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

 

Naked with Goats in a Distant Land

So there it is!

In my very first blog post, I stated that maybe one day I might be able to tie all my musings and travelogues together into a single publication. A printed on paper book? Eh… I doubt it. But maybe one of those Kindle publications that sells for something between free and three dollars, ninety-nine cents. I’ve read quite a few of those now, each time thinking, “Hey, I could do that!”

IMG_7259In the meantime, a friend said, “You’re headed out for nakation in Greece. What will your next blog post be?”

How about “Naked with Goats in a Distant Land! What do ya think?”

“I’m pumped. Send it when it’s done!”

It was a magical moment of sorts. Thinking about that potential book deal with Kindle. (Is that what you call it? A book deal? With Kindle?) And how would I frame such a volume? Does the planet need another book about clothing-optional recreation? Or for that matter, another blog post even? How much more can one say other than “Go find a beach, take your clothes off, fait accompli.”

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But alas, here we are on Gavdos, a small island off the southern coast of Crete that requires a significant acumen for travel planning along with – at least – a recessive gene for adventure. Gavdos hails itself as the most southerly point in Europe as the lower tip of the island points down into the Libyan Sea well south of the shores of northern Africa. Egypt and Israel are merely a Greek athlete’s stone’s throw from here.

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Not unlike naturism itself, Gavdos is something of a dichotomy. As most are moored in deep religious ideology, Greeks have something of a mixed opinion on the subject of social nudity. While a few are willing participants, most see naturism (and the beaches where such things take place) as one spoke in the wheel of the bigger tourism economy. The number of “nudity tolerated” beaches outnumber the number of “official nude beaches” by at least 100 to 1! Quite different than France or Croatia with their massive naturist centers where you can be naked 24/7 should you so desire. In Greece, you’re always playing the “Can I be naked here?” game.

But let’s get real! Getting naked after sundown in southwest France (where the biggest family naturist centers are located) requires a level of endurance and resolve that is only one step removed from those crazy people in the Northeast USA who participate in the annual Polar Bear Plunge, charging into the January sea to gather data about what really shrinks in cold water! France’s largest naturist centers on the south Atlantic coast can be downright frigid at night, even at the height of summer. Greece, on the other hand, has the perfect climate for naked – such a bummer that religious dogma and the like gets in the way of clothes-free progressives.

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At this writing, we are at the end of day two of our second visit to Gavdos, most infamous for its unrelenting hippie culture of, “Don’t worry, get naked.” Our first visit, a couple years ago, was merely a one-day turnaround from the port of Chora Sfakion, allowing exactly enough time to find our way to the “big chair” at the southern tip of Europe, exploit a quick photo op, and skedaddle back to the boat to make our way back to our cushy accommodations at Vritomartis just minutes from the port.

This time, we decided to double down and really discover Gavdos. Is nudity accepted everywhere? Is it accepted anywhere? Is there a naturist hotel on the island? (I’m going with “no.”) Can I be naked on the veranda of my room in a non-naturist property? The owner of Gavdos Princess says, “Yes – as long as you use the veranda not facing the restaurant.” Can I walk through the villages on the island without clothing and without judgment? I very much doubt that. The villagers look like long timers who have little or nothing to gain by keeping the naked hippies happy, a sub-culture here on the island that seems to keep to their own enclaves under the scrubby trees near the beach.

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Can I walk the forest and coastal paths naked without fear of being convicted of a lewd or criminal deed? Well, there’s a question. Who’s going to arrest you? (I have yet to see a police car, let alone a person who would drive one, though my wife says she spotted a plain clothes police guy yesterday. Wonder if he notices we had no clothes?) And what would they arrest you for? Or more to the point, who comes to Gavdos without full knowledge that if you go near the sea, you will see naked people. And you don’t live on Gavdos without going near the sea.

What I can tell you for certain is that Gavdos is the small Greek Island that time seems to have forgotten. Said to have had thousands of inhabitants back in the Byzantine era, today it is the quiet, simple life that is most pervasive, where getting caught in traffic means you are surrounded in a herd of goats who take their time in crossing the road. In fact, it would be a great place to settle in for a few weeks, surrounded by calm seas and starry skies, and say… write a book! Maybe something like, Naked with Goats in a Distant Land.

Let me get to work on that.

