Naked People Watching at the German Spa: “Finding your place in the naturist Eco-System.”

I’m writing this post from 38,000 feet on a flight home from Berlin. My wife and I spent the weekend in this Renaissance city with the intent of doing a bit of sight-seeing, enjoying a couple nice meals, but most specifically, checking out a few German spas (“Saunas” or “Thermes”) that are particularly renowned for their traditions in nude bathing – on in the case of the saunas – nude sweating!

I’ve already written this post from a somewhat different perspective in a piece called The Demographics of Nakedness, where I sought out to dispel the myth that nudity is the great equalizer. “We are all the same when we’re naked,” have said so many people in advocacy for nude recreation. “You can’t tell a doctor, from a business tycoon, from a pipe-fitter when everyone is nude, as clothing provides the social cues that allow us to form our preconceived notions about other humans.”

I love the genuine sentiment and conviction of such statements, but the longer we’ve participated in social nudity, the less I have been able to lend any personal credibility to such a mantra. And never has that been so evident as during this brief qualitative study we just completed while visiting the most nudity-friendly spas in Berlin. What did the study prove? Well… naked humans are simply human, but naked! Profound…  I know! 😐

STUDY – PHASE ONE: Europa-Therme in Central Berlin.

SETTING: Just a couple blocks from the Berlin Aquarium and Zoo, each of which border the expansive Tiergarten, this is most definitely a center-city location that would probably be best described as “my neighborhood sauna.” The striking element of this particular venue is how it is situated amidst the commercial and residential high-rises of downtown Berlin, with a rooftop view of several historical landmarks. Of course, that means a reciprocal exposure of the sundecks to the inhabitants of those high-rises, which must be a source of amusement in the middle of summer when I suspect the rooftop nude sunbathers are plentiful and in clear view of the apartment dwellers across the street.

We arrived late on a Thursday morning and stayed into the early evening hours. Even on this near-freezing day, the “seasoned locals” showed little reticence about meandering out onto the veranda in the all-together. It immediately made me think of the insultingly redundant comments on sites like Trip Advisor where first time nude beach goers comment on “the perils of encountering the people you never want to see naked.”

But if I’m going to be completely truthful, there is a discomfort in visiting a naked place where the clientele is mainly in the “over-80-years-old” bracket, not unlike that of visiting my 93-year-old mother in a “sunset-living community” where everyone starts lining up with their walkers and wheelchairs at 4:00 pm for the first seating at dinner. This is always a reflective dance with one’s own mortality that has little to do with nakedness, but everything to do with how each of us grapple with the aging process. In that spirit, part of me wants to jump up and say “GOOD FOR YOU NAKED OLD PEOPLE!! I celebrate your confidence for putting so many decades of wrinkles and scars on display.” But in that very same breath, you find yourself catching a glimpse of yourself reflecting in the glass walls in an attempt to quickly assess where you are in that process. Sobering, at least.

As the day progressed at Europa-Therme, the crowd grew a bit more diverse, with a couple dads and their kids (Yup – naked children at the spa! That’s a thing in Berlin.), and some middle-agers that looked more or less like us. You could tell this was a place that was once on the cutting edge, but now on the backside of reality. Who knows, maybe the local hipsters show up on Saturday night to soak in the rooftop pool and gaze at the Berlin skyline, (Which sounds like fun!) but I sort of doubt it, because now they have other options, like…

STUDY – PHASE TWO: Vabali Spa in Berlin

SETTING: Located between a city park and a soccer field, you could easily walk past the front door of Vabali Spa Berlin amidst the local service industries and apartment blocks in the sprawling development at the foot of the track where the Berlin Wall once stood. But once inside the door, you are guided down the path of Asian influenced self-realization into a labyrinth of saunas, hot tubs, tepid swimming pools, and rest areas with luxurious waterbeds that invite napping even when you thought you were wide awake. Children are allowed, but we only saw one mom with her young daughter in tow. This is a mecca for young adults.

Interestingly enough, friends visited the Vabali Spa in Düsseldorf a few months ago, where their defining moment was a reprimand for being “too naked” – a result of walking from one attraction to the next without bothering to wrap themselves in a towel or a robe. That most certainly resonated with us as we observed this to be a place that is really well managed, or perhaps more appropriately – micro-managed!

As best I can tell, they opened in sometime in 2014 (with the Düsseldorf establishment opening in 2017, and a third location scheduled for Hamburg in 2021). As part of a consortium with Claudius Therme and Neptunbad in Cologne, they have similarly strict policies that forbid you to leave a towel or a robe on a lounger, at which point, said item will be confiscated and sold on Ebay before you can utter the word Aufguss! Along with that comes a sense that you are being watched all the time-in the pools, in the quiet rooms, walking around naked – whatever. The rules are in place for a reason, and they must be adhered to.

I get it. There’s a strong tradition of sex clubs in Berlin that have hijacked the “FKK” nomenclature that once belonged exclusively to hard-core naturists, but now denotes a nightlife where, truly, anything goes. Vabali is clearly seeking to set an industry standard, which could quickly be tarnished by people getting frisky in the hot tub.

But alas, I’ve drifted off topic. And that is, who goes to Vabali? Well, pretty much anyone that might identify themselves as a young professional hipster, along with a few strays like ourselves. We were in a smallish minority of those without tattoos ranging from subtle line-art to body sleeves. Lots of young couples apparently took Friday off, while several “girls’ day out” groups seemed completely at ease with the co-ed naked part, but uniformly uncomfortable with the “Crap! It’s cold out here” part. (Many of the most alluring parts of the property are outdoors, decidedly uncomfortable when making your way from the outdoor pool to the deep-heated resting areas.)

