A couple years ago I published a blog post with my musings about the prospects of self-publishing a book on our collective naturist experiences. Those long, sequestered days during COVID could have lent themselves well to such an endeavor, but like many, I found myself struggling with sadness and dysphoria over the course of that year. That would have been one more activity that tied me to a computer screen at the end of a long day of ZOOM meetings, seeming anything but therapeutic.
What I did explore, however, was Medium, a platform that lends itself to would-be writers in a layout that seems a little less personal than a blog, but also less committal than an ink-on-paper publication. Having always been a big fan of opinion pieces found in the mainstream press, I caught myself chasing links through various topics by otherwise unknown authors who offered interesting perspectives on things I’d hardly ever thought about. (It certainly didn’t hurt when my daughter published a random piece about her disdain for tiny houses that almost of went viral, and she ended up with a few hundred bucks in her pocket!)
I did write a couple posts on Medium, essentially repackaging our naturist story, but in long form, elaborating a bit on the family environments my wife and I grew up in, and how that would not only influence the way we raised our own children, but shaped our desires and opinions related to family naturism as well. While I typically aim for about 1000-1500 words for a blog post, I made the arbitrary decision that my Medium posts would be longer and more substantive – at least 3000 words – in an effort to flesh out a narrative voice in my writing that could expand our story from simply going places for the sake of getting naked, but also give airtime to the rest of the story. I had published several essays and was beginning to attract something of a following when the great naturist kerfuffle of 2022 took place and I hastily pulled everything down and canceled the account from a hotel room in Great Britain. (Thankfully, I saved the manuscripts, so those may well reappear in the near future.)
The writing prompts seem infinite: I’ve already written about traveling to South Africa to stay on a naturist ranch outside of Johannesburg, but what about the subsequent train ride across the tip of the continent the night Nelson Mandela died? Or that guided walk through the Thai jungle at an elephant rescue center near a naturist place in Chiang Mai? And for that matter, why not dabble in some of the socio-political dynamics that have evolved since we first started visiting naturist Palm Springs in the early 1990s? In reality, we tend to frame our enchantment with naturist travel within a broader perspective of experiencing the world through naked eyes, assuming (often erroneously) that’s simply what all naturists are seeking. And to be sure, especially when traveling abroad, we’ve met some really interesting people along the way who, similarly, are attracted to naturist travel due to the effort it takes to get far enough off the beaten path that you find yourself in a place where you’re able to drop all your clothes before you jump in the sea.
And thus, I have just initiated a new Medium channel that will likely carry the name of the book I’ve dreamed of writing for years. I suspect Nothing in my Duffel bag – A meandering naturist’s travelogue will read much more like a book than a blog post, in my desire to portray our lived experience in broader strokes – sometimes focused on a particular region or destination (I could write an entire book on Ile du Levant given our dozen or so visits there over the past twenty years) or in other cases, a bit of pontification drawn from over three decades of trying to sort out just what naturism is! There’s really no need to write another 12-step user’s manual about how to take your clothes off. That’s been done. Nor do I wish to offer any additional noise to the banter of avoiding the state of arousal during one’s first visit to a nude beach. Such topics have been well exhausted on innumerable blogs and introductory pages posted on so many clothing-optional resort websites. Again, I’m seeking a broader view on a larger canvas.
If I learned anything this past year in managing our personal narrative about our inclinations for social nudity, that would be that naturism, like most everything else, becomes a lot less controversial when it exists within a broader context of how we live the rest of our lives. The stories we have to tell about South Africa, Uruguay, Thailand, Brazil, Honduras, Australia, Montenegro, and even that little island in France could most efficiently be summed up in a couple sentences like, “we finally got there and we took off our clothes. The sun was warm and the water was invigorating.” Is that all there was? Why didn’t you simply do that at home?
