Do or Don’t: Naked Leisure

Do or Don't: Naked Vacations

The other night, I ate dinner with a friend who just returned from a California road trip. I expected to hear stories of coastal highways and see pictures of rocky cliffs and sparkly blue water. So you can imagine my surprise when she told me the most amazing sight was…

“Boobs.”

This was not what I expected.

“There were so many boobs!” she laughed.

She told me the high point of her trip was a late-night dip in the Esalen Hot Springs — beautiful natural pools with sweeping views of Big Sur, where clothing is sometimes optional (but eye contact is always appreciated).

“Everyone was nude, but it wasn’t weird at all!” she said. “There were people of all ages, shapes, sizes… It’s incredibly liberating. I would definitely do it again.”

The next day, while eating lunch at work, I chatted with an officemate who recently returned from a weekend getaway. Her favorite part? A visit to a nude spa. “I met this amazing woman who was there celebrating her 60th birthday,” she said. “We laughed a lot. The only weird thing was the waiters — you’re in a pool naked, and a fully dressed guy will come and bring you an iced tea.”

Intrigued, I surveyed a bunch more people — friends who work in book publishing and investment banking; humans whose outward personas don’t necessarily scream “I heart public nudity.” Surprisingly, many of them had participated in naked leisure activities.

Is this a trend? To paraphrase Mindy Kaling: Is everyone getting nude without me?

As it turns out, “nakationing” (yes, there is a word for it) is a $400 million global industry, encompassing everything from public beaches to five-star resorts.

While a nude escape doesn’t appear on my list of life accomplishments, on closer inspection, I suppose I have partaken in “acceptable nudity”: at a sauna in Queens or on a beach vacation in France. I can totally see how shedding one’s clothing could feel liberating. At the very least, you wouldn’t have to worry about tan lines or donning an ill-fitting swimsuit.

As my friends observed, going outside of your comfort zone can be surprisingly uplifting. While they expected to feel self-conscious, baring all allowed them to shake things up, forget about their flaws and just be. And isn’t that what vacations are for?

What are your thoughts on naked leisure? Have you ever been naked in a public space? Would you?

P.S. Naked babies at the beach and feeling comfortable naked.

  1. Kristin says...

    ET outside of Munich in Germany was awesome. My husband and I spent all day there and it was sooo relaxing . Too bad they limit your alcohol to three drink max tho I guess it’s a good idea with all that water and not wanting people to drown. It’s nice bc they give you electronic wrist bands that are linked to your card and you just scan it when you want a drink or food. We were nervous ab the nudity thing at first but you def get accustomed to it. Most ppl wear towels anyways when they are not in the saunas or pools but you also get a decent amount that just carry their towel and don’t care ab the nudity. In particular one little old man who we think was somewhat out of it who we would see numerous times standing right beside the pool, completely naked, all by himself. It kind of looked like he was dancing but it was more just swinging his hips side to side but without any music. We figured he was just a perverted old man showing off because his penis was the size of a cucumber. Lol

  2. Kelly says...

    Naked spa/sauna/therme with friends, family or colleagues is not a big deal in Europe. Ok, public saunas are usually sex separated in Finland, Estonia, Sweden, but most of people dont go to public saunas anyway as everybody has one at home and at work. Public saunas are mixed and nude in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Czech republic, Slovenia, Lithuania. Most of them have some age limit. This is not for the nakedness, but for noise. Many German saunas, for example, tolerate children of any age as long as they are quiet. Some saunas, like Kristall Thereme in several German cities, have the whole family policy. It means there are all ages from those who cannot still walk to those who cannot walk any more and need a wheelchair to get to saunas. The noise level in such places is tremendous compared to the saunas with age limits. Some sauna complexes, like Therme Erding (therme-erding.de) are huge. TE is the largest in the world with 25 saunas, more than hundred aufguss ceremonies in them, many swimming pools, swim-up bars, restaurants, etc. It is like a nude Disneyland. Absolutely fantastic place, but there are slightly smaller establishments in many countries in Europe (and about 900 in Germany alone). You forget the nakedness in just a few minutes and just enjoy the experience. And dont go there for an hour or two. This is a full day relaxation event and even in a full day you cannot try all the options that are available in big places like the TE.