But again, to the point… The crowd at Verbali looked very much like what I would expect to encounter in the mainline nightclubs of Berlin. Successful, educated young people out to have a relaxing and sensual day at the spa. Naked was not the attraction for coming here – Chillaxing is what’s on tap, and what’s the big deal about naked? “We all get naked… every day… right? Why not spend the days that way with my friends?

STUDY – PHASE THREE: Kristalltherme Ludwigsfelda

SETTING: Kristalltherme is a chain of sauna and pool complexes scattered throughout Germany, though the venue at Ludwigsfelda, a 25-minute train ride outside of Berlin, is known to be “the most naked of the entire chain.” On Wednesdays and Sundays, bathing suits are allowed, but during the rest of the week, the expectation is total nudity in the saunas and in the pools. Covering with a robe or towel is the supposed expectation when walking about, but many – male and female – don’t bother to cover up at all unless making their way to the food concession, and even then, nobody seems to care. (A marked difference from Vabali where the immediate action upon exiting the pool was to wrap in a towel.) And on a Saturday? This is most definitely a family water park. Those under 18 are allowed to wear swimsuits, and I would say roughly half of those in that age bracket did so – but the rest were naked.

This was my third visit to this naked water wonderland, the most relaxing in some ways, and somewhat disorienting in others. If Europa-Therme has assumed the role of a senior day center, and Vabali has found its niche as an enclave for open-minded hipsters, then Kristalltherme falls in that middle ground of “a place for the rest of us.” To that end, it was interesting – given the lack of textile cues other than bathrobes and towels – to imagine the lives of these patrons fully clothed on a workday, and in that light, I would surmise this to be the most socio-economic diverse crowd I’ve encountered at any place where social nudity is practiced. Keep in mind that our ability to converse with the locals was essentially non-existent, leaving one to draw such conclusions on the basis of people-watching alone, the same way one does in an airport, a restaurant, or a grocery store. Sure enough, clothed or not, people send off innumerable non-verbal cues that define who they are and where they fit in.

We arrived early, having read that finding two loungers together after the opening bell on a weekend could be a challenge, and for a good while, we felt a good twenty-five years younger than the prevailing median age. But as the day progressed, families arrived in droves until our departure at dusk when the young couples surrounded the bar, creating an ever-evolving ambiance in the warm pool.

It occurred to me while I was sitting in one particularly unique sauna at the Kristalltherme – called Brutal Aufguss! that had this been my first experience at such a sauna, it might have also been my last. Whereas the typical demeanor for the sauna infusion ceremonies is one of meditation and mind-expansion, this particular theatrical presentation – all in German, of course – involved an aggressive dialogue between to two sauna-masters which apparently played a bit over the top even with the locals. (It was called the “Brutal Sauna” experience, after all.) But in that moment, it was something of an epiphany to me. Just like anyone in the hospitality industry, the most important element in a business plan is to know who your target audience is, and why wouldn’t that be true for businesses that cater to naked people as well, since as I stated earlier, naked people are just as different from one another as clothed people, except without the clothes!


In Germany, I believe there are nearly 300 saunas, some similar to one another, but none exactly the same as the next. In France, there are nearly as many naturist centers, some of which cater to people looking for “lots of friends with lots of benefits;” others which seek to create a family friendly environment something akin to Disney World. But at the end of the day, except for the very most adventurous, people want to hang out with people they feel inherently comfortable with, which is why there are so many different restaurant and hotel chains, boutique malls, and discount super-shopping centers. It’s difficult enough to find one’s niche when fully clothed, let alone putting yourself out there wearing nothing but your own skin. Perhaps the awkward truth is that even if you have no intention of actually socializing with other people at a particular place, most of us are hard-wired in our efforts not to stand out from the crowd.

I have written before that I think millennials may have a golden opportunity to sway attitudes regarding social nudity in America in a very positive way, but in the end, and in the same breath, one’s first experience with public nakedness will quite likely be their last if it doesn’t turn out to be at least a marginally positive experience. Especially in America, given so few opportunities to even “give it a try,” it seems a bit of a long shot for getting it right on the first try. That can only lead to the riveting cocktail party story that goes, “I got naked this one time, and you wouldn’t believe how it turned out. OMG… SO awkward!”

Thanks to the ever-growing database of reviews such as those on Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor, and a few tireless bloggers who are adding more substantive information about experiencing social nudity, there’s more information out there than ever to help you find the right place. That said, I suspect if you go to a subpar restaurant and don’t like the food, you may never go back to that place, but I doubt you’ll give up eating. But if you’re contemplating your first experience of getting naked with others, you may want to do a bit of research. I suppose it’s like any number of experiences that stretch your horizons – Once you find your way there and have a mountain top experience, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to try it in the first place. The tricky part? You have to get it right the first time!

The Case of the Disappearing Nudist Children

[It takes me a while to actually get to the point on this one, but eventually, this post is going to be about the absence of children at most naturist places in the US – or at least my perception that this is the case – and what that may or may not mean for the future of naturism in America.]

I’ve been ruminating on this post for quite a long time. In fact, since my oldest daughter just turned 31 a few days ago, maybe for about thirty years. The subject matter? The ever-controversial topic of children and social nudity, and simply what to make of it all.

The blogosphere is a strange place as people don’t typically read a blog in any sequential sort of way. Maybe one finds a link on Facebook or Twitter and clicks through. Or perhaps you’re even a follower of a particular blog, and if the timing is right, you’ll read posts as they are released in succession. But personally, I find the digital age to encourage rather impulsive behavior. “Oh… look at that! I think I’ll read that, or maybe part of that post, or maybe I’ll bookmark it for… I don’t know when.” All that said, if you’re a regular reader, I apologize for the redundancy here.