What about the smell of the eucalyptus, the hundreds of varietals of cheese, the breath-taking beauty of The Great Barrier Reef, or even the sunset on the shore opposite of that you’re accustomed to? And that’s to say nothing of the kind young woman in the local wine store, the climate physicist from France, the psychology professor from Germany, the stock-broker from Malaysia, the peach farmer from Africa, the entrepreneur from Rio – all people we’ve met during our travels who took the time to share their perceptions of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness from a perspective we might have never considered before. These are the stories that shape our lives and ideals (as well as the those of our children) even when we’re fully clothed, but in many if not most cases, we would have never found ourselves in those places with those people had we not followed a lead from a guy on a message board urging us to check out that little cove, resort, mountain path, sauna… whatever. Time and again, naturism has been the gateway drug to finding the road less traveled.
To this end, I’ve outlined a series of essays, or chapters if you will, each of which will run five to ten times the length of a regular blog post. (Most style-guides suggest a substantive chapter ranges from 8000 – 15000 words depending on the subject matter and the author’s ability to develop an arch in the story that allows the reader to identify with the characters therein. That sounds like a challenge to me!) As each full essay is published on Medium, I intend to post a corresponding redux (TL;DR) here on the blog for those who are more interested in the punchline than the narrative setup of the gag.
Here’s what I’ve go so far:
- Introduction – A rehashing of the above that speaks not only to our naturist journey, but how that exists in a broader context of perceiving the world from a global perspective in an effort to better understand humans, whether they’re wearing clothes or not. (This one’s live now… See THE TRAIN STATION GAME on MEDIUM)
- Naked and Just a Little Afraid… On a Small French Island – The story of French naturism as it coincides, or otherwise collides, with the existence of the naturist village of Heliopolis perched on the tip of idyllic Ile du Levant. For all intents and purposes, this turns out to be the history of naturism as we know it today.
- House of Mirrors: Nudity and Body Acceptance – In an age where gender is fluid, racism is rampant, and essentially nobody feels they meet the physical standards set forth by mass and social media, (let alone Madison Avenue,) I grapple with coming to peace one’s own nakedness.
- The Last Train to Mandiba: Naturism is South Africa – Our fascination with South Africa (and the struggling nations to the immediate north) has grown more persistent with each visit, and some of the most startling epiphanies have come while chatting with people in the buff.
- Family Altogetherness: Thoughts about family naturism – We are but one of only a few couples we know whose children not only know about our naturist doings, but grew up in that tradition and are occasional participants in their independent adult lives.
- Some Like it Hot: The Story of Social Nudity in Palm Springs, California – Only Florida and California have the climate to sustain year-round naturism, along with “other” various clothing-optional… “activities.” I find the history of that in Palm Springs to be particularly riveting if not a downright scandalous! It’s also a microcosm of social nudity in America today.
- Media Killed the Naturist Star: Naked in the Digital Age – “Were it not for the internet…” naturist travel would not be what it is today, nor would there exist the exploitation thereof. Naked or not, who could have anticipated the digital age?
- Why France is the Naturist Mecca – The French understand food, wine, conviviality, personal liberty, and social nudity – unlike any other people on the planet. Here’s how that works!
- Why People Think Nudity is About Sex, Especially When it Is – This could be called Florida and Palm Springs: Part Two, but the confusion and consternation that inevitably links naturism to sexuality is simply a human phenomenon, hardly limited to a specific region or the people who live there.
- A Brief and Sordid History of the Naturist Caribbean – Places named Grand Lido Braco and Club Orient have simply become legends, while resorts called Hedonism and Temptation have survived the test of time. Nakedness in the Caribbean is truly a dichotomy.
- And their eyes were opened, and they knew they were naked. Religion and nudity – I am neither a theologian nor a sociologist, but that doesn’t stop me from obsessing (and pontificating) over how religion has shaped our sense of civility and self-worth, so I may as well throw my hat in the ring.
- Je Ne Parle pas le Français: Naturism outside of France – Even though France is the naturist promised land, we also need to give honorable mentions to places like Croatia, Germany, Greece, Spain, and the Netherlands. In other words, European naturism beyond the borders of France.