  3. Amanda says...

    Chiming in on the onsen experience in Japan – its wonderful. My husband is Japanese, and a big part of visiting his family there is going to the onsen (hot springs). Somehow I’ve managed to dodge getting my soak on with his mom, aunts, and their friends, but!, the experience is delightful. They’re always separated by gender, and as others have said its so refreshing to see people of all ages, abilities, shapes, and sizes enjoying a bath. We were there a few weeks ago and I definitely felt the best about my body while soaking in the outdoor baths. As an American, the anonymity certainly helps me relax, I think I’d need to grow up in a culture of public bathing before I’d go with my girlfriends. :)

  4. Jane says...

    OooH! Korean spas are so popular especially when you pay extra money to have the ladies scrub dead skin off you (sounds weird) but your skin becomes so soft and you are glowing by the time you leave. You can always do it yourself but my mother says there’s a technique to scrubbing and I don’t have it. hahaha!
    Have you seen the video of Steven Yeun and Conan O’ Brien at a Korean spa? It’s hilarious! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k70xBg8en-4&feature=share

  5. My husband and I went to Esalen during our honeymoon in Big Sur and it’s one of those memories I won’t soon forget. I am NOT a naked person, I feel uncomfortable even getting undressed in front of my mom or best friend. So we wore bathing suits at first – but then once we realized everyone was naked and it was damn hot with them on, we slipped them off in the hot springs as it was nearly pitch black. But I don’t really regret that because you have to shower in front of everyone and that made me so uncomfortable to shower naked in front of dudes other than my husband. There were some young college-aged guys there and I was like, no you may not look at my naked ass. But the hot springs themselves are mind blowing, I’ve never felt so peaceful!

  6. Ariel says...

    My husband took me to Esalen on our 3rd date. So we have this “he took me to a naked hot springs on a 3rd date” joke that everybody likes…. But at the time, it really wasn’t weird at all. It’s just hot water, sound of the ocean, and the night sky. Rather romantic idea.

  7. Kayla says...

    I just returned from a trip to San Fran, where I enjoyed my first naked leisure experience with a friend. A family friendly resort hidden away, with live music, a potluck, hiking and a pool. It was divine…..

  8. Kelly says...

    I went to a topless beach in France during a study abroad in college and it was very comfortable. At least among the other Europeans, and young ladies in my class. The American guys were a little overwhelmed. But nothing inappropriate was ever said or done by anybody.

    But I was comfortable. As another commenter wrote, busty ladies don’t get to go braless very often. It was nice!

  9. Sadie says...

    Lifelong skinny-dipper here! I live in the Midwest, so nude beaches are not around, and I’m not sure how I’d feel about it. But there are lots of secluded river and lake accesses, and I have taken advantage of a lot of them! I think there is something important about dropping the rules & strictures of polite society every once in a while.

  10. Charo says...

    Only boobs? Men were not naked? No dangling “thingies”? I’m with Ana (first comment) here. I’m also from Spain and that issue has been (thank God!) a non-issue for aaaaaaaaaaaages. Sometimes the USA is far behind other countries… something to think about? ;)

  11. Ellie says...

    I lived for three years in Japan, and went to the onsens (public hot springs) every chance I got. Yes, it was a little strange to start with, but everyone is in the same boat and you get to feel very used to it. It’s just boobs! We’re all the same, and no-one is judging anyone else. It’s very liberating to wander around nekkid, something very relaxing about it. If the UK had the climate, I would totally be on board with it here!