I’ve already written a lengthy piece about our own personal naturist journey, and another post that has gotten a good bit of airtime about taking kids to “a naked place.” But I’m not sure those actually capture the essence of my desire for having a presence on the web in the first place.

My first efforts related to internet advocacy for naturism date back to 2004 when I bought some space on a remote server to launch a full-blown website called P and C Naturist Travel. I had little to no experience with web design and the result was pretty rough around the edges, but the mission was clear. We had taken our children to Domaine Naturiste La Jenny for the first time in 1999 after several attempts at finding a suitable place for family naturism in the United States, and I was hell bent on starting a campaign that would contribute to the efforts to normalize family naturism in America! By then, we had made several trips (with kids) to Europe and had discovered a plethora of places where children were not only welcome, but plentiful. When our kids went on nakation in Europe, they essentially thought it to be a holiday resort on par with any large family campground or resort. Similar demographic. Amenities you would expect in a large summer seaside village… but no clothes required at any time. Natural in every sense of the word. That first webpage was simply a series of trip reports about our naturist travel.

A subsequent effort led to the creation of a “community” called the Naturist Family Network. It occurred to me that the United States of America is a big place, and there must be others like my wife and myself who were eager to cultivate the ideals of French naturism in this most diverse nation on the planet. Surely… there would be others who were in a similar conundrum as ours, fully enthralled with social nudity, and wanting to create a safe and enjoyable space for their children when seeking a summer vacation destination. I stayed with that project for a year or two, met a few interesting people, (one who would eventually take over the project) but also encountered a lot of trolls or lonely single guys (as are prevalent on Facebook and Twitter today) feigning an interest in family oriented naturism for who knows why. That message board was handed off to several entities, and as I do a quick Google search at this writing, it seems the last remnants of that project have finally disappeared. It was a valiant effort.

I suspect I’ll receive a number of messages and comments in response to this post, as I did during the years that I maintained those two websites, that I have missed the boat, and that family naturism is alive and thriving in the United States. Which brings me back around to the title of this post as I have found myself wondering time and again about the Case of the Disappearing Nudist Children. I keep hearing about them. I’m told there are places where they are plentiful, but when visiting those places, especially on a weekday even in the summer, they are scarcely to be found!

We have visited perhaps two to three dozen naturist (nudist) places in the US over the past thirty years, and indeed, a few times have found children – mostly preadolescent – to be present. But then we have stories of a visit to a place in Pennsylvania where the senior citizens (the predominant age group at this place) were reminiscing about the party the night before, still in something of a drunken haze the morning after. No kids around.

Or a couple places in Florida, both advertised as family naturist destinations, the first of which was highly charged with sexual energy, while another led to an unfortunate incident where our children – the only children on the premises that day – were chewed out by a not-so-friendly owner when their ball bounced out of the pool. And then there’s Desert Shadows (now Desert Sun) Resort in Palm Springs that was going to be the ultimate family naturist destination, but ultimately, a change in management resulted in the banning of all children from the premises. Had you purchased a retirement property there in the early days, you would later find out that your grandkids would never be allowed to visit you!

There will be those who are quick to tell me that my aim is poor and my timing is bad. And, in fact, I’ve written about quite a few naturist places the world over – most recently in South Africa – where children are, indeed, part of the mix, but maybe only on the big Saturday BBQ and pudding toss festival day! (I’ve always thought the “pudding toss thing’ to be a funky idea at naturist places… just sayin’) This leads to yet another interesting phenomenon when it comes to naturist places outside of Europe, and that is, most of them lack Europeans!

Europeans know how to do vacation, and are allotted the time to do a week in a mainline tourist destination, but with one, two, or three weeks left over for a relaxing stay in a sprawling naturist resort (or wherever) with all the amenities one would expect at a Disney resort. Such a place can’t exist if the critical mass isn’t there to fill the place to capacity. Especially when social nudity is the main attraction, and even in the warmest corners of Europe, (let alone North America) that’s a season of five or six months at best. So even if you find a place with a great family vibe going over the weekend, which is tricky to do in the first place, what happens on Monday morning when everybody has gone home and back to work?

This got me to thinking about my friend Addie who has contributed several posts to my blog over the past year, including one about dating and finding a naturist soul-mate. Turns out she is quite well traveled as well, having visited several naturist places in Europe, and even Paya Bay on Roatan. Would she have the fervor for the naturist cause had those not been her first defining experiences?

And what if she is successful in finding that naturist-friendly soulmate and they start a family? Won’t they find themselves in the same conundrum we did thirty years ago? Most young families are stretched for resources to begin with. Will they have the time and resources to take the kids to France or Croatia for the annual nakation? Or alternatively, even if they are fortunate enough to live within an hour or two of one of the few resorts in America that have a vibrant family naturist weekend scene, will two or three weekends a year sustain a lasting culture of family naturism? We have been several times to Gunnison Beach in New Jersey where there are typically a few kids amidst the crowd, but you can’t really compare that to the demographics of the large naturist beaches on the southwest coast of France where most everyone there is there with children.


My hunch is that Addie will figure it out, and in all likelihood, will have the wherewithal to do so, but if there truly is a generational divide related to the future of naturism in America, I think this is it! There most definitely appears to be a counter-culture resurgence amongst the millennials that is funding a social nudity renaissance of sorts in the pre-family demographic, and AANR is quick to fire off statistics that nudism is on the rise, due in large part to endeavors like the Big Nude Boat that is capturing the discretionary income of the empty-nesters. But what about that twenty-year stretch in the middle, when the kids are young, the parents are strapped, and the family traditions are being carved into stone? Most of the naturist families we’ve met in Europe are multi-generational… “Yup, I’ve been coming here since I was a child when my grandparents bought that little house over there.”

