hardly necessary on any beach in France, so why not?
Our daughter is what I would call naturist friendly. Would she drive 300 miles to get to a naturist beach (as I would) just to add it to her bucket list? Probably not. But given the choice to swim naked or adorn herself in wet nylon – well, that’s a no-brainer! Nylon and Lycra be gone! As one of her naturist-friendly peers so aptly stated, “What’s the big deal? We all know what’s down there!”
The big deal, at least for Americans, is that we are very much confused about the meaning of nudity, especially when it comes to bringing the kids along. The AANR (American Association for Nude Recreation) will tell you that naturist travel is enjoying a significant upswing, especially when you consider offerings like the Big Nude Boat that packs 1000+ nudies onto a Carnival cruise ship. But in our experience, this marketing niche is directed to either the 30-something “I need a spark in my life” set, or the over 50 empty-nesters, who wouldn’t dream of telling their children that they were going on a nakation.
As I wrote this from a sweet little hotel on Ile du Levant, it occurs to me that I saw many children that day – some clothed, some not – as well as just about every other age demographic over the course of the day, and not a single person looked shocked, disgusted, or otherwise traumatized. Which leads me back to my daughter’s naturist curious friend when she asks me, “So when you took your kids on nakation in France, weren’t you concerned about the inevitable back-to-school essay called, What I did last summer?
Our good friends have always known about our aversion to wrapping ourselves in fabric, as have most of our siblings. But it is true that we were a bit more cautious when it came to telling the grandparents that the true meaning of summer vacation meant not having to launder your underwear, or anything else for that matter. How could anyone fathom the context of a family naturist resort in the South of France had they not experienced such a thing? Might we be putting our children in harm’s way? Will they need to see a psychologist in 15 years having repressed memories of seeing people with (or without) pubic hair? Or perhaps to most viable concern, will they show up on the internet on some unsavory website?
To be sure, the digital age has not been kind to the naturist agenda, at least not when it comes to the proliferation of unauthorized images captured from devices hidden and unknown, only for the purpose of exploitation. Though having acknowledged that, I have yet to find an unauthorized image of myself or any family member anywhere, which is quite remarkable given my 30+ years as a naturist. Could it happen tomorrow? Of course, but that is a relatively small danger within the broad strokes of cyber-crime.
But I digress.
What did we/do we tell people when they ask about our holidays in Spain, Greece, and the South of France? We tell them where we went, and about how we rented a house, an apartment, or stayed in a hotel there, conveniently omitting the name of a specific naturist venue. In one case, upon mentioning a specific geographical destination (the Gironde peninsula in France) to a colleague, we both recognized the common denominator. Simply the mention of the town of Montalivet was enough to identify our shared desire for holidays without clothing.
“But what about the grandparents?” asks my young friend. What do you tell them? And what will the children say when you’re not around?
We were quite direct with our children, telling them that out of context, not everyone would understand the inherent value of family naturism, and that while our vacations were not to be thought of as secretive, there are many people with different value systems that simply would not understand, and your grandparents quite likely would fall into that category. But, if you inadvertently let the cat out of the bag, or even the absence of tan lines was noticed while changing for bed, then by all means, tell the truth and we’ll take it from there.
Interestingly enough, that happened on at least a couple of occasions, but alas, the comments were so lacking in context, that they went unnoticed by the grand-parental units!
“We don’t wear swimsuits in France.”
“Of course you don’t honey. Now let’s get ready to go to the pool.”
The bi-product of all this, however, is that until adulthood, our children never found a level of comfort with nudity at home. France was a place to be naked; home was the place to be modest. And this would carry across, rather mysteriously, from one year to the next. As of this writing, none of them are avid naturists, but any of them will gladly accept the offer of food and housing, (note that clothing is missing) in an exotic Mediterranean or Caribbean destination. Funny how that works.
As for the grandparents? We eventually fessed up to one side, as grandpa became increasingly internet savvy and wanted to know precisely where we were staying on an upcoming European adventure. Knowing we were just a Google search away from full exposure, I wrote a thoughtful email saying that I was less ashamed about the naturist thing than I was about keeping this information from them for so many years. If it was such the right thing to do for our family – and it was – why not just come out and tell the full story?
But social norms are powerful, especially within the family structure. We were fortunate to have more freedom and autonomy than many, but then again, we had the sole responsibility of raising our children to be thoughtful humans with a worldly perspective. A world in which a naked man disabled by polio or a woman recovering from a mastectomy would become a casual topic for dinner conversation while living in a community of mutual acceptance. That is the very best face of naturism, and the environment we have experienced time and again during our travels throughout naturist Europe.
Would we do it differently if we had it a do over? Too many variables to answer that question, and those variables differ a great deal from one family to the next. But our naturist family vacations are among our most prized memories, and I believe our (adult) children would tell you that as well. As stated above, we all know what’s down there! Why we load that up with so many taboos remains a mystery to me to this day. Somehow, violence and porn have become commonplace, but lying naked on a beach is still a source of suspicion and contempt.
Grow up America! We know what you’re hiding!