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Nakation Chronicles VI: Mexico, SXM, and Greece

With our youngest graduating from high school, 2008 began a new era in our naturist meanderings, as the emphasis changed from family naturist destinations to, “Hey!? Are there other interesting places in the world where we can get naked?”

January of that year would bring our first visit to Hidden Beach Resort near Cancun, Mexico, noting that the opportunities for nude photography there were (and are) far and few between, and thus, the lack of photographic evidence here. We also made our annual trip to St. Maarten, which was beginning to feel a bit routine by then. But the big nakation of 2008 took us all the way to Crete where we found the naturist haven on the sea, Vritomartis. (Interesting timing as we will return to Vritomartis in a couple weeks, for the fourth time, I think! Most definitely on our top ten list.)

Greece is a funny place when it comes to naturism. Frowned on by some locals given the deeply religious nature of many who live there, but celebrated by others who even if they are not naturists themselves, appreciate this unique tourist niche, and the $$$ that follows. I think we’ve visited all the recognized naturist resorts in Greece since this first foray, but naked on the southern coast of Crete still gets our prize for most stunning nakations.

Make sure you check out the previous Nakation Chronicles installments:

Nakation Chronicles I: The Pre-Digital Age

Nakation Chronicles II: France and Corsica

Nakation Chronicles III: St. Martin, Croatia, Corsica and France

Nakation Chronicles IV: Living Waters, St. Martin, Cap d’Agde, Ile du Levant, and France

Nakation Chronicles V: SXM, Spain, and La Jenny

Naturist Extremes in Mexico – and figuring out what that means!

I’ve been procrastinating for nearly ten years in writing something about naturism in Mexico, mainly due to the fact that every time I think I have a comprehensive perspective as to what that means – naturism in Mexico – we visit again and I feel even more adrift in making any sweeping generalization that would help a newbie know what to expect. To be fair, our “research” on the topic has been limited to extended stays at two very different resorts, Hidden Beach near Tulum, and Playa Sonrisa at the southern tip of the Yucatan peninsula. We once stayed at a small inn on Solomon Bay that is no longer in business (for reasons that were evident during our stay), and we once did a walk-through at eco-resort Azulik which used to give more publicity to its clothing-optional status than it does today, but neither of those exist as viable naturist destinations today.

We have also met many people along the way who speak to the virtues – or lack thereof – of resorts with names like Desire and Temptation, but we’ve had neither the desire nor temptation to visit either of those as that simply isn’t our style, and thus, you’ll have to search those out on your own.

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach

We have been to Playa Sonrisa twice in the past five years, perhaps four times to Hidden Beach over the past ten, most recently at the end of March in an effort to escape the mind/body-numbing cold of a prolonged Northeast winter. If only by price tag alone, Hidden Beach is most certainly high end, which has the implicit consequence of attracting a demographic that is willing to part with a small fortune for a week of naked nirvana. While many put down roots for a week or two at a time, we’ve never managed a stay longer than an extended weekend, partially due to the cost (Hmmm… A week at Hidden Beach or a month in Europe!?), but also due to the limited scope of the property. Beautiful and luxurious though it is, a walk down the length of the naturist beach might be stretched out to five minutes or so should you choose to stop and ponder the horizon along the way.

During our most recent visit, we arrived while a particularly convivial (read: boisterous) crowd was monopolizing the swim-up bar. While I’m typically pretty laisssez-faire about what one might encounter at a naked place, I found the tequila induced dancing on the bar a bit over-stimulating, having arrived this time in desperate need of respite and tranquility. But speaking frankly, my personal state of mind upon arrival should have little or nothing to do with an objective review of whether one’s nakation dollars are well invested in a visit to a specific naturist destination. A place is what it is The problem is figuring out what the place is before you arrive!

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach

This, to me, seems a marketing nightmare for anyone charged with growing the market for clothing-optional recreation anywhere, but especially on the Mexican Riviera, which is such a bizarre mixture of Spring Break destinations and All-Inclusive mega-luxury resorts, each in their own right intended to produce an overdose of self-indulgence amidst a landscape where the other predominant feature is an infinite jungle punctuated with smallish enclaves of poverty. Perhaps the fastest road to sobriety after a fun-filled night at the swim up bar is the realization that the monthly income of a middle-class resident on the Yucatan peninsula is roughly equivalent to a one-night stay at Hidden Beach Resort. Talk about a buzz kill!