Who knows… maybe the millennials will pull a rabbit out of the hat on this one. In the greater context of time, the huge naturist centers of Europe are not really that old. France’s naked city, Cap d’Agde (a questionable exemplar for family naturism, to be sure) has only really existed since the 1970s, and the sprawling resorts in Croatia opened not that long before that. But could the American culture of paranoia or highly sexualized perceptions of nudity be ready for the open-minded twenty-somethings who are ready and willing to bare all? And is there a capital venture entrepreneur who is prepared to put down the money to build it so they will come? (Seems that was the plan for both Caliente in Florida and Desert Shadows in Palm Springs, but maybe it just wasn’t time yet.)

We’re counting on you, millennials! Drop your clothes, stand, and be counted. Now is your chance to create a body-positive environment for your own children, and all those in the generations to come!

Photos for this post were found on internet sources such as Twitter and Google. If you find an image that belongs to you and should be removed, please let me know and I will respond accordingly.

Naked Confessions: Gender Bias? When you tell people you’re a naturist?

Special thanks to Nick and Lins, the Naked Wanderers, who agreed to let me use their photos for this post. We have a lot of naturist photos, but not so many from our 30s – and they’re actually in their 30s, which makes this all seem a bit more relevant. If you don’t know their site, and if you’re not following them on Instagram, you need to do that!

If you’re a follower of our blog, you’ve come to know our friend Addie – the one who’s recently come to realize that she’s a hard-wired naturist, and like those who have gone before, has developed something of an obsession with the cause. She had become “part of our family” for quite a long time before she would practice naturism with us, but come to find out more recently, she had been a naked yoga enthusiast at home, even when her boyfriend (at the time) thought it a peculiar habit. In short, her story goes a long way to lend support the argument: naturists are born, not made.

Nick and Lins: Naked Wanderings

What’s particularly intriguing now is that Addie has made something of a party game out of revealing her preference for clothes-free recreation, travel, and I suspect if she had her way about it, everyday life. And as an enthusiastic and compelling person by nature, she has been quite successful in demystifying social nudity for her closest friends, and is well on the way to converting them into the mindset of, “Yeah, I’d do that.” Throw in a story like her recent blog post about her visit to Paya Bay, and suddenly they’re all planning a naked “galentines day” and maybe even a group nakation to some exotic destination.

Nick and Lins: Naked Wanderings

As she boasted recently that she thought she had made another convert, it suddenly occurred to me that this probably goes a bit differently for a young woman than it would for a guy of the same age. Truthfully, I can’t even say my data is skewed, as I simply don’t have any. By the time I was Addie’s age, I had been married for a few years, and while we were, just then, exploring our naturist inclinations as a young married couple, we found ourselves reticent to share our proclivity for clothes-free recreation with our friends. Granted, it was a different era thirty years ago – nestled between the Summer of Love and the advent of so many stories of sexual abuse by the Church and in the schools. What’s more, most of our friends at that time were either affiliated with our involvement in the church or through our work in the public schools. Were we simply just being prudent, or were we suffering from unnecessary cowardice? Probably a combination of both, but especially once there were kids in the equation, we found it more complicated than not to broach the topic of nude recreation – even as a party game.

Nick and Lins: Naked Wanderings

But let’s face it – finding friends as a young naturist couple may well be more complicated than identifying like-minded humans as a single. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to be in a relationship where both partners enjoy social nudity, the chances of finding others where both members share such naked desires are slim to none, unless you gather the nerve to visit the local nudist resort – which has been documented time and again as related to the infrequency of young naked people. Wow. This just gets more and more complicated.


But back on topic, Addie doesn’t suffer from the inherent constraints of religious induced body-shame, (She’s not a religious person.) and has created a self-identity in other parts of her life that would read something like, “Do what you want, but I really don’t care to conform to your societal norms just to avoid the risk of offending some unknown stranger. You go to the mall – I’m going to sit on the back porch and read a good book – naked.”

Nick and Lins: Naked Wanderings

But what if a 30-year-old guy introduces this ideology during the half-time banter of the Superbowl?

“So dudes, I was thinking that we should start planning that weekend bash for spring break and I know this great place in Mexico where we could be naked all weekend!” Galentines Day or a girl’s weekend at a nude yoga retreat sounded like cutting edge, but somehow, I imagine that same proposal from a male member of the species would elicit a very different response.

“Dude! Did you just suggest we all go get naked together? Will there be hot girls there? Or hey… is there something you need to tell us about your… you know… sexual persuasion and shit like that?”

And that’s just if you’re making a pitch for a single gender endeavor. Walk into a coed gathering and propose that next week the party will be at your parents’ house with a private yard and a pool, but hey – “NO SWIMSUITS ALLOWED!”  – and see how that goes over!

Nick and Lins: Naked Wanderings

Again, I can only hypothesize on this, as Addie has already approached more of her friends in the past year than I have over the course of my thirty-some years as a naturist, but my educated guess is that when a guy initiates the conversation about coed social nudity, people are much more likely to respond with either some hint of homophobia, or worse yet, they will immediately assign some flavor of predatory association with the underlying intent. “Sure – that’s a quick and easy way to surround yourself with naked women! Don’t be a creeper!”

I suspect a well-grounded anthropologist could draw up a quick and easy case as to how this goes back to the prehistoric interactions between the male and female of the human species. You can find several entries in my blog where I grapple with the elements of sexuality in the naturist context [See: Making Waves in the Naturist Pool for starters] as there’s no question that there is a biological blueprint at play that is intended to perpetuate the species. And to that end, my naturist Instagram account suggests that there are plenty of women who are willing to bare all to expedite the procreation process – or at least the physical pleasure part of that.

But what if a male is wired like Addie? “I do have standards, and I would be happy to come to your naked party, but no… the evening is not going to end in the bedroom. I just think it’s more fun to party naked!” A girl saying that sounds credible. A guy saying that sounds like a wolf in no clothing.