Epilogue: Since I originally posted this essay in 2017 we have visited perhaps two dozen naked places in the United States, due mainly to international travel restrictions during a pandemic. About half of those places have clear policies that prohibit anyone under 18 years of age on the property – sometimes because things get racy on the weekends and nobody wants kids around, other times simply due to the fact that the resort managers don’t want to deal with the liability of what might, or could, but probably wouldn’t happen if they had naked kids running around. Our society has become increasingly litigious, with so many unfortunate precedents in the Church, scouting troops, and college locker rooms.
Meanwhile, as recently as 2019, we visited several naturist places in Europe where young families were in abundance, organized day programs for kids were going full tilt, and a child of any age would immediately feel at ease in a peer group of dozens, if not hundreds, of others in their own age group. Acceptance perpetuates acceptance. Weirdness and lonliness confirms weirdness and loneliness. An unfortunate truth for the future of family naturism in America.
If you’re reading this as a parent of young children and giving consideration to a potential family nakation, reach out to me should you so desire. Perhaps I can provide a bit of guidance like a kind fellow extended to me back when our kids were young. It was literally life-changing, and I’d be happy to pay that forward.
Reblogged this on Clothing Optional.
Reblogged this on MojoNude and commented:
Excellent article. Here in America, social nudism is largely perceived as an ‘adult’ activity and family nudism is viewed with suspicion. The idea of naked children around adults conjures images of pedophilia and naked adults around children is viewed as potentially traumatic for the children. Both ideas are largely unfounded but we have not moved far from our Puritan roots and our fear of what we don’t bother to understand. Nudism (naturism) is yet another area where we have a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the world.
Reblogged this on Foxy Musings.
It is a great article! The image of the family in the pool was taken at Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park. We do not mind it being used in this context but we would like an acknowledgement that it is our copyright and used with permission. You may also be interested in our page on children in naturism: http://www.BareOaks.ca/kids
Ah! Thanks for catching that. I will add a photo attribution today! (It simply came up on a google image search – didn’t note the source.)
I am jealous of you. Naturist family vacations. What a beautiful thought!
We were very lucky, and it would have never happened if it weren’t for family naturism in France.
What a great article.It would be so nice if we could just get over the worries about the human body.It sounds like you had a blast.I absolutely love being nude in the water.I think it’s the best way to introduce someone to naturism.If I never had to wear a swimsuit again that would be too soon.
The absence of tan lines has been the “undoing/revelation” of many naturist families. It’s actually a very nice way to be discovered. 🙂
LOL! These days there is no chance to be seen by regular people. Your secret is safe.
Sad… but true!
I think it’s reasonable to say that everyone’s experiences are different when it comes to these things. For us we’ve done six of the nude cruises and have our seventh booked for next February. While I’d agree that they do attract the older set there are a often number of younger people on these cruises, other than those associated with the organiser, but as is the case elsewhere they tend to congregate away from those older. We know this because we took our kids on one of the cruises, two weeks San Diego to Hawaii which “flushed the herd out of cover”.
Oddly enough this particular cruise resulted in us not having to worry about others finding out. The cruise operator was being interviewed on a morning show here in Australia and they wanted some Aussie passengers. Once they found out we’d taken the family, including our now son in law, we were there first choice. If your nudist / naturist lifestyle is a secret then appearing on national television will soon change all that.
Unlike yourself my parents have know about this since we started going to these venues more than 13 years ago and my father, now 97, views it more from the point that it’s good we’re doing these sorts of things now rather than waiting for some undetermined time in an unknown future. The whole nudity thing hasn’t phased him at all.
On a side note, like you we loved Ile Du Levant when we went there in 2015. We will get back to the place where ‘Le Minimum’ isn’t just a dress code it’s a great place for a cold beer on a hot day.
I like this article, for when I was younger in the 1960’s my parents took me to a nudist camp and after that we had to be nude at home only and my dad did remove the doors to our bathroom and bed room and said it is okay to talk between us kids too.
Haha! Right with you up to the removal of bathroom doors. 🙂
You need some privacy. I did things as a kid I would definitely not want sis watching.
Thanks I enjoyed the commentary
Thanks for following. 🙂
It goes without saying… means it never gets said. And it needs to be said. I am terminally envious of you.
HAHAHA… Funny thing about social media and the internet. One typically only advertises the enviable parts! 🙂
Children are being taught in schools about diversity and acceptance for all except nudists.
As an American living in a nudist club I love the closing remark.. “Grow up America, we know what you’re hiding.”
Reblogged this on the Writer's Disease and commented:
I don’t typically reblog other people’s articles, but I just couldn’t help but repost this. Very well written, very insightful, from the experienced parent of a nudist family!
My partner and I have discovered nudism late in life I’m 81 and he’s 67. My grand daughter loves it and while her parents are skeptical, she humour her! So she comes with us and strips off at the l=slightest opportunity!
Naomi (New Zealand)
You say: “… I believe our (adult) children would tell you that as well. …”
Have you thought about asking yiur children to write for your blog ?
Haha!!! YES! And two of them have agreed to do so… when they get around to it! LOL
But my guest blogger Addie is essentially our surrogate daughter, and she has written three or four times now. If you search the blog for “Addie,” you’ll find her posts. They’re great.
Ah – very good. Will take a look.
Beautiful family, would like to see the kids nude more often however
That’s a little creepy, but if you’re being holistic… go to Europe!