But again, the mind of this naturist is meandering again, as what I find most fascinating about clothing-optional recreation in Mexico is simply defining what that is. And it seems I’m not the only one confused about that. Even in France, where naturist options abound, it doesn’t take a great deal of research to determine the difference between Cap d’Agde – famous and infamous for the pervasive sexual undercurrents, or family naturist destinations such as Montalivet or Belezy, where not only the “naturist etiquette” page makes the expectations forthright and clear, but the entirety of the website creates an ambiance where you quickly come to realize that this is not a good place to get frisky in the pool.

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The view from Hidden Beach

At this writing, I find the webpage for Hidden Beach to be particularly perplexing, where the splash page immediately triggers a brief video, along with seductive music, as a beautiful woman walks across the screen leaving a trail of undergarments (maybe a swimsuit?) in her wake. At last, the motto… “Come out of your shell… at Hidden Beach Resort.” That said, the policies at Hidden Beach are clear and seemingly well enforced, and beyond the aforementioned dancing on the bar, we’ve yet to experience anything there that would get one thrown out of a Disney resort. Nudity, notwithstanding, of course.

I also find it interesting that what has disappeared from the Hidden Beach website is the home-grown gallery of guest photos that was something like a TripAdvisor gallery, few of which featured full nudity, but most of which exemplified the people you actually meet and see at a typical clothing-optional destination, of which almost none (yours truly included) look like the 30-something models in the photos in the limited professional gallery that exists now. If you weren’t already intimidated by the naked factor, the beautiful people factor ought to frighten the self-conscious away, whether wrapped in a bathing suit or not.

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Playa Sonrisa

At the other end of the spectrum, and essentially at the other end of the country, is Playa Sonrisa, a quiet little resort that requires a five hour drive from the Cancun airport that leads you to a place that feels like the end of the world. Interestingly, owner/innkeeper Murph maintains two websites for this little naturist haven in the jungle; the original patchwork site found at www.playasonrisa.com, and a spiffier updated version at www.playasonrisa.net. In either case, however, he wants it to be clear before you make the long drive that what you will not find there is a swim-up bar, themed lingerie parties, or anything else that resembles a pulsing night-life. Additionally, your willingness to make the long drive will literally save you hundreds of dollars per day without compromising the main attraction – the opportunity for a few days of clothes-free, stress-free living.

We have many good things to say about Playa Sonrisa, beginning with the genuine hospitality of the owners best epitomized in the ethos of the 24/7 honor bar, to their unrelenting efforts in providing the necessary creature comforts in a part of the world just beyond the reach of broadband internet and your typical 900 channels of cable TV. In fact, that is their marketing niche, appealing to those who desire to get away from it all, including their clothing. With only eight or ten rooms at most, there seems to be enough appeal for this decidedly more rustic approach to make it difficult to book there less than a few months in advance. and Murph goes to great lengths to make sure you understand that what they offer is quite the opposite of the all-inclusive indulge-a-fest opportunities that lie to the north.

 

 

It’s worth noting that we’ve blown right past the opportunity to stopover at a newer condo-quasi-naturist resort in Tulum called Intima Resort, partially because we’ve never been willing to spend the time, and also, by name alone, we can’t quite figure out what it is. And therein lies the conundrum of the entire naturist marketing debacle. In fact, my confusion was confirmed recently when I stumbled across a GQ Magazine article from 2017 intended to help readers realize their clothing-optional swinging dreams. While focused on a couple resorts that are only mentioned casually here, they also gave a shout out to Hidden Beach as well, which explicitly rejects such playtime activities as part of their culture or acceptable behavior. (Thankfully, Murph and Playa Sonrisa dodged the bullet of an honorable mention altogether!) But how is the average consumer to know?

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A GQ artist’s depiction of clothing-optional Mexico

Or more importantly, how is the average moderately open-minded person to know what to think when clothing-optional vacations come up in casual lunchtime conversation? What if that spawns enough curiosity that she might go home and Google “clothing optional Mexico” just to figure out what it’s really about? That brings to mind another thread I recently saw on Twitter about the prudes who are so intolerant “about lingerie dances at nudist places.” What’s the big deal, she says?