Seems there was a trend ten or fifteen years ago that was particularly prevalent at Ivy League colleges called, quite simply, naked parties. My read on it was that there were intelligent young people who were seeking to be more real with one another, and in an effort to accomplish that, everyone would check their clothing at the door, somehow in agreement of an unspoken code of ethics that this will be just like any other party, except, hey – it feels genuine and refreshing to reveal our naked selves in a social context.

Has that gone away? Was it a failed experiment where those events morphed into unbridled orgies? Or are we simply a society on an increasingly conservative trajectory that has caved to the fact of an ideology that says, “I’m a weak human and I’m about to get drunk, and naked or not, I’m sorry I can’t be responsible for my actions by the end of the night! If we’re all naked and drunk, I’m sorry I ended up on top of you.” Hmm… that may not subscribe to the tenants of anyone’s naturist charter.

I should be clear, I’m not trying to make this into a #metoo for males. In fact, perhaps pointing out that most men, especially straight men, are not comfortable with their bodies, or their self-image, or how they are perceived by others, or to be specific, their ability to exert self-control amidst visual stimulation. (That’s clearly a problem even in situations where NOBODY is naked!)

Nick and Lins: Naked Wanderings

Despite the fact that I’m well beyond Addie’s age bracket, I have to say, I’m quite envious of her ability to advocate for the naturist cause. I’d love to join the crusade, but as a guy, I’m just not sure it would play out quite the same way.

How is it that a thin layer of fabric, or rather – the lack thereof, can make things so incredibly complicated?

Add THIS to Your Bucket List: Naked in a Rainstorm

Another post from my millennial friend Addie who was recently on a family cruise that had a stopover on Roatan. “Roatan?!” says I! “You need to check out Paya Bay at the south end of the island. I’m pretty sure they have a program where they’ll come get you at the boat and take you to their yoga-retreat-turned-naturist-resort for a day visit of naked nirvana.” While she couldn’t convince familial members to come along, she did take the plunge solo, as Michelle from the resort met her at the port to give her a quick guided tour of the island that culminated in a few hours of naked bliss. Her words about her day there are more eloquent than mine ever could be. [Photos are from our most recent trip to Paya Bay in 2017. We’re not millennials, but the pics give you a sense of the place.]

As I stood butt naked in Honduras in the middle of a rainstorm, I tried to remember a time that I felt so very elated and alive. Water droplets rushed down my arms while hummingbirds, iguanas, and lizards all scurried to find shelter on the quaint seaside cliff. Climbing through a tangle of vines, the greens seemed effervescent. The rain’s warmth, egged on by Mother Nature’s humidity, surprised me, as I expected a chill that never came. In the midst of the sensory overload, I worked to figure out WHY I felt so very euphoric. I eventually navigated to one simple truth: novelty. I have never, in 26 years, stood naked in the rain.

Just saying…you should probably try it.

Now, mind you, the conditions need to be right; I’m not proposing that you saunter outside in a January downpour in the middle of Central Pennsylvania. However, naked in the rain should probably get to the top of your bucket list pronto. Why is this not featured on every “30 things to do before 30” bucket list you might ask? I’m not really sure, BUT I can tell you why it was so incredibly magical for me. Maybe someone will add it to some bucket list somewhere. Hey Buzzfeed, listen up!

As I stood in the middle of the jungle, grinning and giddy, I recalled the day before, when I cowered under my dinky black umbrella next to a beach bar in my romper, willing the rain to stop. It’s not that I’m grossed out by rain, or that I haven’t embraced the rain before; I just didn’t feel like sitting around in my sopping wet clothes for the remainder of the day. I’ve gone for runs in the rain, and I can recall a couple of romantic strolls with my boyfriend when we decided to embrace Mother Nature’s downpour. Those moments felt special too, mainly because of the feeling that by walking outside in the middle of a thunderstorm, we actually were giving a giant “fuck you” to all societal norms. There was something special about feeling so very far away from the other humans in the world who all cowered in their houses, hiding from the droplets that tumbed from the sky. But you can’t just walk outside in a thunderstorm in your clothes every time you want to defy social norms. To get your clothes wet, the circumstances must be perfect. There are many questions to consider: What bra are you wearing? Are you trying to go somewhere with air conditioning afterwards? Do you have a change of clothes ready and waiting?

Naked in the rain brought the rush of adrenaline without the considerations that clothed rain-goers must consider. This was completely different. In this moment, I embraced the rain without the impending doom of having to peel off of a sopping wet t-shirt and leggings at the end. THIS was the excitement, the elation, the unbridled joy that you feel as an adult when you experience something new and something sensory. This was simple. This was natural. This was FUN! After the rain subsided, I continued my seaside hike through the Honduran jungle, ending on the beach. By the time I arrived, the skies had parted, it was clear and sunny, and the sea breeze had naturally done its job in drying me off. My towel remained perfectly dry as I sunk on top in a grateful snooze under a Palapa.

I almost hate to reveal the wonder that is this Honduran paradise, but you too should probably check out Paya Bay on the island of Roatan, which Dan has already mentioned in quite a number of posts, one of which you can view here. The food was phenomenal, the staff incredibly accommodating, helpful, and kind, and the amenities beautiful. The sea not only sparkles in the sunlight, but can only be described as a puzzle of aqua, turquoise, and sea foam green, all piecing together until it’s swallowed up by the horizon. The vegetation is natural, with palm trees and vines and plants that you probably can’t name shooting up from every direction. It’s a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful place in which you can say adieu to your tan lines. . . in short, it’s a little slice of heaven. Just remember-when you go, and warm rain cascades down from the sky, toss off your clothes and take in the sensory overload that will constitute your first rainstorm in the nude; you won’t regret it!


