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A Beginners Guide to Understanding Clothing Optional Travel

A different kind of travel gift you give to yourself

Would you visit a clothing optional resort? Shed your clothes and just be? Can you relax enough in your own skin, enjoy your humanity in ways you haven’t since you were a child?

I’ve been visiting clothing optional resorts for more than a decade and each time I visit a new one I’m presented with a different way to think, alternative ways to see the world and how my body travels through it. Disconnecting from all I’ve created in my life allows me to connect with what lives at my core – the Julia who lives under all those layers of clothes.

Shedding comfort and clothes – and finding peace

The first time my husband and I dabbled in the world of textile-free vacationing, we were scared, angsty and full of self-doubt about our bodies. Contrary to popular belief, females don’t have exclusive rights to body-image issues.

shedding our outer shellWe each ducked into our respective gender-specific bathrooms and promised to emerge within 5 minutes. Naked. I stood in that bathroom for 4 minutes and 59 seconds, agonizing over the undulating shape of my many curves as I stared into the mirror, trying to find the very best angle for others to see me. As if my curves were as overwhelmingly large as Mount Kilimanjaro. As if I could control how others saw my body by stretching my arm this way or that, or keeping their views from only certain angles. As if others would instantly hyper-focus on all the things I hate most about my body…

When I emerged, every muscle in my body stood at attention, every kink in my neck coiled tight and hard, ready to fight or flee or simply explode into a mess of tears. But my husband – my life partner, my lover, my best friend – took my hand, pale and fearful himself, and we walked to the pool. Together.

And then nothing happened.

No one turned away in horror or stared in disbelief. No one catcalled or shouted obscenities. We received a few hellos, but nothing more than you’d expect anywhere else.

No one cared …

relaxing au naturel!People told me that I’d forget my own nakedness when I was surrounded by other naked bodies. Before our first visit, I clung to that theory while agonizing over what I could shrink with an extra 10 sit-ups or crunches or lunges, what I could cover with a sarong while still being mostly naked.

There’s while lot of truth to forgetting your own nakedness when you’re with other naked people but there’s a whole lot of falsehood there, too. Soaking up the sun, swimming in the pool and chatting quietly with my husband helped ease my fears that first visit. I relaxed in our commonality with others, no longer afraid I’d be assaulted or propositioned by someone just because we’d removed the barrier of our clothing. Being naked in a group reminded me of my work in a women’s prison years ago. When you strip away cultural expectations, you make yourself vulnerable – open – and maybe put your mind in a better place to learn.

Being naked with a group of people – for that first naturist resort and each one that follows – heightens my other senses. I’m more aware of how my body moves, unhindered by belt buckles and bra straps. Movement is fluid when I brush my shoulder or elbow or knee against my husband’s. Feeling skin touch skin without the barrier of clothing is a jolt as much as a comfort. It’s sexy, sensual and, quite simply, a joy.

dare to skinny dip?But, you ask, how do you overcome the idea of people seeing your cellulite, your bum dimples and stretch marks? How do you reconcile yourself with breasts freed from their beautifying support? You don’t. It’s as simple as that. People who visit nudist or clothing optional resorts aren’t more beautiful, more shapely, more anything than anyone else. They’re not older, younger, hipper – or even hippies. They’re just people with wonderfully imperfect bodies. Their reasons for shedding their clothes are as varied as their bodies and within a few minutes, you start to understand that none of your worrying exists anywhere but in your own head.

Reality is holding on line 1, please pick up …

Overcoming my physical imperfections began the day I first shed my clothes at a nudist resort. I learned to forgive myself for not doing the sit-ups, for enjoying that extra, delicious glass of wine. My body is an amazing machine, a temple, my home. It’s allowed me to bring four amazing human beings into this world, to be their touchstone and North Star. It has allowed me to run, to sit quietly, to prepare food for my family, to earn money to buy that food. My body allows me to hug another person, to cry, to laugh, to make love with my eyes or my body or both. My body has needed me as well – to heal it with my mind when the memory of hurt runs deeper than my skin. My body is the center of my desire and love and hope, the only vessel I’ll ever have to travel through this life.

How could I have ever judged it as not enough?

textile free relaxationFor some, a nude vacation might be sexually freeing. To be suddenly devoid of the armor we cover ourselves in – the freedom to view others’ bodies an intoxicating seduction. I’ve been to resorts (more clothed than naked) that feel more like meat markets, the displaying of bodies outfitted in teeny weenie bathing suits in the hopes of finding a new partner, but nudism or clothing optional does not mean a sexual free-for-all. Sexual intimacy still takes place behind closed doors.

For me, the challenge of crossing the bridge to nudism is really about the battle we rage within 6 inches of space – that treacherous no man’s land between our ears. When we can overcome the foolish belief that we need to be perfect – and that anyone actually cares – we can relax and just be who we are meant to be.

And who we are at our core has to be enough, right? Actually, that would be true of most fears and challenges in life, wouldn’t it?

So, back to my original question. Would you, could you, shed your clothes at a clothing optional resort?

Ever visited a clothing optional resort or beach? We’d love to hear about YOUR experiences! Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter and let’s talk!

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