  12. Kathryn says...

    I was always the girl who didn’t mind changing in locker rooms, going skinny dipping in the middle of night with girlfriends, or breastfeeding in public. But, for some reason, I had my head in the sand when my husband and I ended up on a nude beach while on vacation. Hubby was quick to drop his drawers and frolic in the waves, but I just sat on the sand shaking my head.

    It’s not so much being nude outside (that is a feeling I love!) but when it comes to being nude in front of other strangers (especially guys) and having everything on display at once I am uneasy. I think it’s because I don’t know what little thoughts might run through someone’s head. Are they judging my body or maybe sexualizing me?

  13. Jodi says...

    I’ve been going to nude beaches, hotsprings & spas my whole adult life. It feels completely natural & I have never had any weird experiences or people make me feel uncomfortable. The funny thing is that I feel 100 times more attractive naked than I do in a swimsuit!

    • Kelly says...

      I have always felt the same way! Like swimsuits are just rearranging things to places they shouldn’t be, hah…

  14. Ana says...

    I am from Spain and I found this article -or the fact that nudity is even a question here- quite conservative! Maybe in Europe we are more relaxed about it?
    There are hundreds of nudist beaches in Spain. Actually every big beach has a nudist area and the smaller and hidden beaches are often visited by nudists as well. When beaches are not designated as nudists, women still go top-less all the time. No big deal! It’s just boobs people, or asses or whatever…but it’s really not a big deal. Plus, it is so much healthier than wearing a wet swimming suite for hours, which can cause infections. And the feeling is lovely!

  15. Honey says...

    omg definitely not! I choose dignity. There is a time and place for being nude and that is either in the bathroom or in front of your partner. There are too many creepy people and people taking photos to later post online. There is no way on earth I would risk having a photo of me naked leaked online.

  16. Nope! Lol…definitely not for meh!

  17. Isa says...

    I did it in a nude beach, one word: funny! hahaha But I would not do it again because of the freaks that take picture of women and post them online… there are weird websites with such pics (I found out later), so unfortunately I’d skip the experience next time…

  18. Lua says...

    One of the most memorable experiences i have had so far is participating in a Hammam experience in Turkey. We were all stark naked in a beautiful old marbled room. There were women who would lie you down and clean you up, fellow female hands who looked after your body with love and non judgment. I’ve grown up with a healthy attitude towards nudity (due to my cultural background) but it was not at this level, where someone is allowed to touch your body for the sole purpose of helping you. No ounce of sexual innuendo there. It was such an amazing reminder that we are all sisters, that we could (and should) all be kinder to one another, love one another and respect one another. It facilitates self acceptance. We really are all beautiful.

    • Christina says...

      The Turkish hammam was my first thought when I read this too! It’s an experience that should be on everyone’s “bucket” list.

  19. I had an “opposite” experience that still makes me shudder. I was wearing my swimsuit and a cover-up caftan on Sandy Hook’s nude beach on a weekday, when apparently only retirees are around (I’m thirty-something). A sixty-something naked man approached me (I was wandering by myself along the shoreline) and tried to pick me up. It felt like a violation.

  20. A few years ago I was at Hidden a Beach on Lake Tahoe and two retired women walked up and asked my friends and I if we’d keep watch while they skinny dipped! I loved their attitude and we chatted while they swam around. They were checking things off their bucket lists, skinny dipping being just one item. They had hot air ballooned in Napa the day before and also done separate solo trips to Europe. I will never forget them. It was amazing.

    Side note: whenever I meet up with my girlfriends in Tahoe, we always swim out and let our swim tops down… As busty ladies there aren’t many times when the boobs aren’t weighing us down, it’s totally freeing!

  21. Heather says...

    I’ve always been intrigued by this, but I would need to be minus at least 50 pounds before I’d ever get the nerve.

