The “Right to Bare All”… and other news from Ile du Levant

If you’re a keen advocate for naturism, and you haven’t yet made a visit to Ile du Levant, you need to move that up on your bucket list. It’s one of a handful of places that has self-identified as the birthplace of naturism. (Germany and Croatia contend for this distinction as well!) At the very least, it seems to be something of a naked renaissance town at the moment, but more about that later.

Part of the adventure of coming to the naked island in France is catching the ferry from the port of Le Lavandou. Since the boat makes two stops, one at Levant, and the other at neighboring Port Cros, it’s fun to play the “I wonder who will get off the boat on which island” game. This time, the boat was quite full, and nearly every person on board disembarked at the first stop – Ile du Levant!

Mind you, we had been in transit for nearly twenty-four hours having made our way from Newark Liberty Airport, through Brussels, then on to Marseille. After another two hours in the car, and a 40-minute ferry crossing, I was itching to embrace the late day Provençal sunlight, free from the bondage of North American travel-wear!  Thirty meters up the path from the port, a quick bathroom stop, and voila! Naked!!

A few years ago, we brought long-time friends from California along with us to experience this little naturist mecca first hand. They would not call themselves naturists, but have been willing nakation companions over the years. Our friend Tom was particularly intrigued with the history of the island, the prevailing rules regarding nudity, or more acutely, “Why were there so many people walking around the island fully clothed?” Eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit, not a cloud in the sky, and so many a passers-by wearing jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. What’s up with that?

Fair question, I think, particularly on this landmass isolated from the prudish nay-sayers who might suffer the oppression of unwanted nudity. NOBODY comes to Levant without the expectation of seeing naked people. And it seems even more peculiar to me that someone might come here without the expectation of becoming an enthusiastic clothes-free participant. Tom prodded our innkeeper about the politics of it all, unpacking the complicated history of this naturist hamlet island with nearly a hundred years of controversy in defining how naked is naked. (See: Another Round of Crazy on Ile du Levant)

Now, several years later, we’re back for a weekend of naturist serenity and solitude, and I, for one, plan to get my money’s worth! While anecdotal at best, it seems this is not an uncommon perspective amidst visitors from North America, as evidenced by the only other couple at breakfast who were as naked as we were. Perhaps some people come here simply for the pleasure of lying au naturel on the beach or striving for no tan lines by the pool. Or maybe the French people think nudity to be such a non-issue, with so many places “in the neighborhood” to get naked on the day-to-day, that they lack some of the zeal of the prudish American who has waited all year (or years!) for the privilege to bare all.

We have experienced this again and again during our European travels, going to great lengths to find places where nudity is not only allowed, but required– as is the case on the coastal path just beyond the port of Ile du Levant. (Explicit signage near the port tells you where you can’t be naked, where you can be naked, and where you must be naked!) But on this morning trek, we found the demographics to be about 50-50, some fully nude, some donning beach cover-ups, and others dressed as if prepared to take on the Appalachian Trail in early October. Really!?

There is a sub-plot to all of this, pertaining especially to residential naturist places, which Ile du Levant most certainly is. (We’ve experienced this at La Jenny as well.) With increasing frequency, it seems that families have purchased homes in these naturist communities two or three generations back. The home stays in the family, but the naturism gene didn’t carry forward. 

“Hey! We have this lovely home near a beautiful beach in France!”

“Isn’t that one of those places with loads of naked people?”

“Oh yeah… you’ll encounter some of the crazy nudists, but don’t worry about it! You don’t have to get naked with them!”

As with the evolution of any neighborhood, I suppose such unintended outcomes are inevitable, but if it’s a total naturist experience you’re seeking, there’s a compelling case to be made for camping establishments that cater to young family tent-campers – the most transient of communities where the main attraction is the right to bare all. If you didn’t want to get naked, you simply wouldn’t go there.

Which takes us back all the way to our very first experience with Ile du Levant sometime back around 2006, when we came out on the ferry for a day trip for our first exploration of this historic naturist landmark. My wife and I still reminisce about her reticence to get naked that day, despite the hype about a naturist island and her confirmed affinity for naked travel.