The Perils of Naturist Photography

SUBTITLE: Think this skin makes my butt look big?

I know… First World Problems and all that! But while one might think that naturist photography has become a lot easier in the digital age, in many ways, it’s quite to opposite.

A film capture – At La Jenny in 1999

I feel like I can speak with some sense of experience on this topic, if not outright exasperation. The first time I remember bringing a camera to a naturist place was in 1994. We were visiting a modest nudist place in the San Francisco Bay Area and brought along our 35mm camera hoping we might grab a few pics for the archives. (We’d be moving to the east coast soon, and who knew if we’d ever find a place to get naked there!)

It would be difficult for somebody under the age of 30 to remember what it was like to carefully calculate your film consumption, as the most you could hope for was a 36-exposure roll of film. If you were going to set up a shot, you’d better get it right. In fact, they had you coming and going: Not only would you lose the frame on the film roll, but then you’d have to pay to have that random and blurry photo of your foot developed! Seems to me that if we got ten good shots out of a 36 exposure roll of film, we were feeling pretty good. Some of our earliest naturist photos are either blurry beyond recognition, of inadvertently cropped out appendages such as arms and heads. Not suitable for any photo album, I dare say.

Dordogne Valley, 1999

And if the shot had nudity in it… What then? I remember taking a few early rolls to the drug store hoping that would “be OK.” The general word on the street back then was as long as there was no sexual content, you were probably going to be fine. Then there was a big scandal where a mom took a roll of “bathtub pictures” in to be developed, only to find herself facing criminal charges, despite the fact that the pictures were of an innocent nature. As I recall, that led to a wide sweeping ban, led by the likes of Walmart, to immediately sequester any photos featuring nudity – especially child nudity – while the authorities were to be summoned.

Club Origan, 2004

Soon there were digital cameras. While I think we purchased our first one around 1999, I remember taking a spiffy new Canon 35mm model with us on one of our first explorations of naked France. It looked, felt and acted much like a traditional 35mm camera. Suddenly, it was “take all the pics you want!” You’re only limited by the size of your flash card and disc space on your computer. And you didn’t have to worry about that moment at the One-Hour photo place when the middle-aged woman watching your naked ass slide out of the developing machine at the CVS store freaked out. Nor did we have to find one of those discreet photo developers listed in the back of a naturist magazine, pay twice as much, and wait for three weeks for a blurry picture of a naked foot. Nakation photography was here to stay!

La Jenny Beach, 2007

Who could have predicted the explosion of the internet back then, let alone the advent of the smartphone? As I write this from a smallish resort in Thailand, it took me five tries to position my phone with the timer to create a discreet photo by the pool, early in the morning, before everyone is up and about – ever so diligent about not catching one of the “no photography” signs in the background.

I get it! Once an image is captured in 2019, who knows where it will end up? And I’ve already ranted in other posts about oh so many websites that claim to feature genuine and fully authorized naturist photos, but how does one even begin to go about verifying that? So most small resorts invoke the only logical policy – NO NAKED PHOTOGRAPHY, OF ANYONE, EVER!

St Martin, 2008

That said, generally speaking, I have found most places in Europe and Asia a bit more easy going on this policy than those in the US. (Thinking of what almost came down to a body cavity search at a nude music festival in West Virginia a few years back!) Though yesterday, during my visit to Chan Resort in Pattaya, there were at least two guests reading books on their smart phones, (Would have loved to have gotten a pic of the guy doing that right below the no photography sign!) as was I, as this is my primary reading device when traveling. My wife was doing the same thing in a German spa a few years ago and was told to put her cell phone away – and fair enough! Who’s to say she’s not taking advantage of the occasional photo op every now and again, which by the way, she was not.

Croatia 2012

Of course, if you’re at a large naturist center like some of those in France and Croatia, where people simply have more private space away from the pool complex, naturist photography is quite a lot easier. Or, if you can find a place where naturist walking is possible – the shores of Mallorca, isolated paths on a Greek island, resorts with significant acreage, or just about any beach in France – a few more opportunities open up even yet.

Crete, 2012

Interestingly, I got in a bit of a tussle recently with a long-timer on reddit about the proliferation of naturist images on the internet, which of those might be considered to be in the public domain (He would say none!), and which of those were simply a gateway drug to pornography. All valid points, I think, but ironically enough, I think this all cycles back to one of the greatest difficulties of being a naturist in the 21st century. The issue shouldn’t be the proliferation of photos depicting simple non-sexual nudity; the issue should be that there’s really nothing wrong with simple non-sexual nudity. In an era where paranoia is dictating just about everything, from rules in the public schools to foreign policy on immigration, most of us naturists are scared to death that the wrong photo will somehow turn up in the wrong place. In thirty years of naturist activity, this has yet to happen to me, and on this end of the spectrum, it is not only seeming less likely, but I’d like to think I’m less likely to care.

Club Origan, 2013

In the meantime, we not only enjoy documenting our naturist travels, but have also taken a great deal of pleasure from a slideshow that runs fairly constantly on my desktop computer. It’s simply a travelogue. We travel naked about half the time, so about half the photos feature nudity. We enjoy reliving each moment of each particular place, as each of those places have a story. But it’s also interesting – if not a bit disquieting at times – to watch out bodies age within the typically human struggle of accepting that is simply what humans do! While body acceptance at 35 was easier than at 55, I’m hoping I’ll have the constitution to appreciate the inherent beauty of my 75-year-old naked self when that time comes.

