When I was young we went to Florida. I remember there was a nudist beach nearby but the way that people spoke about it sounded creepy. And shameful.
Recently I have had the opportunity to visit many nudist beaches. But when I tell people about it, I get the sense that there is a lot of shame and discomfort about it. So it is probably natural that I would hesitate to share this story. But here goes.
As an adult I have learned nudism can be a really sweet opportunity to see people without any pretension. When everyone is nude there is something that equalizes.
Wherever I go I look for a nudist beach if the weather is appropriate. I have learned that they are not very common in most places around the world. But they do exist and I have had the opportunity to go in Berlin, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, and Mexico.
A couple weeks ago my boyfriend and I were exploring Berlin on a sunny spring day. He suggested we go to a lake on our way home. Sure. That sounded fine. I will never turn to down the opportunity to go to a lake.
As we approached the park I realized that he had surprised me. It was a nude park. Nearly everyone at the park was nude. Men and women. Right off the busy road!
This is not a pick up joint. It is just a place to go and enjoy yourself and feel free. This is also not a place for only skinny people. Every size and shape comes to the nudist park. It seems to be a place for all ages too.
There was a man next to us, also nude, who had been enjoying the park alone—swimming and laying in the sun. At one point he got up and started to get dressed. In a suit and tie. He was a businessman who had come to take a break. But until he got dressed, he was just one of us.
I love this great equalizer. At the nude beach you are just a person. Without having to act like anything.
A couple years ago we were at a nudist campground in Denmark. Our first nudist experience.
The average age was about 70. Except for one other couple we were clearly the youngest. Nudism was very popular in Europe in the 60’s and 70’s. It was acceptable at all beaches. But the younger ones do not embrace it in the same way. In Denmark, there are very few nudist campgrounds left.
Some places are clothing optional. Not here. Clothing was not permitted—unless the weather did not permit. This took some getting used to. After my shower, it was just instinct to put my towel around me. I had to consciously think about not putting clothes on.
At dinner that first night we arrived naked. It was a pot luck. We sat with another couple who was around 70. It was a magical night. There is something different when you talk with people naked. There is an automatic authenticity. A vulnerability. And that provides an openness. Not a sexual openness. Just a willingness to share. This couple, like most of the others, lived at the campground for the summer. But they did not tell their friends back in Copenhagen that they were at a nudist campground. "They just wouldn't understand," we were told.
The next day was raining and much colder. We were invited to dinner hosted by the campground. Should we wear clothes? It was pretty cold. But the night before no one wore clothes. First we decided to wear clothes. But on the walk to the dinner we decided to take off our bottoms so as not to offend anyone. When we got to dinner everyone was fully clothed.
So we had to go back, get dressed, and go back to dinner—clothed. Like the night before, everyone was very kind and friendly. And the food was extremely delicious—a Danish specialty of pork and potatoes. And a lot of wine. But it somehow felt different. The authenticity and vulnerability that comes from nudity was gone.
Last week we arrived in Croatia. We chose to live in a small town at the beach. It is actually an ancient Roman walled city with all the charm of Italy because Italy is only 5 hours away. Italian coffee, Italian cafes, Italian gelato, Italian food, Italian is even the second language. One thing that makes it uniquely Croatian is the acceptability of nudity.
The nude beach is just a short bicycle ride away.
Actually, it is much more than that. It can host up to 8,000 people. There are places for tents, RV’s, and also small huts. There are restaurants, cafes, and little spots for beer at the water’s edge. Most people are nude—walking around, sitting at their campsite, laying in the sun. There are many different spots to sunbathe.
Although I have gone nearly every day to the nude beach since I arrived in Croatia to swim and lay in the sun and walk around on the rocks and through the campground, I have not spoken to anyone. Partly because I am not staying there and partly because most people are not speaking English. But what amazes me most so far is that nudity is normalized here. There are truly people of all sizes and shapes and ages. The human body takes on such a different intention in this environment. It is not sexualized in the same way. And in its natural state, every body becomes beautiful in its own way.