“Are you sure we can be naked here? Why aren’t those people naked? Really, I can be topless in the village?”

We laugh about it now, but for the novice naturist, this can be quite a conundrum! As my friend Tom learned from our innkeeper that day, the modus operandus at most naturist places is simply that… “You have the right to bare all,” but there are few places that even attempt to impose any sort of regulations for mandatory nudity. “As you wish” seems to be the presumptive rule of the land.

So last night we frequented one of our favorite bistros on the island where the wait-staff were attired in their typical apparel; sandals and full-length aprons with ample butt cleavage on full display below the apron tie. While they actually advertise that nudity while dining is permitted, if not actively encouraged, I found myself – again – in the midst of that proverbial third grade dream when you realize that you’re the only one in the room with no pants on. (Except, in this case, for the waiters, of course!) It’s a small island, and by now, we’d seen at least half the people in the restaurant earlier in the day, fully nude by the pool or along the sea. But here at dinner, most everyone was fully adorned, some of the women rather provocatively so in sheer fabric that would never make muster for the church covered-dish dinner or a PTA meeting. As I made my way to the restroom, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was the singular freak-show for the evening, dressed in a button-down shirt, but nothing below. Perhaps I was, but alas, we are here in the land of as you wish, and if anyone batted an eye, they were most discrete about it. 

But it was a beautiful evening, on a naturist island, and I simply couldn’t resist the all too infrequent… right to bare all!

As to the renaissance – it seems there are more 20-30 somethings on the island than we’ve seen in recent years, and at least during the day, more naked people than we’ve encountered on previous visits. They say young naturism is on an upswing in France. Maybe the young naked people we reclaim the naturist vision on this remarkable big rock off the Cote d’Azur!

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.

The Naked Truth about Naturist Brazil

So, it’s September. Our summer travels are over and it’s back to the grind; a time that is always a period of reflection for me as I comb through photos of our travels while I start dreaming about the next adventure for the drawing board.

This time, I came across the photos from our trip to Brazil a couple years ago, realizing that I never actually blogged on our experiences there. Well, that is, at least not in the present or past tense. I did write a post about our perils of trying to to get there in the first place called “Getting Naked in Brazil = Complicated!” At the time, we were living in France, and we simply couldn’t find a way to maneuver the complicated task of getting an American tourist visa to Brazil while residing in France.

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Praia do Pinho

What I had NOT expected in response to that post was an admonishing email from a reader who warned me about the covert operations of the naturist movement in Brazil, and offered disquieting news about a particular place in Brazil where he cited a sort of pyramid scheme gone awry that ended in huge monetary losses and even allegations of murder!

Murder!? What the hell??? We already knew you had to be careful about pick-pockets in Rio, but is one really in danger of getting murdered while naked in Brazil?

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Cabins at Colina do Sol

Finally, at the end of 2015 (and into the beginning of 2016) we made it to Brazil, book-ending our trip with requisite visits to Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls, with stops along the way at the naturist beach (resort?) Praia do Pinho, and finally, the infamous Colina do Sol – yes indeed, the very place the dude had warned me not to visit. “And for God’s sake, don’t try to buy a house there unless you wanna get dead!”

Spoiler alert. We stayed a week at the place. We didn’t buy a house. And nobody got murdered!

While we were there, we stayed in the “Hotel” Ocara – something of a foreshadowing of our entire experience at Colina do Sol, which might best be described as an amazing idea that never quite came to fruition. It seems that one naturist entrepreneur named Celso Rossi had acquired a large plot of land in the beautiful green hills above Porto Allegre, then proceeded to lay out the plans for an expansive naturist village with summer homes sheltered in a tropical forest, a man-made lake, a full service restaurant and even a hotel. We spent quite a lot of time with Celso during our visit, who we found to be warm and resoundingly enthusiastic about all things naturism, but spoke candidly about the evolution of this naked utopia in Brazil.