- Hardly the Ballad of John and Yoko: Our Naturist Journey – My wife first visited a nude beach in 1980. We’ve been practicing naturism together since 1986. This is our story.
- Seeking Nirvana in the Most Unlikely Places: Naturism in Asia, Central, and South America – Why do people who live in the warmest places insist on wearing clothes all the time, except for the handful who don’t?
- Epilogue – Who knows how this will read by the time I get there, if and when I get there? Are we ever there?
We have always maintained that while social nudity may be a shared interest, it is neither a foundational belief upon which a friendship can be sustained, nor is there even enough fodder on the topic to sustain more than a few minutes of conversation. (Perhaps a bit more if you decide to play the “Have you ever been to this place?” game) That said, I like to think there is something remarkable about a person who is at ease enough with their own body to reveal one’s entire physicality head-to-toe, and often (but not always,) an accompanying sense of curiosity and vulnerability. While I once thought my blog would evolve into a comprehensive guide to every naturist venue on the planet, (there are several other outlets for that now on the internet, most notably that by Nick and Lins) I’ve grown more interested as of late in the psychology and substance of naturism than where and how it might be practiced. This is a long-term project with the intentionality of being more philosophical than referential.
So, what have I missed? Am I beating a dead horse? As is the case in my professional life as an academic, I’ve always thought the best lessons are those that leave you with more questions than answers; inspiring emergent outcomes instead of definitive flight-plans. Feel free to respond to this post if you think of an error of omission that might be included in this project. Since this is not likely to ever “go into physical print,” the arc and trajectory of the project will continue to evolve over the course of time. All we – my wife and I – can offer is the experience of accumulated miles and years of existing on the planet. But as every writer knows, it’s much more satisfying to write to an audience who is genuinely engaged in what you have to say.
This is your chance to help us write the book. 🙂
What we would personally be very much interested in are your views about what’s happening with nudism in the USA. You’ll probably tackle the topic in the “some like it hot” chapter, but we very much hope that you will spend a lot of words on this.
We remember your disappointment after your big American nudist road trip, and more and more, we start hearing similar stories. Just yesterday, we received the following comment on one of our Patreon posts: “I no longer consider US places viable because of the political, anti-social to naturism, and gun-culture environment. Unfortunate; the natural environment is superb.”
We think that there’s nobody better than you to explain what is going on and to figure out where it’s going wrong.
Why is there such a big difference between naturism Europe and in the USA?
Why is naturism taking off in Latin America and declining in the US?
With your worldwide experience, what would be needed for naturism to pick up again in the US?
Is there hope? Or is everything lost?
Oh yeah, thanks for the mention 😉
Oh, another one: France4Naturism recently did a huge campaign with billboards in the subway of Paris. What would happen if Cypress Cove did such a thing in the subway of Miami?
1) Cypress Cove is a about as good as it gets in the US, but it is MOST DEFINITELY not on par with the France4Naturisme resorts. And I suspect the budgetary demands simply wouldn’t make an advertising campaign like that viable.
2) But here’s the kicker. SCOTUS JUST OVERTURNED ROE VS. WADE!!!!!! That’s closely related to HUGE campaigns all over the country where school boards are editing anything even remotely controversial out of textbooks. (No need to mention the adolescent development of pubic hair in a health textbook if we aren’t willing to acknowledge that teenagers are having sex!) Personal ownership and understanding of your own body is NOT a matter for public discussion and has effectively been legislated out of existence! Perhaps it’s a leap of “no faith,” but I suspect a billboard for Cypress Cove in the NY Subway would be attacked by the far right in a matter of minutes, despite the one right next to it with the provocative naked woman advertising perfume!!
But once again… you’ve generated another prompt for the book. Or maybe I save this one for the movie! LOL
First things first! NOBODY can talk about naturism without a shout-out to Nick and Lins! You two have changed the game for the entire movement! 🙂 Thank you for that!