  22. I travel a lot to Japan because of my husband’s work, and my favorite thing to do there is go to the public bath houses and hot springs. As a foreigner, I get stared at a lot, which can make the whole situation feel especially awkward. Even so, it’s been a really fantastic adventure in facing classically uncomfortable situations. (Sometimes it feels like I’m living in the showing up to school naked nightmare, and taking it back!) Japanese women are very modest in public but at the onsen, you see everyone–from children to great-grandmas basking in their nudity.

  23. Christi says...

    Yes, embracing the human form in its naturalness is a way of life for many of us, although we’ve long been dismissed as “hippies” and “granola” or “those crazy Californians”. The more we accept our bodies as natural in all of their perfect imperfections, the better. It’s cool that more people seem to be catching on to that.

    I do wish those embarking on such a novel “nakacation” do not take endless photos and post them all over the place. Can we please continue to enjoy these places, which are often sacred, without documenting it all over Instagram? They’re just boobs. Here is praise for your new bravery and freedom, rock on!… now please stop broadcasting it and enjoy the moment peacefully.

  24. I’m someone who never wears pants at home and could go months without wearing a bra but being full-blown naked in public…I think I’d be 1. Worried about how my body looks and 2. Doesn’t that take a lot more sunscreen…

    I’m a fashion blogger from NYC. Check out my stylish adventures at sustenanceandstyle.com!

    I love working with new bloggers so reach out if you want to collaborate!

    With love from NYC,
    Stephanie

  25. bisbee says...

    If anyone wants to…that is just fine with me. For myself? I went skinny dipping when I was a hippie in college in the early ’70s. Now I am a 64 year old grandmother, and for me, this is a non-starter. Nothing to do with my age…I am more comfortable with all of my flaws hidden under clothing in public. It would be the exact opposite of a uplifting experience for me.

  26. May says...

    It can be surprising how relaxed the atmosphere is once you get in the water. However, I wouldn’t chose a nude beach, but I like the idea they are there just in case I win the lottery and get those thousands of dollars of plastic surgery. :)

  27. Franziska says...

    You know, the funniest thing is that here in Germany, no one ever wears bathing suits in a sauna – we always go nude! I grew up going to the sauna with my dad and his wife a lot and it was always a completely normal thing for me. My home wasn’t a nude home in the sense of my dad/mom running around nacked, but it was no problem at all to get ready in the bathroom while my big brothers or parents were taking a shower. I feel like this is so much more liberating and maybe that is also why we don’t wear bathing suits at the sauna. However, there are mixed days (both sexes) and ladies/gents only days :)

  28. Nici says...

    Esalen hot springs is amazing. My girlfriend and I did the 1am public access hot springs there around 30 years ago!

  29. Me and my husband are planning a road trip through CA and up to the PNW for our honeymoon. This is now on the list – thank you Caroline! I can’t imagine how magical it would be.

    I’ve failed to convince him to come to a nudist beach with me in the past, but I’m hoping I can convince him.

  30. Amy says...

    Esalen hot springs is the most amazing thing! My boyfriend and I did the 1am-3am public access hot springs there a couple years ago and it was so cool. We are totally going back again!

  31. Shannon says...

    This makes me want to take a nakation! Thanks for the inspiration. Esalen looks magical.

  32. Patricia says...

    Lol! I love hot spring nudity! I think embracing nudity is essential! There is a time and a place. I remember when my husband and I first got together he came over after work and said lets go to the hot springs! Mind you it was about 9 pm. We scurried and packed our bags and just planned on soaking late into the evening/morning! When we arrived to our destination we hiked down and realize we were not alone. There sat soaking in the hot spring a middle aged man! I was a tad hesitant at first because it was rather late and we were in the mountains with nobody around. My husband said ‘lighten up’ I decided to trust his judgement. We ended soaking with Jim until the wee hours. Come to find out this man is known around the area for looking after many hot springs! Let’s just say I wasn’t keeping eye contact on accident while Jim stoop up! I still have that visual in my head! LOL ! My husband and I still giggle about that one time:)

  33. Meredith says...

    My first time to Spa Castle I did this. There was a females only room off the locker room with all these beautiful pools. It was my favorite part of the experience. You actually HAVE to be nude to take a dip, no swimsuits allowed. I was incredibly nervous but then I just lost my robe and went for it!
    I did see a few ladies who had friends with them, I wondered if that would feel weird. I was by myself and I loved it.