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The lake at Colina do Sol

The story is long and tangly, but resonated deeply with me as I have a brother who got buried in the complexities of running his own business until he ended up in a negative cash flow situation, using tomorrow’s projected revenue to pay yesterday’s bills – always a landslide in the making. Add to that mix the Socratic (I use the word with trepidation) negotiations of the home owner’s association as various people bought into the dream of their own personal naturist vacation hamlets, and a particularly fervent group of Americans who were going to make Colina do Sol their go to place when it’s cold up here and the middle of summer down there. Even by Celso’s account, the sand started slipping from beneath his toes on his own beach, and the untimely death of one of the homeowners led to speculation and allegations about fiduciary scheming and criminal wrong-doing!

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Celso, our host

At the time of our visit, (2016) we stayed in the three story hotel where the top two floors remained unfinished. The lakeside restaurant that had once been the center of social activity had recently closed, and hours on the beach near the lake were decidedly quiet for a summer weekend day, though there were obviously people living in the cabins on the sprawling roads that provided a terrific circuit for morning naturist walks. We were the only guests at the hotel during our stay, and perhaps the first Americans to visit since the whole property management debacle of some years before, so Celso spent many evenings with us, guitar in hand, retelling the dream of his naturist nirvana and his unrelenting passion to see the project move forward, despite the hurdles of the past. At this writing, I think he still lives on the property with his wife, but is no longer involved in the naturist center (restaurant and hotel) that is rumored to be under new management and poised for a renaissance.

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The pool – heated by the warm air of Brazil

Would we go back? Despite the unpredictable weather, (It rains a LOT in that part of Brazil!) I liked the place quite a lot (more so than my wife) and could imagine a very pleasant stay in one of the little cabins when there’s nine inches of snow on the ground at home. Seeing video footage of the place when it was at its zenith – ten years ago, perhaps – I found myself longing for the vitality of the naturist centers in Europe, thinking this might be a viable winter alternative on this side of the Atlantic. That was not the case during our visit, but as is the case with most naturist places, timing is everything. It’s most definitely worth keeping an eye on the place, though indeed, I’m not likely to buy a home there!

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On patrol at Praia do Pinho

Our other naturist stay in Brazil, with its unremarkably modest accommodations, was at Praia do Pinho, about a 90 minute flight south of Rio. Here again, weather had a significant influence on our impressions of the place where rainy periods significantly outnumbered the sunny ones, and our small room became claustrophobic when sun-worship on the beach simply wasn’t viable. The beach itself turns up on many “most beautiful nude beaches in the world” lists, and I think that designation is well deserved. It simply hadn’t occurred to me that summer in the south of Brazil does not come with the arid climate of summer in the South of France. Interestingly, there were a lot of nice places to stay near Praia do Pinho that would have greatly influenced our overall read on the place, though it’s always difficult to weigh the value of the luxury walking naked from your room to the beach. I suppose it just depends on what you think a nakation actually is.

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A walk to the beach

As a footnote to our Brazilian experience, with all the fuss about that scantily clad girl from Ipanema, we saw exactly zero naked people or topless women on the mainstream beaches in Brazil. To be sure, the bikini bottoms looked (uncomfortably!) skimpy, though you see that just about anywhere these days. But suffice it to say, there was nothing on the beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana that would not meet the stringent Facebook rules for public decency – which the seasoned naturist knows to be ridiculously conservative. Like most South American countries, Brazil has its own fair share of prudery that belies the implicit notion that social nudity is really a thing there.

A beautiful county worth exploration? Absolutely.

A naturist destination for the sake of nakation? Sadly… not quite.

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Contemplating the story of Colina do Sol

 

 

GALLERY: Nakations on Mallorca

We’re currently enjoying our third “nakation” on Mallorca, each time finding a new little cove or a quiet trail for a naturist walk. We never tire of the turquoise sea and the brilliant blue skies, nor the amazing service and conviviality at Skinny Dippers Naturist Retreat. Thought it was time to post a gallery of some of our greatest hits from the past three years.

You may wish to see our other three posts about “nakationing” on Mallorca:

Nude Beach Combing in Mallorca

Mallorca Hospitality – Grant and Jordi Style

The North Side of Naked Mallorca

Social Nudity and Social Media: Two great tastes…

So I’m a blogger.

