If you’re reading this from North America, you know that this is Thanksgiving, a day we pause for a moment to reflect on all that we are grateful for, while most of us of a certain age can still remember whether we dressed up as a Pilgrim or a Native American… aka Indian… for the elementary school Thanksgiving Day parade. It’s amazing how much perceptions and ideals can change over the period of one’s lifetime.
In the meantime, I’ve been using much of my COVID sequester to comb through tens of thousands of photos that have amassed over our last twenty years of travel – a timeframe essentially defined by the advent of the digital photo. Twenty years ago, digital cameras were clunky with a default resolution that made for grainy images. Twenty years ago, our children were children. That was about the time we saved every single penny and frequent flyer mile for two years so we could experience the phenomenon we’d heard about called family naturism in France. Twenty years ago, there were no widespread conspiracies creeping around the internet called Pizzagate that alleged wrongdoings of liberal elites with children. And maybe it’s just me, but it seems that twenty years ago, people were much less likely to jump to the conclusion that “The naked people must be crazy!” I remember that as time when people could simply agree to disagree, live and let live, and that was that.
I’ve been quiet on the blogosphere as of late. As last summer came to a close, my wife and I set out to drive from Sea to Shining Sea with the ambition of visiting family in our native California while pursuing a bit of “naturist research” along the way. Today, we now live near several major airports on the Eastern Seaboard, and our children are grown and gone, and thus, our more recent travel ventures have almost always been fueled by the fact that Paris is roughly the same distance from our house as San Francisco, and if you’re persistent, a plane ticket can be had for roughly the same price. But now, with international travel off the table, this was the chance to seize the moment and discover America, including Naked America.
When most international borders became impenetrable last March, and concerns about contracting the virus became the defining element of how to get through each and every day of living during a pandemic, I began blogging about getting naked in America – an idea we had all but abandoned years ago when we discovered the vast array of options scattered all across the European landmass. But alas… This year, Europe (and most everywhere else) was closed!
Even before heading west, we spent much of the summer seeking out naked places within a day’s drive of our Mid-Atlantic home. We then took to carefully mapping out our coast-to-coast itinerary in an effort to see what we’d been missing in naked America. A couple of my posts drew the ire of readers as I attempted to document our research while seeking that delicate balance between innocuous and informative. Come across as too opinionated and you disenfranchise half of your readers. Present your observations in a more sterile manner as you might encounter in a AAA Guidebook (Remember those?) and your words do little to help a prospective first time naturist know what they’re getting themselves into.
To date, I’ve published blog posts for about half of those places we’ve visited over the past six months. Some revel in the discovery of clothing-optional country inns or naked-friendly hiking trails, while others get a bit snarky as we struggled to navigate COVID protocols amidst a flurry of political banners and flags, all of which made us feel strangely uncomfortable, regardless of political persuasion. Having assumed an enthusiastic voice inferring that “naked people are simply more warm, genuine, and accepting than their textile counterparts,” we were growing increasingly uncomfortable about getting naked in places where agreeing to disagree was supplanted by personal decisions related to social distancing in the pool or wearing a mask. I even tried to blog about that, but when I go back to read that post… my last post… even I have trouble making sense of it all.
So… I stopped writing.
Once we made it to California, we had the opportunity to meet a guy named Scott Cline at Glen Eden Sun Club for an afternoon of lively banter. He’s the host, producer, and creative genius behind The New Nudist Podcast, an excellent resource for those who are social nudity curious. Scott’s most recent podcast is about a newbie’s first impressions upon visiting this famed nudist resort in Orange County. I don’t want to steal the punchline, but I have to say, I found that particular episode to be particularly inspiring. Despite the fact that my wife and I have been enthusiastic advocates for social nudity for about thirty years – since we first met – I found myself not only empathizing with the reactions of the newbie nudist, but downright inspired by his forthright observations along with his subsequent resilience and enthusiasm for the naturist experience. His perspective was refreshing in its candor, leading me to a rather sudden realization that those who choose to pursue opportunities for social nudity in the United States represent a very specific demographic. While that population is, indeed, typically welcoming and warm, I suddenly had a new understanding of those who do not feel “warmly welcomed” when baring all amidst others. So much so, in fact, that in some cases we counted ourselves in that number.
I believe Scott plans to continue on this path in his desire to understand the psychology of what makes a person feel comfortable getting naked in the company of others for reasons other than sexual fulfillment, and I’m most eager to hear his future podcasts as he attempts to demystify why so many Americans seem to think those naked people must be crazy. Scott’s enthusiasm is infectious, having only discovered social nudity himself in the past couple years. I envy him for his zeal and optimism, and admire him for his desire to make a difference in the campaign to normalize simple nudity.
Which brings me back to this blog, which will celebrate eight years of life on the internet in a few days. When I revisit the original intent, I simply wanted to document our naturist travels in hopes of sharing the unbridled joys of nakedness outdoors, all the better when enjoyed in the company of family and friends. But the farther I’ve gotten into my journey as the Meandering Naturist, the more challenging it has become to keep the rhetoric fresh and “the opinions” of a helpful intent. How does one provide the need to know without throwing the sure to offend out on the table?
All that said, I have maintained all along that while there are loads of naturist bloggers out there, in addition to innumerable websites that seek to provide directions to the closest, newest, coolest place to get naked, I find there are surprisingly few that strive to help the uninitiated truly understand why anyone would want to run around with all those crazy naked people. In today’s era of rampant social media, one is much more likely to encounter a TripAdvisor or Google review about a beach or a hot spring where the reviewer is hell bent on admonishing the reader to leave their children at home in case they inadvertently encounter a naked person soaking or sunbathing. (Oh, imagine the horror!) In this age of conspiracy theories, blended families, hyper-legalities, and general paranoia about everything from germs to gymnophobia, (Look it up!) it seems to me that the cause for normalizing nudity needs all the thoughtful advocacy and discourse we can muster.
And so, the Meandering Naturist finds himself in a moment of reflection on this national day of gratitude. Having amassed pages of notes for trip reviews yet unwritten, I have yet to decide the future of this particular blog as I’ve come to realize that the meandering part may actually be more important to us than the naturist part. In this moment, that all seems sort of obvious and mundane, but for this sequestered blogger, that all turns out to be quite an epiphany.
In the spirit of the day, thanks for reading these words and following our journey. I will be most thankful if it all inspires even one social nudity curious human to take the leap into the naked horizon.