Thailand, 2016

Of course, a lot can happen in 20 years. Who knows how we’ll deal with capturing images by then?https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1mSs8bnH6Q39QR6mJCTOWcjLUbb2Xjkw0CoaBmf_Uzlk/edit#gid=1321461204https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1mSs8bnH6Q39QR6mJCTOWcjLUbb2Xjkw0CoaBmf_Uzlk/edit#gid=1321461204 I suppose the infrastructure is already in place, especially at naturist places where security is key, that I could find naked images of myself of just about anyplace I’ve been naked over the past ten years. And to think, people fret about full-body scans at the airport? Don’t they have something better to worry about?

Thailand… today!




Dating for Naturists: Can I fit “Naturism” into my Tinder Profile Description?

Meet Addie Foster!

Actually, if you’re an avid follower of the Meandering Naturist, you’ve already met Addie, first in a rather poignant post about her first experience with social nudity, then somewhat vicariously as the subject I wrote for a piece about navigating the German spa culture.

We’ve known Addie for quite a long time, and by now, she’s become something of a surrogate daughter to us, though I first came to know her through professional endeavors where she once inquired about my obsession with European travel, and I ended up telling her about our quest to find a place where our kids – also about her age – would find a sense of normalcy in a naturist place. She and my daughter have since become fast friends as well.

This is her latest installment. I’m hoping she’ll become a regular on my blog as she has most definitely embraced the naturist ideal, and I think she has quite a lot to say about helping us seasoned type naturists understand what’s in the cards for the future of naturism here and abroad. Thanks for that, Addie!

[Photos are either from our personal archives, or a few additional pics from clothesfree.com]

– Dan Carlson, blogger

Dating for Naturists: Can I fit “Naturism” into my Tinder Profile Description?

“Happy Hour. 🍷 Travel. ✈️ Likes Getting Naked.🌴”

. . .[backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace].

“What’s the coolest place you’ve traveled? Mine is an all-naked island near Corsica!”

. . .[delete, delete, delete].

Writing a Tinder, or Bumble, or Hinge, or Coffee Meets Bagel profile as a 26-year-old heterosexual woman is difficult for numerous reasons. But as a hopeful long-term naturist? Yikes. Any mention of “naked,” and you’re sure to get a series of creepy messages. “You like taking off your clothes? Me too. Wanna try tonight?” And in one sentence you’ve moved from the idea that “I like sitting with my friends on nude beaches” to “Let’s have sex before we even know each other’s last names!

This confusion of sexually available/easy and naturist is something that I’m constantly trying to figure out. I’ve settled on decidedly not including naturism in my dating profiles, but if I’m on the road to find a potential life-mate, the candidate would at the very least have to look interested at the mention of a naturist beach in the south of France or a nude spa in Germany. You would think that’s a given—what dude in the 21st century wouldn’t be interested in going to a swim up bar in a naked spa in Germany with his girlfriend? Unfortunately. . . a lot!

But that also might be a bit of a relief. Because when you match with 5 or 10 or 20 people a day, that’s a lot of potential life mates. And many of them actually might be nice dudes. But if on the second date, they give you a look of confusion/apprehension/fear/disgust at the very mention of naturism, you get to cross them off the list, and narrow it down to 19 or 9 or 4. Whew-thank God-on to the next one!

I don’t mean to make this sound dismal or difficult (though dating is inherently difficult, naturist or not). In fact, there’s nothing more intriguing than watching a person’s eyes light up as they state casually, “Wow. Never tried it, but that seems kind of awesome.” And that makes the whole endeavor worth it-the thought that there ARE other people out there who are capable of understanding, and actually prove to be more interested in you as a human after the mention of naturism (not only as a potential sex-mate, but as a human being with real interests and thoughts!)

Finding a future life mate is not easy; my naturist and non-naturist friends share in that sentiment. But I suspect that in the end, my interest in naturism will become an important point of departure for a new relationship filled with many things that I actually enjoy doing (*hint: it’s not sitting in the Ramada Inn swimming pool in New Jersey).

Does “naturist” belong in the average Tinder profile? Not unless you’re looking for a reason to attract creepy comments. But should it come up in the first or second date? Yeah, probably! Because unless you’re looking to spend the rest of your days packed like a sardine on the Jersey shore, wondering if your bikini is cute or sexy or modest enough, it’s worth mentioning, so that you simply can know if Joe is the kind of guy with whom you should “not pass go.” However, if Joe ends up hiking with you in the nude to a hidden gem of a beach off the coast of Thailand, then it was probably worth having those less than ideal conversations with Tom, Richard, and Kirk! Happy Tindering!

Nudity and Friendship: Does it matter?

It’s the first day of the new year. 2019! My feelings about 2018 are decidedly mixed – not just because of my tendency to worry about how things are going in Washington DC, but to be blunt, it was a tumultuous year with a lot of unanticipated change. Some good. Some challenging. Almost all of it someplace between disorienting and disquieting.

Photo credit: http://clothesfree.com

Last evening, on New Year’s Eve, we had friends over who have grown accustomed to going naked in the hot tub with us. They would never call themselves naturists, and in fact, the “she” of the couple wasn’t too crazy about sitting in the hot tub in the rain and so she abstained. Meanwhile, another friend stopped by – the one who has been the subject of a few of my previous blog posts, including the recent guide to exploring German spas – and she was naked and in the tub in a flash. I think she would tell you social nudity has provided her with a new sense of identity and self-expression – part counter-culture, part self discovery, as she is facing a lot of difficult questions in her life right now. She’s a natural born naturist!

In the meantime, while our non-naturist couple friends are inclined to quickly wrap in a towel the minute they step out of the spa, our younger companion never seems quite sure just how naked to be once making her way inside the house. Is this a wear your towel zone? Cover your mid-riff area? Funny – we seasoned naturists like to tout the simplicity of it all, but in fact, knowing when to be naked and just how naked to be can be little confusing, especially when you’re not at a naked place like a naturist beach or resort.