As far as I can tell, there are two reasons to blog, both legitimate, but depending on who you are and where you are in life, maybe not of equal weight. 1) You blog to get your thoughts out into print. A sort of catharsis. An exercise to see if you can formulate your thoughts into a coherent sentence. If not, maybe your thoughts were actually… nothing. (Brian, Family Guy, c.2012).

Or 2) You actually have this delusional perception that maybe your thoughts, once committed to cyberspace, might actually sway the masses, or maybe even a few people on the fence, to consider for a moment the absurdity of the textile industry and how the entire human race has somehow decided that certain anatomical parts are dangerous, while others are simply… functional. A penis may get the credit for perpetuating the human species, but when I imagine life without elbows or opposable thumbs, I get pretty sad!

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To be sure, the airing of one’s thoughts in a public forum is cathartic, especially when it’s something you believe in, like naturism, for example! While some people can get a bit evangelical about this whole thing, I would be pretty happy if the “whole thing” wasn’t actually a thing. This blog is my third attempt to normalize the ideals of social nudity, so that people might even say, “That’s not for me, but there are things way more offensive than that to sit up and worry about!”

In the meantime, I had an awkward bout a couple months ago where I inadvertently linked my naturist Instagram account to my professional Facebook page. The implications of such a blunder are many and potentially severe, as one who works in an education-related field in an era where nude = lewd = sexual predator. I’ve pretty much come to grips with the “I go to nude beaches – I hope that doesn’t offend you” thing, but I’m not too keen on taking down my colleagues and institution on the basis of ill- conceived notions as to what social nudity is about, and why a rational person might find one’s proclivity for nakedness to be less abrasive than, say… anything coming out of the news channels in Washington D.C. these days.

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But more to the point… even the most humble of bloggers would like to think that when the tree fell in the forest, somebody said, “Did you hear that?” We should check that out!”

Today, I spent a good bit of time combing through the Instagram policies regarding nudity. Genitalia – check! Female nipples – check! But I have to say, the phrase “close-ups of fully-nude buttocks” is something of a gray area! Exactly how close is “close-up?” And for that matter, how is a buttock more offensive than a female nipple. (Note that male nipples are not problematic, though I would submit that in some cases, one might have difficulty identifying an isolated male nipple from the female counterpart, let alone a supple male “moob” from that of a lesser endowed female.) I get it. The corporate dudes at the Facebook/Instagram corporate offices have been charged with shutting down anything that is even remotely titillating (an intentionally poor choice of words) and they are simply doing their job. But really? A buttock? A nipple?

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I have made this point several times through my years of blogging on this site, but I also realize that people who read blogs may or may not be serial readers, so I will offer this perspective yet again. HAVEN’T WE BETTER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT IN 2018 THAN THE RANDOM APPEARANCE OF A NIPPLE OR PUBIC HAIR?

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And then there’s Twitter and Tumblr, where I have a presence as well, where I typically seek out posters who are earnestly interested in normalizing social nudity, but quite by accident, stumble into threads of the most explicit sexual activity known to man or beast. I’m pretty open minded on such media, and rarely find such things particularly offensive, EXCEPT… when it falls under the nomenclature of nudism or naturism. Sex is good, and people should have some! Watch other people having sex on film should you so desire. But PLEASE… do not confuse the God-fearing public with images of intercourse and bestiality under the hashtag of nudism or naturism. Think about it! Everyone leaves disappointed, when some horny dude couldn’t find what he was looking for on a lonely Saturday night, while a would-be naturist couple resigns themselves to the fact that nudity does, in fact, equal sex. So once again, they wrap their selves in nylon and Lycra and find their way to the beach.

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In the meantime, like many of my naturist peers, I’ve been thrown off Facebook for the untoward display of buttocks, and I’ve gone through the painstaking process of isolating my Instagram account so that my colleague in the office next door doesn’t come asking for advice about the best naturist beach in New Jersey. Honestly, if that were the full extent of it all, I would welcome the inquiry and provide the information, but social media has essentially turned social nudity into a sex crime! A bizarre dichotomy, really. With the internet, people have greater access to naturist possibilities than they could have ever imagined a generation ago. But with that comes smartphones, Snapchat, and facial recognition software that pretty much negates any hope for anonymity even under the best of circumstances.