  34. Emily says...

    I LOVE public nudity! Your comment about the ill fitting swim suits is SO true. I haven’t bought a suit in years now because I only frequent the nude beach just outside my city (Portland, OR). I also participate in a naked bike ride every year which is just awesome. Hundreds of people gather at dusk on a night near the summer solstice and ride through town naked. It’s a big naked bike party! The best part is that it is really desexualized and I think illustrates a far healthier relationship with body image and body love than almost anything else culturally. Our bodies aren’t just for sex and attraction, they are for celebrating and living in!

  35. Angela says...

    We recently honeymooned in Big Sur, I regret not visiting the Esalen Hot Springs. Being in the best shape of my life (aka, wedding body) it would been so empowering to strut my stuff in the buff.

  36. I am all for nudity and even feel comfortable going topless on the beach if I’m alone or with friends, but I have to say — the nude beaches on Martha’s vineyard are….. Awkward! They seem to attract older men who seem to have exhibitionistic tendencies and it goes from liberating to uncomfortable REAL fast.

  37. Talia says...

    No, this is not for me. It is fine for others, me – no.

  38. Can’t say I’ve ever thought of being naked in public as something that will allow me to “forget my flaws” and “just be.” But maybe? Ha. Interesting that many people DO feel that way!

  39. annie says...

    It’s totally a thing in Germany and it’s amazing. My husband is German and every time we go back to visit family, we go to a “naked spa”. It’s the most relaxing and liberating thing ever. No one is looking at you. People are just there to relax. No one cares what you look like (and since a lot of old people go, you’re often the best looking one there anyway ;)) Going to the nude spa is a lifestyle in Germany. Take me back!

    • Aimee says...

      Exactly! My husband spends a lot of the year in Germany for work and is a devotee of Therme Erding. I went to the spa with him for the first time last winter, and it was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. I’m a 40-something with a figure that’s trending towards the rubenesque….and I was just one of the crowd. When people gasp that “I could never do that!” I tell them, “you’re 100% naked and 100% anonymous” in a place like this. No doubt, though, it’s mentally an easier hurdle to clear (dropping your robe) when you’re in an environment that’s specifically for that purpose.

  40. I second Burning Man. Have never felt happier with my body than there, even though I didn’t get butt naked myself, so many people are and its genuinely not a big deal. It’s a wonderful reminder of how different and ‘flawed’ everyone’s bodies are, incredibly refreshing when all you normally see is a photoshopped standard in magazines that’s actually nothing like reality. It’s so important to see what someone who’s had a baby looks like naked, or what someone over 50 looks like, otherwise how can you prepare yourself for the changes your own body will go through? I think we probably all had much healthier body images when we used to see more people naked e.g when communal bathing was still a big part of society in places like Ancient Greece and Rome.

    • I love this comment so much! What a great perspective!! Thank you.

    • Maggie says...

      Perfectly put. Magazines, online blogs (yes, even this one) and television shows mostly show us size 4-6 women with small waists, shiny hair and long limbs. I have learned more body acceptance from visiting (women-only) clothing-optional spas than anywhere else, where everyone is minding their own business and not embarrassed whatsoever about their cellulite, droopy boobs or stretch marks. We are alive, our bodies are miracles, and letting go of our cultural preoccupation with the “perfect body” is super healthy. Viva la nudité!

  41. Melanie says...

    Love this! This past weekend my 2 sisters and I (we’re 28, 30 and 35 from WI) did a kayaking/camping trip. When we got done kayaking we jumped out in the river and were just talking when one of my sisters said let’s skinny dip! It was broad daylight and we all ripped our suits off and just chatted. It was lovely. It was amazing what we started talking about (how are marriages are really doing, insecurities etc) once the clothes came off. My husband thought this was super bizarre but I think our culture of shaming our bodies is what’s bizarre. Makes me wish we had more opps to strip down and just be ourselves and have it not be about sex.