Thanks for the additional prompts, and you are right – I think that theme will be interwoven in nearly EVERY post in this series. Interestingly, I got a couple comments on my previous post that took me to task on attacking POTUS 45, reiterating the claims of a stolen election. I suspect I may have lost that reader due to my response to his comment, but I’m OK with that. The era of avoiding confrontation in addressing the social fabric of America is long past!
Truthfully, I think the questions you’re asking about naturism in America are not really questions about social-nudity (or the places it can be practiced) at all! These are matters of a deep chasm of social unrest that is paralyzing the entire country – at least, until something snaps and the paralysis erupts into violence. With all due respect, my Belgian friends :), I’ve been alluding to this for years but I think you maybe thought I was just being a sad Sal, making mountains out of molehills as the political landscape continued to burst into flames. But in my day to day life working with innumerable 20-year-olds who are dazed and confused as to which way is up, it seems the rest of society if finally starting to catch up with the reality that things are badly broken, and there are few – if any – viable solutions on the horizon.
It’s not that American Nudism/Naturism has come of the rails in a vacuum. Those places simply reflect the population at large, except for the fact that the American naturist park lends itself particularly well to a particular socio-economic, RV-drivin’, gun lovin’ cross section of the population. Similar to what we’ve seen with the “perpetual campers” at the big resorts in Croatia, “I own the beachfront plot where I’ve planted five hundred lawn gnomes and NOBODY is going to tell me where to put them.” This is that… but weirdly attached to the political fabric of right-wing bravado and I don’t see that ship turning any time soon.
But all is not lost! Our “coming out” in recent months has produced an unanticipated ripple effect which has made it clear that there IS a younger generation who scarcely gives a damn about getting caught someplace naked, but would simply never do that at a traditional naturist venue in the US of A. It will be interesting to see what happens with that, as it seems to me that the emerging ethos of Gen Z is pretty much, “The world is screwed, so I may as well live life as much as I can WHILE I can!!” That could pay huge dividends for SOME flavor of naturism, not to mention any number of other ideals that will shape our collective future.
Again… way more to come on this topic. It’s pretty much the essence of everything I have to say at this point!
No need to give us the whole explanation here, save that for the book 😀
The thing is that every crisis comes with opportunities and the bigger the mess, the bigger the chance of a revolution.
In the late sixties, nudism got a big push in the back from the hippies. But the hippies would never have been there if the Americans hadn’t screwed up in Vietnam.
The question is, will nudism benefit once again from a possible revolution? And could there be a way to increase the odds in our favour?
LOL. OK, then. You’ll have to wait.
Spoiler: My brother actually went to Vietnam, and dabbled in hippiedom during the Summer of Love. There’s a whole ‘nother topic that could spin off of that about the hippies from that era having become the retired RV owners at the nudist parks today. Which begs the question… What actually became of that revolution when the protestors all ended up in corporate America.
I think there’s a university course to be taught in all this! Thanks for the brainchild. 🙂
First, thank you for coming back! I was quite saddened when you felt you had to shut it down. Your posts have givin me both education of things I was unaware and confirmation of how I felt about naturism AND the current mess we are living in here in the US.
I had mentioned the Trump signs everywhere in one of your earlier posts and questioned your experience of this mindset of blatantly “screaming” ones political opinion on the front lawn at the nudist resorts you visited. It all seems so aggressive in the name of patriotism and feels like a wall has been erected to either dare one to engage or to prevent one from engaging in any kind of friendly discource. I think I’m feeling much like you are in many ways and I am looking forward to what you will have to say.