And so there it is. Social Media and Social Nudity… Two great tastes that don’t go so well together. I can find a remote naturist resort in a quiet corner or Europe, but I’d better make sure I have the location detector disabled on my smartphone when we arrive. And so it goes for naked people in 2018.

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Vignettes of a Blossoming Naturist

Hello faithful blog followers.

Just on the back side of a pretty intense push at work, so I’ve fallen off the blogosphere for a few weeks. I hope to catch up in the coming days, leading out with this post from a guest blogger. Our twenty-something friend has taken quite a liking to the naturist thing, and I think her words are fresh, inspiring, and quite instructive to the novice naturist. An excellent testimony to the fact that naturism is not a generational thing, but just a “you gotta get it right” sort of thing.

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Vignettes of a Blossoming Naturist

I found myself a naturist incidentally after I stripped off my clothes at 2 am and hopped into a hot tub under the heavy cloak of a sleepy happy that was made possible by a couple of glasses of wine. The next morning I remembered what happened only by virtue of the fact that I woke up completely naked and had to walk around and pick up my various articles of clothing that were strewn about the deck.

My next encounter with naturism lacked all forms of alcohol, without which I quickly realized that although I had been training all of my life to be polite and understand proper social etiquette, I was destined to become a rather clumsy nudist. As my naturist friends, who also happen to be a couple, casually seemed to emerge naked from various parts of the house, I felt as though every action of mine was destined to be awkward and incorrect. All social norms flew out the window, so to speak. For example, changing into your swimming outfit is most typically done in a bathroom-but as I found myself walking there (completely sober) to change out of my civilian clothes, and into…nothing…it seemed quite silly to be modest about that portion of the evening. I resolved, giving myself a silent pep talk, “Okay…so I’ll just take off my clothes here: in the middle of their living room.” With that settled, I undressed, only to wonder where nudists typically would leave their clothes strewn about. In the meantime, I’m simultaneously calculating when I shaved my legs last, if I should emerge from the house with a funny story as a distraction, and how I could possibly acquire more alcohol for the endeavor. In an effort to think all of this through, I suspect I looked a bit like some type of bug, stuck on its back, with its legs strewn about in the air, flailing in an attempt to join his fellow friends on their way to the promised land.

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I think my most poignant conversation took place with the same Naturist couple, who must have sensed my awkwardness from a mile away and asked me, “Where do people look when they are speaking to you?” After I responded with, “My eyes,” and they nodded and smiled, everything seemed to fall into place.

A recommendation for new naturists: Don’t get too comfortable before learning proper nudist etiquette. It’s a real thing. For example: chairs and other surfaces meant for sitting are not available to you unless you bring along a towel and lay it down before sitting down. It makes so much sense. I mean-who wants your remaining butt sweat on their own butt (or their chair)?

Yikes. Following this advice could mean avoiding a conversation like this one: “Hey, new naturist. You’re looking less and less like a flailing beetle every day, but we don’t want your butt sweat on our chair…so I’m going to politely hand you this towel, and if you could stand up and lay it down while we all silently judge you for your lack of naturist etiquette, that would really be great.”

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As soon as you’re feeling confident in your nudity and how one “blends in” and “plays it cool” as a naturist, it’s probably time to convince four of your friends to try out a naturist resort in Corsica. As far as I understand, the best ways to piss off people in a naturist resort are to be loud, take pictures of naked people, and to in fact, not be naked, especially at the pool (the only place in naturist resorts that really seem to require nudity). I’m guessing that you can already hypothesize that our chill day trip ended with friend #1 getting yelled at by a lifeguard to take off her swimsuit or get lost, girl #2 getting reprimanded by a different lifeguard for taking the perfect instagram photo of the naked people lounging at the pool that overlooked the ocean, and the rest of us getting shushed by virtually everyone because of our utter lack of self-awareness to realize that us trying to “get our shit together” was not something that EVERYONE at the entire resort needed to hear about. Point taken. Friends need to prep friends for naturist experiences with a laundry list of “do’s and do-nots.”