Interesting also, when I put my wife into this mix. She loves our nakations! She has no aversion to getting naked at home except for one – It’s not practical! “I need to take out the recycling. Or the kitchen is chilly. Or it simply hadn’t occurred to me to get naked right now.” Not a statement, per se, just an extra chore that adds one more step to the mix. “Pull on a shirt to go get something out of my car? Meh… I’ll just keep my clothes on.”

We have some friends from work who, quite by accident, we came to know of their affinity for Montalivet, a popular naturist destination in France. They’ve been going for years while we’ve been visiting a similar resort just an hour down the road. He is French and was raised with naturist vacations, and they have taken their children on nakation nearly every summer. We had them over for a naturist evening on the porch a few months ago on the coattails of summer, but as it turns out, they confessed they had never been naked at a friend’s home before, especially here in the US where they’re sure their neighbors would call the police were they ever to set foot in their backyard wearing anything less than modest swimsuit.

Then we have these friends we used to go to St. Martin with – every year for quite a stretch. One of the couples has a particularly naturist friendly backyard that is something like a private naturist resort on a warm summer day. In the winter, we’ve had a fair number of naked holiday dinners as well. But as is wont to happen, the complexities in each of our lives have made that more difficult in recent years. All said, it takes a good bit of planning to facilitate an evening of social nudity. It’s not just like, “Hey friend! Come on over and we’ll all take our clothes off!” At least in our circles, it almost never happens that way.

Photo credit: http://clothesfree.com/

Other than rambling along in a reminiscent sort of way as one often does at the demarcation of a new year – and I am the meandering naturist for God’s sake – I’m really not sure what point I’m driving for here, except that I found myself strangely intrigued with a blog post I reposted on my other blog a few days ago called I Socialize Naked. The young, female author made a rather compelling case for calling out social nudity for what it really is. “I would like to not be wearing clothes right now, and I would also like to be with my friends. No protest to mount. No fitness agenda. No underlying implication of inner healing or truth. I just like being naked, and it’s more fun to be naked with other people around.”

Her words really resonated with me, particularly in my shared affinity for the simple act of nudity itself, immediately complicated by the fact that unless you have made an intentional effort to go someplace where getting naked together is the primary objective, then in fact, the nuances of when and how to get naked can be quite confusing, if not overwhelming! “Do you mind that I’m not wearing pants right now?” I might say to my fully clothed, or even towel draped friend. Even as you say it, you sort of wonder if you should be phoning the authorities to turn yourself in.

And finally, to further complicate things, I think there is a train of thought that seems to empower the most ardent naturists to believe those who get naked together are destined for more intimate and meaningful relationships. (Speaking of the platonic flavor here.) They would say our nakedness itself is a statement of vulnerability and freedom from the constructs of religiosity, narrow-mindedness, and decidedly in the face ideological norms that have made it clear that hands, faces, elbows, and knees represent normalcy, while the exposure of a breast or a penis represents abhorrent behavior. The most altruistic will make a case for full self realization that is beyond the consciousness of the average work-a-day mortal.

I actually spent a good bit of time musing over these ideas in a previous post called The Demographics of Nakedness, where I essentially put my opinion out there that the only thing naked people truly have in common is… well… nudity. I don’t happen to belong to the camp that posits that nudity is the great equalizer, nor do I believe that naked people are categorically more or less genuine or vulnerable than the clothed. It occurs to me that some people simply think it feels good to be naked – and sometimes it’s fun to hang out with other people. Nice when those two elements coincide in some manner that feels organic – or at least, less than contrived. My wife and I are vowing to make 2019 less frenetic than the last year or two, which is a tall order given the demands of family, workplace, and society. To me, that automatically implies that there will be more more naked time in 2019, as the shedding of my worldly cloaks immediately represents a step-back from my everyday existence in the chaotic and noisy existence of my professional circles. For my wife, that would mean slowing the pace of our collective lifestyle so that it’s actually worth the time to get naked and stay naked when there are a bazillion other things to do around the house – most of which are much more pragmatic with clothing. We’ll see how that goes.

Photo credit: http://clothesfree.co

In the meantime, I’ll be eager to see who responds to this post. If it finds its way into the retweeting blogosphere, or even spawns an engaging discussion on reddit. I suspect there are others, like me, who find a certain (and apparently, somewhat bizarre) pleasure in the simplicity of wearing no clothing, and feel all the more validated when they find there are others who not only enjoy doing the same, but find it strangely validating to conduct normal social interactions – watching a movie, chatting over a bottle of wine, playing cards – with no clothes on. Are we freaks, us naked people? Maybe. But no doubt, whether we’re more genuine and vulnerable or not, it’s most definitely more fun to be freakish with others than by one’s self.

On a side note, since I mentioned reddit, and I will likely repost this chronicle to those forums as well, I will call myself out for the use of images in this post which I have pulled from a collection of naturist sources over the years. Perhaps not surprisingly, I’ve been less than proactive about capturing social gatherings with naked friends in my digital image archive, and while most of my travel blogs feature, almost exclusively, photos of me and my wife, I come up in short supply of graphics for my posts of a more philosophical nature. This is quite upsetting to my reddit colleague, as the use of any image without permission and confirmed attribution is a breach of social contract at best, flat out stealing at least. With that, I will close with the disclaimer that if you find any image in this, or any of my other posts, lacking appropriate attribution or used in an otherwise exploitative manner, I trust you will let me know, and I will remove that image at once.

Ultimate social nudity – The Big Nude Boat

Here again… I keep thinking that embracing nakedness is supposed to represent a step toward simplicity and clarity of mind. Neither of those ideals are easily defined on this first day of 2019. Maybe I’ll just take my clothes off, pour a glass of wine and give that some thought. If you were here, I’d invite you to shed your clothes and join me.