The big deal is that it’s very difficult for the average person who has never experienced social nudity to differentiate where nakedness becomes provocative becomes sexually charged becomes the exchange of bodily fluids. And it’s always the GQ article that’s going to get the most hits and the most citations, especially from those looking for a reason to tell those crazies to “Put your clothes back on and behave!”

So there it is.

People are confused about clothing-optional recreation in Mexico. Sadly enough, I’ve been there at least a half-dozen times, and so am I. That’s not a good sign.

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach

 

 

 

 

Naked and Alone – on a nudist island…

I have yet to really comprehend the complexities of the blogosphere. You never really know who your audience is, especially when you include words like nudist and naked in your meta tags and post descriptions. I think bloggers – or at least this blogger – would like to think that people find The Meandering Naturist, bookmark the site, then meticulously dig through the archives to see what has been said in the past, and how one’s story continues to unfold over the years. Though having said that, I have several blogs that I’m quite fond of, and despite the best of intentions, I rarely work my way back beyond the the last two or three posts. I guess this is all a precursor to offering an apology of sorts if my musings about a certain place (say Ile du Levant) or particular topics (like the bizarre social construct of the naturist ideal) seem like the very same topic of ninety percent of my previous entries. If you are the fastidious reader who has combed through the depths of my naturist diary, I offer my sincere apologies from the Department of Redundancy Department.

As is so often the impetus of a new blog entry, today’s inspiration finds its source in the confluence of several concurrent events that have caused me to take a moment, scratch my head, and utter a thoughtful and curious, “Hmmm….”

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The most immediate and visceral of these is my first visit as a single male to the French naturist island, Ile du Levant – a mere 30 minute ferry ride off the Côte d’Azur near St. Tropez. Fear not faithful readers! It’s not that I’m suddenly single, nor has my naturist wife has given up the crusade for social nudity, but in this case, I had business to take care of in the South of France following a holiday weekend, and thus, my schedule allowed a two night stay on this idyllic little slice of heaven before taking care of business on the mainland. I’ve read a lot about the intricacies of traveling as a naked single male, and I think it’s quite a lot easier in France than in America, but it’s a different perspective all the same.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a Kindle book called Nudist Cruise, authored by a young woman named Hailey McPherson who moved to Asia with her boyfriend a few years ago to try and make it as musicians and performers. As it would happen, they ended up separated by job leads that took one to Hong Kong and the other to Mainland China. A possible reunion arose when the boyfriend got a substitute gig playing in a show on a cruise ship, which provided the opportunity to bring his girlfriend turned blogger/author along for the ride. What she didn’t know until the 11th hour was that this would be a nudist cruise! The result is a bloggy recounting of a young couple trying to figure out the whole nudist/naturist phenomenon, For an academic such as myself, I find the writing to a bit casual and unrefined, but the big takeaway is the author’s perspective in her efforts to grasp social nudity amidst the inevitable pressures of so many social norms and – by her portrayal – an incessantly horny boyfriend who doesn’t seem to understand that people get naked for reasons other than sex. I have yet to finish the book, but I’m thinking that in the 9th inning she will deliver the message something to the effect of – “So you like to be naked. What’s the big deal?”

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So you like to be naked. What’s the big deal?

I could search for a few more catchy one liners that would help contextualize such a question, but yet another blogger has done it much better than I. I don’t know his name, but he apparently is about my age and lives in the Northwest, and I have to say… his assessment of social nudity is about as grounded and forthright as any I’ve ever read. He has several posts related to naturism, but this post called “Out of the closet and into the frying pan” pretty much drives it home. I was so taken by his post that I actually lifted a few quotes:

On the topic of naked doesn’t equate to sex…

Nudity isn’t asexual. It is just as sexual as clothing – no more, no less. People will still get just as excited about a possible mate whether they are clothed or nude. The fact is that the more you hide the sexual cues that bodies put out, the more everyone becomes hypersensitive to them. The face, by itself, becomes more and more important as the rest of the figure is hidden.

On the topic of live and let live…

I don’t care if you are a nudist. I am not about to try to convert someone or even raise my own children to be nudists. All I care about is that you don’t care if I’m one.

On the topic of causing irreparable damage to your children with nudity…

Even children who have spent their formative years in a nudist environment may push back, if not when they realize that this isn’t what their peer group is doing, then when they hit puberty and things start going out of control. I think parents are duty bound to place their child’s need to fit in with their peer group above the more abstract benefits of nudism. If they reject the lifestyle, then so be it. They may well return to it as adults. Even though my own children sometimes ran around naked and went skinny dipping with me, once they went to school, fitting in was more important.