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I suspect by now, I’ve painted a rather dismal picture for blossoming naturists everywhere: there are bound to be awkward moments, you have to learn a new set of social standards, you have to remember where you put your clothes after you’ve discarded them, not to mention that some people simply think that social nudity, especially in certain company, is SUPER weird. Yet at this moment, here I am, lying on a beach filled with naked families and friends, all of various generations, just simply thinking, “does life get any more serene or better than this?” In this context, everyone is beautiful, and just about the only thing I can tell by looking at any one person, is that they too, feel super free and relaxed and simply happy to just “be.” There are no contextual clues from their clothing if they are well-off or struggling to make ends meet, and therefore, no indication of their jobs, careers or aspirations. It’s as though everyone’s simply a being, just like you or me, which simply could not be any more beautiful. Women with mastectomies, teenagers embracing their changing bodies, and children playing together in the water, oblivious of the social norms and pressures set by society that they will eventually (sooner rather than later) encounter.

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Whether I’m sappy about the whole thing (i.e. humanity is beautiful…see last paragraph) or practical, (Why cover your sandy, salt-covered body with a t-shirt after swimming if you don’t have to? Do you reallyyy want sand in your swimsuit bottoms? Really??! Isn’t that sweaty t-shirt of yours just making you so uncomfortable?! Wouldn’t you rather feel the warmth from this fireplace everywhere, not just on your hands and toes?) I find myself coming to the same conclusion: Life is better experienced without boundaries set by those in modern-day society. I mean, if you’re going to be like the cavemen/women/people with your Paleo diet, why not look like them too, and take off your shirt?

I’m definitely no expert, but as my other budding naturist friend captured so eloquently, “Is there really anything better than your nips blowing in the wind?”

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The Naturist Guide to Gavdos

So after the better part of a week on this virtually unknown little island in the Libyan Sea, I thought it time to write the blog post I’ve been looking for – mostly in vain – for the past five years. There are quite a few blogs and grassroot webpages that tell you what a peaceful place this is, (True!) and about the hippies who camp out all summer and swim nude, (Also true, but not to the extent of decades past.) and a lot of vague observations about nudity that put even the most seasoned naturist on edge. Statements like, “Nobody cares if and when you’re naked,” (Well actually, they do.) or “You can walk anywhere in the nude without turning an eye.” (Most definitely not true!)

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Walking to Trypiti Beach

Unlike Ile du Levant in France, or even the little town of Charco del Palo on the island of Lanzarote, Gavdos is not really a naturist destination; it just happens to be a place where there are a few more opportunities to get naked than on your typical Greek island. I suspect this has changed a good bit in the last two or three decades as mainstream tourism has brought electricity and several boutique hotels to the island, along with increased ferry service that even makes it possible for day trippers to get out and back in one day. (Gavdos Cruises just started up a couple years ago, and rumor has it they just upgraded to a larger boat! I suspect that’s not been particularly good for nudity on cruise days.)

In the meantime, I thought about naming this post Where Have All the Hippies Gone? Long time passing. Seriously. Are they just dying off of natural causes? Have they found another hamlet with secluded beaches in some hidden destination in the middle east? Or shudder the thought, did they give up the cause with a shopping spree at Target to clad themselves in polyurethane fabric made in China? Has it really gotten that bad?

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What the locals wear!

As it happens, especially in July and August, the number of naked hippies – let alone the more purposeful and dedicated nudists – are well outnumbered by the more typical holiday-makers you might expect on Santorini or Mykonos. Oddly enough, as we headed off on a naked hike the other day my wife confessed, “I’m not worried about offending the Greeks, I just don’t want to surprise the tourists!”

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Surprising the tourists

Surprise the tourists? Are you kidding me? The tourists probably came here looking for naked people! But the Greeks!? Long pants and layered shirts in the dead of summer? The old women wrapped in fabric and head garments. How do they do it?

In any event, while I can hardly claim to be an expert on the matter, here are a few tips for those who may be charting a course to Gavdos for their next nakation, noting that a week on the island in June (and a previous day trip in August) does not represent a comprehensive guide, but I hope it will provide a few bits of information I would have found most useful in planning our time here.

