NAKED AND AFRAID: In a time of international crisis

I’ve just returned from a small naturist resort in Thailand where I had planned to hide out for a week to enjoy a bit of naked solitude while digging my way through a huge work project. (Watch for a future post about Harmony Naturist Resort… Coming soon!) The best laid plans were first undermined when my naturist sequester was overridden by the need to tend to all-things-crisis back home as my workplace fell victim to the omnipresent Coronavirus quarantine. In fact, were it not for the sudden pandemonium that followed the President’s announcement about closing all international borders this past Friday night, I would just now be on my way home. Now, it seems that getting on an airplane to go anywhere is a bleak prospect for the foreseeable future, let alone acknowledging the fact that social nudity typically implies that you’re going to be nude… in a social setting. Probably not the best idea when “social distancing” is about all we are hearing from every direction at the moment.

Naked in Thailand

Nick and Lins (Naked Wanderings) published a helpful blog post about a week ago (Will the Corona Virus Ruin You Nude Vacation?) in an effort to help dispel some the hysteria about this, now proclaimed, pandemic virus. They explain a bit about the virus itself, how to practice good hygiene, and perhaps most importantly, pointed out the fragile state of naturist tourism. It’s a good read and a rational perspective, I think.

God knows, I’m most certainly not a health care professional, so the following prose is not to imply anything more than a cautious dose of common sense. But I can imagine that people who haven’t really thought things through might say, “How could I even think about getting naked in a time when every person I see is a suspected Coronavirus carrier?” As we are being pummeled with messaging from every possible angle, while schools, churches, sports arenas, and even restaurants are closing down, it stands to reason that being near another human is dangerous enough – but near another naked human? Do you simply have a death wish?

Naked in France

As personal hygiene is a relentless topic in all discussions related to naturism, (“Don’t forget to sit on a towel!”) it seems worth noting that most matters related to hygiene and cleanliness for naturists have to do with bacterial issues – not viral infections. And for that matter, at least in the places we frequent, we have found naturists to be more conscientious about cleanliness and personal hygiene than your average human at a typical tourist attraction or public venue. I know, it’s counter intuitive. But just think about the German spa culture where swimsuits are forbidden mainly because they collect bacteria that is not easily rinsed away in the shower. And hot tub owners know that it’s much easier to keep the water balanced if you can keep textiles out of your spa. Humans wash easily. Clothing, not so much! Again, as Nick and Lins pointed out, if a fully clothed human sneezes three feet away from you, it won’t make much difference whether you’re clothed or not, unless you have your head wrapped in gauze that’s certified to be impenetrable by airborne microorganisms.

Naked in Brazil

But all that aside, as one who loves and lives to travel, I’ve been watching day by day as the hospitality industry is struggling for survival with increasing desperation from one hour to the next! My favorite argument regarding the global warming debacle (which, for the record, concerns me a great deal,) has always been the unintended consequences if you grounded even half of the scheduled flights around the world in the altruistic effort to slow down Co2 emissions, as doing so would not only decrease anticipated revenues to all those airlines, but to all the support industries as well. Hotels, restaurants, airline catering and cleaning operations, let alone all other things tourism and transportation. We got a taste of that after 9-11 when air-traffic was brought to a halt for a week or so, mainly for flights in and around the US. But now it seems apparent that this crisis is not going to end any time soon, which actually brings me to my point within the context of this naturist blog.

Aside from a few of the huge naturism centers in France and Croatia, most places catering to naturists are small boutique operations. Those of us who follow such things have been celebrating the rapid growth of naked tourism in Thailand, with three naturist resorts on Phuket, and five more scattered about the country from Chiang Mai in the north to the newest establishment near the border of Malaysia. (We had planned to visit Barefeet Heaven Hill next month, but now it appears we won’t be able to leave the United States, let alone get back home at the end of our journey!)

Naked in Hawaii

And it certainly doesn’t help that social nudity is about… SOCIAL… nudity. There are so many blogs and online discussions about whether a home nudist is really practicing social nudity, or whether they’re simply in a state of nakedness at home. At this writing, the directives are becoming more restrictive every day as to exactly what constitutes a crowd, along with best practices for enjoying your friends and loved ones at the distance of six feet or greater. This is not good news for any part of the tourism industry, but especially gloomy for naturist tourism as in most places, the season is short to begin with, and the remoteness of such places requires a willingness to travel a good distance to get there.

I have a clear recollection of those days following 9-11, when people were scared to death to get on an airplane even though calculating the odds of a Las Vegas card game bore out that you had a greater chance of getting struck by lightning than falling victim to an airborne terrorist attack. And yet, planes flew empty for months. And I also remember my most progressive friends posting on those pre-Facebook era online forums: “The best way to fight terrorism and boost the economy is to get on an airplane and take a vacation!”

Of course, this is different. Nobody really knows what it will take to contain the Coronavirus, whether it will subside as the weather warms up, or for that matter, whether anyone will be able to afford to take a vacation this summer as the ripple effect of the economic fallout is just starting to rear its ugly head.

Naked in St. Maarten

But in the name of advocating for the future of social nudity, and all the establishments that make that possible, I encourage my fellow (and would be) naturists to remain optimistic about the potential of summer travel, knowing that many naturist places simply don’t have the wherewithal to withstand more than a month or two of low occupancy. And most airlines are currently advertising ridiculously low fares with incredibly lenient cancellation policies. Thought you could never afford that nakation in France because it’s simply too expensive to get there? This might actually turn out to be your chance of a lifetime. (I saw round-trip mid-summer fares to Amsterdam this morning for less than $400!) And if it’s still untenable to fly by late spring, start looking into places that are within driving distance, seeking out naturist places that don’t require that you pass through an airport. While not impossible, it seems unlikely we’ll still be obsessing with social distancing three months from now, but by then, many of the places for social nudity may be long gone in the throes of bankruptcy.

By the way, my wife just read a Twitter post that includes a long list of “things to do to keep yourself healthy” during this crisis. (Attributed to Rupa Mayra.) One of those was get more sun on your bare skin to increase Vitamin D.

Now THAT sounds like a healthcare plan I can really get my bare buns behind!

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!