But my favorite part of the piece – his remarks on why people are afraid to get naked….

Clothing is one way of denying the aging process and all the other “faults” we imagine in ourselves. (Along with plastic surgery, Botox and Photoshop.) Sagging breasts, small breasts, missing breasts, graying or too much body hair, stretch marks and wrinkles, large moles, birthmarks, extra weight around the middle or butt, jiggly thighs, man boobs, shrinking musculature, small penis, operation scars. Yup, a cover-up for all these things, a way to pretend we are not all bound by entropy.

Thank you nameless dude on the internet who made the simple, but poignant, realization that clothing creates as many (or more) conundrums than it solves. The real conundrum is facing up to the fact that if climate permits, better to bare all and check the psychological baggage at the front door.

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I know. There are a bazillion entanglements in this argument, but for me, where it all gets stuck is WHY are humans so hung up on the dimensions of the male penis or the female breast? I had a conversation with a young colleague a few years ago in which we agreed that if you really want to know someone, you focus on one specific body part – the eyes! Beyond that – talking to humans like they’re really human – in a day and age where one can find any visual stimulation they might be looking for on the internet, wouldn’t it be to the benefit of the naturist ideal that the human form is simply what it is? No more, no less. Why must it be so complicated?

So back to the title of this post. This may well be my tenth visit to Ile du Levant, but the very first time I’ve not been here with my female companion. I had a couple days to kill, the weather was good; a perfect time to exploit the opportunity to get naked.

It was a nice stay. But it was a bit lonely without my travel buddy, which makes me all the more empathetic to those who experience naturism without a companion.

But that aside, Ile du Levant is an interesting place. Sometimes people are naked. Sometimes people are clothed. There is a “libertin” (swinger) culture here, but you have to look for it to find it. There is a gay culture here, a bit more evident, but why should one care one way or the other? How did we get to this place where other people’s preferences are offensive, one way or the other? Even if you’re deeply religious, the prevalent message there is to love one another and turn the other cheek. (No pun intended.)

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My personal opinion is that if we all invested a bit more energy in contributing to the greater good, and a good bit less energy into the business of wondering what others thought of our bodies, our values, our intentions, we might have a better shot at getting along with one another on a planet that has a finite capacity for humans.

Let people be naked, and alone, or with loved ones, on an island… and be good with that. Need it be more complicated than that?

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Talking to your children about the POTUS and porn-stars, school shootings, and the dangers of seeing a nude person on the beach.

What on earth is going on?

So first the first time ever, I felt badly for Donald Trump Jr. yesterday when I came across a news-feed that says he’s taking a lot of heat for letting his 3-year-old daughter play at home without a shirt on. Really? Are you kidding me?

So let me see if I can grasp where things are at here in 2018…

  • Whether you read the New York Times, or watch Fox and Friends, you can scarcely get through a single day without hearing the name Stormy Daniels, and at least some diffused reference to Russian prostitutes peeing in a Moscow hotel room. (Just to be non-partisan here, do we remember all the sordid details of how Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman!) In either case, the suggestion that these things didn’t actually happen simply ramp up the imagination to warp speed, causing one to wonder, “Huh! What would that have looked like?”
  • I remember the utter horror while the Columbine Shooting was unfolding on TV, some 20 years ago – simply unfathomable that such a thing could happen in what should be a known safe-haven for our children. Today, an event of that magnitude barely makes the evening news.
  • In the meantime, Netflix and Amazon Prime have all but replaced network television, completely changing the norm for (sexual!) nudity if you choose to watch anything other than the Disney Channel. Let me clarify the rules – It’s OK to see naked people on TV as long as they’re locked in a sweaty embrace, undulating in passion.
  • But turn to page two of the local newspaper and you’ll likely find some wacky story about a person who held up a 7-11 Store in the nude, or heaven forbid, exposed her breasts at the seashore or dared to breastfeed a child in a shopping mall.
  • Dare I even mention the ritual of “sexting” as that now appears to be part of the normal courtship routine for your average middle-school kid? Thank you Snapchat for creating a tool that (supposedly) destroys the evidence after 10 seconds.