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Maps are posted all over the island. Generally, the dotted lines are safe for nude hiking.

  • Where to Stay: As I mentioned in my previous post, there are no naturist accommodations on Gavdos, though there are small inns next to Sarakiniko Beach and the nearby Agia Ioannis (notably, Sofia Rooms, which was our second choice.) that are in easy walking distance to beaches where nudity is common. But you won’t see people walking naked from their room to the beach. For this stay, we chose to stay at the mountain top village of Kastri at the Gavdos Princess Hotel, where nudity on certain verandas is possible, but nowhere else on the property or in the village. Located at essentially the dead center of the island, you are about a 10 minute drive to most every beach on the island, though most of the nice ones require a significant walk beyond that.

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    On the road to Trypiti

  • Nudity at the Beach: The easier the access, the fewer naked people to be found, and thus while nudity is tolerated at Sarakiniko, I suspect it is frowned upon by some of the mid-summer tourists. (Again, with the offending the tourists thing!) And if you wish to visit the nearby taverna, or for that matter, any taverna on Gavdos, you at least need a pareo to cover genitalia and breasts. (You don’t want to be scolded for that more than once!)

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    On the trail to Pyrgos

  • The Best Nude Beaches: During our stay, we made it to Trypiti, Lavrakas, Ioannis, Sarakiniko, and Pyrgos. Trypiti is great simply given its proximity to the “big chair” at the southern point of Europe, and most of the people we’ve seen there have been naked. Our afternoon napping under the scrubby trees at Ioannis was lovely as well, and I would say approximately two-thirds of the people we saw there were nude. But our favorite has to be Pyrgos, a bit difficult to get to, but a gorgeous setting where we only encountered one other human during our afternoon on the beach. He scrambled down the rocks to the beach, dropped his shorts, jumped into the ocean for a swim, laid out naked to drip dry, put his shorts back on and disappeared. That seems to be pretty much standard operating procedure around here. There is NO shade in the midday at Pyrgos, so we were glad we packed in an umbrella. But the water is gorgeous, with a shallow slope of soft sand that goes well into the sea. One of our best beaches ever.

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    Pyrgos beach

  • Nudity on the Trails: We’ve asked a few of the locals and encountered a few on the trails as well. It seems that free-hiking (hiking in the nude) is not a Greek cultural norm, and those we encountered en route where significantly overdressed even by beachwear standards. But none seemed offended by our nudity, receiving a gentle smile from one older man, and a lively exchange about the dogs who accompanied a middle-aged woman. If she noticed we were naked, (How could she not?) it most certainly was of little concern. So I think the general rule is, once out of sight of nearby habitations – or as our server at our hotel put it, away from the subdivisions! – you are free to do as you wish. Keep in mind that here in mid-June we have actually encountered perhaps a half-dozen other people – all clothed, I might mention – during our extensive walks on the mountain and coastal paths, though typically we’re out in the early morning before the most intense heat.

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    Pyrgos beach

The Final Analysis: Well? It’s pretty much like everywhere else we’ve been in Greece. This is a great place to take your clothes off to swim in the magical turquoise water, but show up topless at a taverna, or wander naked into a popular family spot and you might get chastised by an old woman all dressed in black. Just to be cautious, I carry a small pareo when entering doubtful territory that is simply enough to cover the crown jewels should it suddenly seem necessary. Such a small piece of fabric that is neither modest nor a fashion statement, which causes me time and again to ask, “Why all the fuss about naked?”

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Crete in the distance from Gavdos

Does Gavdos make our Top Ten of Naturist Destinations? Probably not quite, simply due to the lack of a “place to stay naked” other than the tent cities that come and go on the beaches. As is often the case, sometimes I wish I could roll back the clock to have experienced Gavdos in all its hippie glory of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Who knows? Had I done that, I may have never left. You would find me down there on Lavrakas beach with the other leathery old men who emerge each morning to bathe in the sea. To be sure, that’s a commitment to a lifestyle that would have set the meandering naturist on a very different path.

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The view from the most southerly point in Europe