I am facinated with the Naturist culture in Europe and hope to visit soon. In the mean time I will soak up any knowledge you have to share. I love the long form podcast medium that has developed over the past few years and feel it is one of the few places where you can get honest perspective and information without the bias laden sound bites of mainstream media outlets. There is time and space to talk things through human to human with the guest which brings us back to a conversation where we might learn someting and perhaps alter our views by having more information to process. I feel your Medium post could be this for me as well. More room to stretch and fully develop the conversation in long form. Good idea to have the TL;DR for the TikTok society we have become. I’ll admit that I sometime don’t have the bandwidth to spend on the long form, so I will appreciate both!
Thanks Chip. It’s been affirming to get back in the game. Probably would have done it sooner, but I pulled the plug so quickly in a knee-jerk reaction (to lots of OTHER people’s knee-jerk reactions) that it’s taken a bit of doing to get things up and running again.
I honestly don’t know how to rationalize the fact that some domestic naturist resorts have essentially turned into ongoing rallies for the Qanon believers. How did we get here? I actually taught a course on this topic last fall, but even that remains a work in progress as the chasm between national identities continues to grow. I, too, enjoy thumbing through the various perspectives found on MEDIUM, even those I blatantly disagree with! I happen to believe we can’t adequately address the issues if we’re not willing to see what has everyone in such an uproar.
But one thing’s for sure… you have to be careful about where you decide to practice naturism in the US. It’s something of a minefield out there. Should you decide to pursue the Europe naturist thing, don’t hesitant to ask for guidance. I’m a college professor. I LOVE giving advice. LOL
I’m looking forward to this project taking shape. Please include thoughts about the Christian Naturist community in you section on religion. Your balanced treatment of subjects is refreshing.
Thanks Mel. As I said in the liner notes, I’m no theologian, but I’m very much intrigued with the supposed clash between religion and non-sexual nudity. Had a long conversation with a friend about this the other day and I’m eager to share some of those insights in my upcoming entries. I hope you, also, well participate in that discussion when it goes live.
What a wonderful concept and a fantastic outline thus far! Looking forward to reading along as this develops. Best wishes on this leg of the journey. 😎
Thanks guys! We’ll see how it goes! Good intentions and all that you know! 😂
I think what you are attempting to do is very admirable. I am very new to the naturalist scene, having gone to my first nude beach recently. My initial reaction was, why did it take me so long to do what i dreamt about? What was it that held me back from enjoying nudity with others? The experience was so positive and I look forward to finding more places to enjoy it. It seems to be my family, culture, religious, political and social teachings that have prevented me from enjoying the freedom of being a naturist. So much of what I do, I say and think have been programmed into my head it was difficulty to let it all go to allow myself to be me.
Continue you great job of informing everyone of how wonderful being a naturist can be
Thanks George. Admirable? Not sure. But it’s a fun project and helps me relive so many experiences that have been so important to me/us. Please let me know if I can help in your naturist journey in any way. Happy to be of service. 🙂
Suggestions for a chapter: your reflections on naturism in the face of climate change/global warming.
What will warming do to the places we enjoy (so many are on low-lying land at the seashore)?
How will we respond (not just be taking off more clothes, more often). Flying to distant places to lie on a beach seems very self-indulgent. How can we be environmentally conscious naturists at home in the face of so much negativity (in N. America)?
Not an exhaustive list, but your reflections based on experience would be welcome.
As you outlined the book above, it seems more like a series of essays than a cohesive sequential book. I look forward to reading more – I even re-joined Medium (the general level of illiteracy bothered me!)
Hi Mark. Thanks for your thoughts. And I’ve wondered about addressing climate change in this project though I hardly know where to begin. We were on Ile du Levant in France a couple weeks ago and they’re facing a VERY SERIOUS water issue, which could literally end up shutting down an entire village. (I think pretty much all of their water comes from accumulated rain water, which there has been little or none of lately. I need to give this some thought.
And indeed, the book is working itself out as a series of essays. Don’t know if you know David Sedaris. I love his non-sequitur writing on various topics, but over time, threads tend to recur through his various stories. I’m thinking this project is headed in that direction.
Thanks for your support, including that on Medium. 🙂