I suspect my point is self-evident by now, especially to those open-minded enough to read a naturist blog. What on earth is going on with our collective sense of values? And beyond that, how do you have a candid conversation with your 13-year-old when he comes home and asks whether you think the porn-star payoff was actually drawn from campaign contributions? “My U.S. history teacher says it’s Watergate all over again.”

Our children are now in their late twenties. They grew up with the internet, and while we took to the normal parental precautions of having computers in public spaces, monitoring browser use, etc., smart phones didn’t become common until our youngest was a senior in high school. They had to discover the joys and perils of phone sex on their own time and their own dime.

We had (have) a very frank relationship with our children, ascribing to simple advice offered to us shortly after our first daughter was born. “When your kids ask difficult questions, answer the question directly with age-appropriate, but real information” But only answer the question, then stop talking. If they need to know more, they’ll ask more questions. Of course, we had also been taking them to naturist places from the time they were old enough to go to Disneyland, which pretty much negated the need for them to ask questions about body parts and pubic hair, not to mention the natural process of aging. They did, however, have some awkward questions about the old naked drunk guy who ran his golf-cart into a tree at a local nudist resort. That was when we decided American nudist resorts were difficult for families, and moved our naturist endeavors to France.

But honestly, I just don’t understand how children or adults are supposed to sort any of this out in relation to any kind of value system. Our most conservative friends will cite – chapter and verse – religious principals that provide a clear framework to establish right and wrong, but seem to have no reservations whatsoever about a President who does not appear to be contesting that he partook in intimate activities with porn stars and prostitutes, but whether such activities constitute collusion or fiduciary impropriety! Don’t even get me started on the people who attack teenagers who rally for gun control. Spend that time instead gathering up a few statistics about how many children have died after seeing a penis or a breast at the beach, then compare those numbers to how many have lost their lives as a result of going to school when a shooter cut loose.

I suppose critics of this argument would say, “You’re talking apples and oranges, dude! What’s your point?”

My point is that the most adamant critics of Donald Trump Jr. about letting his daughter run around without a shirt on, chastised him for “not teaching his daughter a proper sense of modesty.” Funny, our children never once got confused about when and where they could/should be naked. We never got a call from the principal telling us our son forgot to wear pants today. Nor did they ever get a French naturist resort confused with a textile campground or the pool complex at Disney World. “Hey! You can’t go to the mall naked” we said to our teenage daughters exactly never.

They were, however, of age about the time we had to explain the stains on Monica’s blue dress, while rationalizing whether oral activities did or did not constitute having “sex with that woman.” And having grown up during the the evolution of the various Nintendo systems, my children have a much higher threshold (or I should say, are completely desensitized) for violence in movies, video games, and on TV. Post a video from a European naturist resort on Facebook or YouTube and get your account shut-down. Put up a clip from the latest feature film with 90 minutes of death and destruction and your worst case is having the clip removed for copyright infraction.

I understand that not everyone was born to be a naturist. Some people don’t like going to the beach at all, with or without a swimsuit. And we all have our own issues with looking in the mirror each morning, and to what degree we can stand to look at ourselves in the altogether. That’s all fair.

But if we had to make a list of the top ten – top twenty? top ONE-HUNDRED? – things that are contributing to the moral decay of humanity, does seeing a naked person lying on the beach really make that list? Here’s a research study for an eager doctoral student someplace: “Compare the number of people who have fallen victim to a naked person, including fatalities, severe injury, or even lasting psychological damage, to the number of people who are completely adrift right now from other social phenomena.” Adrift because they struggle with porn addiction in an era where Stormy Daniels is a household name. Adrift because they are utterly confused about fake news and why lying is the new truth. Adrift because they lost a loved one in a school shooting, and nobody seems the least bit concerned about the prospect of giving guns to teachers.

Perhaps we should sell bumper stickers:

What’s more dangerous? A naked person or a teacher with a gun?

Good luck parents of the Class of 2036! Be sure to unplug the TV, home-school your children, don’t read fake news, and for heaven’s sake, don’t take them to a beach or a campground where they might see body parts similar to their own.

So many rules!

The Labyrinth to Social Nudity in Japan

I have changed planes at Narita airport near Tokyo perhaps a dozen times, but somehow, never quite made it out of the airport to actually see Japan – until just a few months ago when I had an opportunity to attend a conference in Kobe. And alas, with that came an opportunity to visit one of the celebrated hot spring public baths that I’ve heard so much about over the years.