  42. Laughed out loud when you described nudity as “uplifting.” I agree in theory, but after three kids, my boobs need some serious uplifting. I’ve done my share of nude in the spa hot-tub stuff, but if we’re talking mixed gender nudity I’d probably feel more comfortable at a bottomless beach than a topless one. Ha!

  43. Maggie Haggie says...

    As long as its not on top of a sacred mountain in Malaysia and you do it disregarding that you’ve been warned not to, it is alright with me! The timing on this post is too real!

    • well said ! +1

  44. Tabby says...

    I have just returned from a few years living and working in Japan. Before leaving I had heard about the naked bathhouses and thought to myself ‘that’s not for me’, however after settling in I was persuaded to go by a friend and absolutely loved it. Actually it’s one of the biggest things I miss since returning home. Relaxing in a steaming hon tub under a crisp sky is one of the nicest feelings. As it is just a way of life out there, there is no awkwardness or weirdness about it. Mothers and daughters go together, grandmas, friends of all ages – it’s such a lovely bonding thing and a nice way to view nakedness in an accepting and very nonsexual way.

  45. yael steren says...

    I’ve gone topless on a beach but that’s just about as far as I think I would take it! Happy Friday! xo yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  46. Awads says...

    Meh…good for them, not for me! Most bodies that yearn to be nude in public aren’t bodies i necessarily want to see. i know that sounds mean, but it is what it is. i appreciate clothing.

  47. Danielle says...

    My husband and I went to Japan last year, and my favorite part of the trip was the day we spent at the “onsen” (nude hot springs). I absolutely loved the experience because it was humanizing and made me reflect on how similar we all are at the core. I wish onsens were part of American culture.

  48. I never thought about something like this until last year when we were vacationing in Formentera, a tiny Mediterranean island. We stumbled upon a lovely beach and we decided to spend our day there. There were just a few people there and everyone was minding their own business, so we took our books our watermelon snacks and spend a few hours resting and having a great time. At some point we realized that everyone else was naked! It was so natural and people were just so quiet and relaxed that we didn’t notice that they didn’t wear swimsuits. So all of a sudden I took off my onepiece. WHAT?? I don’t know, I just did. And it was amazing. I’ve always struggled with my weight so I didn’t expect that from me, but I went for it. It felt natural, liberating and… comfortable. It’s not something that I would do everyday but I really enjoyed it because it felt like picture perfect bodies didn’t matter, just your healthy alive body and your capacity to feel great on your skin. I now understand why there is so many people that visit nudist beaches. Feeling the warm sun and the fresh salty sea on your whole body is an experience that everyone should live at least once to learn to love their bodies. I sure see myself different since I dared to take off my swimsuit!
    xx,
    E.
    http://www.theslowpace.com

  49. We use to go to Esalen at 1 in the morning. We would drive down from college because in the middle of the night it only cost $5 to use the hot springs. The exact one pictured above. It was always best when there was a full moon. We often wore no clothes. It’s okay when everyone does it. It would be a little weird if you were the only one. Also it was night so it was still dark. That picture took me right back! Such an amazing place.

  50. I’m surprised no one else has already mentioned Burning Man. That’s where I discovered how liberating and empowering and so not weird it can be to be naked in public. I never went fully nude; the farthest I went was topless with a hot pink mini skirt and Hello Kitty pasties and I think that’s one of my favorite “outfits” I’ve ever worn! There is definitely something about letting it all hang out to make you feel completely at ease with yourself and the human body. It takes a little courage at first but I was so glad I did.

