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. 🙂