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I really had no idea what to expect, except for vague recollections of travel pieces I’ve read over the years. Travel banter from a cocktail party someplace? Somehow, I remember somebody describing a dark hall with wooden planks, and old men groaning as they lowered themselves into the scalding water. Sounding quite a bit short of alluring, I went digging on the internet to see what this famously Japanese custom was about, and if it warranted an afternoon of exploration on a cold winter’s day.

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Trip Advisor led me to the Kobe suburb of Arima; something akin to an Austrian ski village, but lined with high rise apartment and hotel complexes, it seems that hot water flows out of the mountain here in copious amounts, creating a holiday mecca for those who wish to spend an hour, a day, a weekend soaking in the healing waters.

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Turns out this is one of the more well known spots in the Japan to hang out with the boys – or hang out with the girls, but not a place where the boys and the girls will hang out together, at least, not while bathing. As I made my way through various trip reviews, I learned that nearly every hotel in this little valley had their own onsen – or hot springs bath – with the incentive of one stop shopping. “Stay in our lovely hotel, have a hot stone massage, and bathe in the magic water.” I was getting the picture, and so far, it didn’t sound much like my preconceived image of groaning old men in a dark cavern.

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To cut to the chase, I chose the Taiko no Yu onsen about a 10 minute walk, up hill, from the local train station, chosen in large part due to a reviewer who took the time to explain the process while providing a valuable tip, “Good place for first-time foreigners” as most of the signage has English subtitles.” That, by itself, was worth the price of admission.

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Things I wasn’t prepared for… and keep in mind, I’ve been naked on six continents… are many and substantial in this case. Beginning with the procurement of three lockers! One to hold your shoes, one where you leave your everyday clothing, and finally, one where you bare all (leaving your pajama like robe behind) and find your way to the hot mineral baths that have revitalized SO many souls over the centuries.

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The take away of my exploration is that naked is different here than naked in the western world, and would probably be a good bit different yet had it not been for the influence of the western world. Seems that in the days before WWII, during which Japan had been at least moderately successful in isolating themselves form western influences, nudity was essentially a non-issue. “You have boy parts. I have girl parts. Let’s bathe.”

Between the missionaries and the American military generals, it seems we convinced the Japanese to come to their senses and realize that social nudity, left unchecked, will lead to… well I don’t know what it’ll lead to as you can find pretty much anything you want on the internet these days, so what’s the big deal? In any event, today most Japanese onsens are gender separated.

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My experience – though very much limited to a one-day visit to a recommended Trip Advisor spa – was anything but sexual. In fact, this was very much a family affair, where the main (sole) objective is soaking in the magical mineral waters, some of which are clear (I personally like that!) and some of which are milk-chocolate brown (How do you know how deep the pool is when you can’t see the bottom?)

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Since it was a Sunday afternoon, many were there on family day outings, with children of all ages standing in line with their parents as if they we’re queuing up for admission to Disneyland. Of course, I can only speak to the ambiance of the male side, but once you leave your robe behind in the third locker room, nudity is prevalent and normal, even in congested areas where you can hardly get through the crowd without brushing up against another (naked) body. After the customary seated shower, I settled into one of the pools in the main area while observing with quiet awe that three generations of male humans were all enjoying the day of casual nudity and luxurious soaking. Not even in French family naturist resorts does inter-generational nudity seem like such a non issue. Somehow, they had missed the memo that a 10-year-old child seeing his father’s pubic hair or genitalia was an immediate and necessary precursor to psycho-therapy.

I’ve ruminated on this quite a lot since my visit to Japan, and have since found another great article from an author who’s experience was apparently quite similar to my own. The obvious and recurring theme continues to bare out the question: How is it we’ve made the human body so controversial when, in one version or another, our body parts are all pretty much the same. (That’s setting to one side that most cultures agree that the visibility of hands and feet is less far less egregious than the accidental sighting of a  penis or breasts.)  Seems to me the western world has done irreparable damage to this Japanese idea, as my impression is that fifty years ago, mom and dad would have been able to enjoy the entire day at the onsen together – as a whole family regardless of gender. But for those who worry about being caught climbing out of the shower by your 12-year-old, my brief qualitative survey suggests that children seeing their parents naked apparently does not scar them for lives. On this front, we westerners could learn a thing or two.

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