  51. Tinna says...

    I live in Iceland where we use public swimming pools a lot and everyone has to get naked for the showers (male and female separated).
    The best part about hanging out with naked people is that you’re reminded of what normal people look like! Although I *know* how much makeup and photoshop is needed for models and actresses to look like they do in the magazines it is nice to get a little reminder that, oh yeah cellulite, weird lumps, soft bellies and lopsided boobs. So freaking real and just… nice.

  52. Iris Restolho says...

    I will try to wright with my best English.

    Being Portuguese, born in Angola – Africa, and had living my all adult live in Europe, nudity is normal, and most of the time an asexual thing.

    One of the things European think about america and can’t understand is why a movie with nudity is classified for bigger then 18 or 21, and movies with guns and violence are appropriated for kids under 13. This is incomprehensible for us.

    Nudity in family were (when i was a child) and are normal. I bath with my husband and my almost 2 years old son, and see naked people in some Portuguese beaches, are totally normal. All beaches aloud upper nudity and that is normal and not sexual.

  53. Annie says...

    I’m an 18-year-old girl from Finland and I’m all for! It seems to depend on the culture a lot; in Finland we have the sauna-culture, where all swimming halls, camp sites, summer cottages and most homes have a sauna, and we go in naked. So nudity feels more natural for us than probably in the US, and the thought that some people haven’t even seen their family members naked (and find the thought gross) is absurd to me! I think it’s important to see nudity elsewhere than media due to the way it is almost always portrayed in an unrealistic and sexual manner and can be quite harmful for one’s body-image.

    Btw I’m visiting New York City (and the States) for the first time at the moment, I can’t wait to check out the places you’ve recommended in your NYC Guides!

    xx Annie

  54. Prudence Yeo says...

    I probably will only be comfortable taking naked leisure activities with my husband and future kids. Guess it can be a liberating experience indeed since there are people who really enjoy naked leisure. As long as they feel comfortable doing it and not causing any harm, there’s no reason to discourage others from enjoying themselves for sure!

    Prudence
    http://www.prudencepetitestyle.com

  55. Kati says...

    I’m from Finland, where regular visits to the sauna are an essential part of our countries culture. Almost every house and aparment has one, and you go in naked – wearing a bathing suit or even a towel around yourself would be considered totally weird. Families usually go together, though most public saunas are gender separated. Thus I grew up seing all kinds of bodies naked and I really appreciate that my children see the whole variety of how a womans or mans body can look like. Two anecdotes just to do describe how important and natural (but also how non-sexual) sauna and nakedness is: my non-Finnish partner only became really a part of my extended family when he joined all my 17 (male) cousins for a visit in the sauna and proved that he can stay in as long as the Finns. And when a non-Finnish friend told me some years ago that she had never seen her parents naked, I was in total shock.

  56. CC says...

    I have no problem with nudity. I’m tanline free from waist up at the moment. :) I really dislike how our American culture perpetuates breasts as sexual. So I go topless when I want. Braless when I want. It’s my body and quite frankly I don’t care what others think. Also doing so is my feminist statement to the world. My mom however thinks this is terrible and that women’s breats shouldn’t be on display. This is where we disagree. Also I don’t think being topless is you putting yourself on display. If others want to stare they are at fault. As for bottoms I prefer to keep them on. I just feel more comfortable but I’m not opposed to going sans.

  57. MFree says...

    I was all for naked leisure unless it mixes with food! I once saw a woman eating a mound of beef carpaccio with a raw egg on top off a plate rested on her boobs.

    • Lauren E. says...

      A writer friend just went to a nude beach in New Jersey for a story, and she said it was totally comfortable and liberating… except for when it came time to eat her sandwich! So funny.

  58. Kelsey says...

    I grew up in Northern California and live in San Francisco now, but my mother is quite inhibited about her body and, by extension, her sexuality. She has always been very skinny and flat-chested. If she knew about Esalen or nakationing, she never revealed it! She gave birth to three girls who grew up to be curvy women with full breasts (thanks, Dad!) and it took each of us a long time to discover our beauty. I found that skinny-dipping while backpacking in my teens and early twenties and discovering clothing optional hot springs in my late twenties were vital. I’m getting married in October and we’ve got a mini-moon planned for three days at our favorite clothing optional hot spring immediately after the wedding weekend. Our honeymoon is in Istanbul and we’re likely to track down more saunas and springs over there! Before I tried nakationing, I never imagined it was for me. It’s totally for everyone.

  59. Ina says...

    At every public sauna in Germany everybody is naked and it’s totally normal (and we have many). I wrap myself in a towel when getting something to drink or put a bathgown on but you don’t have to, just how you feel comfortable. There’s public beachareas only for nudes all over Germany and in eastern Germany it was even more popular. I remember holidays in Denmark with my parents and a befriended family and at the beach everybody was naked.
    I used to work in a travel agency and remember a catalogue with nudist camps and hotels all over the world. Being naked all the time, at sports, eating… is one step too far for me but I love the free feeling being outside naked, feeling the water and the sun on my body even with a big size.

    Ina

  60. CATHERINE says...

    Remember “Ugly Naked Guy”????
    I don’t think I could do it, I’ve grown ashamed of my body.

  61. In my twenties I spent a lot of time at summer festivals, some of them clothing optional, and hot springs (always naked). It was a mixed experience for me. Mostly, I enjoyed feeling connected to the earth and all my hippy ideas but some men also seemed to take advantage of the situation (it seems to me they did in the 60s too). I think being naked is great, as long as we don’t let down our guard completely.

  62. Nakedness doesn’t always have to be sexual…I think we send the wrong message to kids when we always associate bare bodies with sex.
    I grew up sauna-ing with my family naked, and it felt totally normal. It’s gross to sweat all over a towel or your bathing suit…And in my opinion it’s a little backwards to feel ashamed about being naked around your own family (unless of course there’s good reason to be- which, thankfully, in my case there was not!)
    Now as an adult my husband and our friends sauna and hot tub together naked in the winter. There is nothing better than being free of all those layers of heavy clothes in the middle of January, sprinting across the frozen, snow covered deck (“Aaaaaahhhhh!”), hopping into a steaming tub of water and sipping whiskey and star-gazing with your best friends.

    • june2 says...

      “Nakedness doesn’t always have to be sexual…”

      Amen. I supposed because my childhood was in Europe that nudity has never been even remotely *primarily* sexual for me. It’s only ever been incidentally sexual. There is such a healthy difference. But I do remember the first time I went naked as an adult, (in a secluded Hawaiian waterfall – don’t hate me!!), there were people I didn’t know there and it was a huge leap of trust to bare all my perceived ‘flaws’ in front of everyone. What made it possible for me was that they were all so used to nudity as a healthy experience that no one was at all self-conscious – or sexual – and that made me realize how silly I was being!
      Skinny dipping is the best.

  63. Growing up going to hot springs and Asian bath houses, I think it’s completely natural to be naked. Unfortunately I’d still generally uncomfortable being naked in front of strangers of the opposite sex (I guess being catcalled and being verbally and physically leered at by trusted mentors would do that to you)

    If it were my choice, I guess the world would walk around in only underwear ( the underwear solely for hygienic reasons)

  64. Jenna says...

    My now husband and I did a California road trip and one of our stops was a nude dip at the Esalen spa. To this day it is one of our favorite memories. There is something so unique about the waves crashing below, a zillion stars above, and nothing between you and all of that. Amazing. Highly recommend. I also recently took at topless dive into the ocean at The Standard at Miami. I guess I like to nakation!

  65. I feel like this one is one of those things where it’s great if other people want to do it, but it’s definitely not for me.

    Kristi | Be Loverly

  66. With the right person, it could be amazing. I might not want to do it solo. I’ve been to a nude beach before (although I chose to stay in my swimsuit), but it didn’t bother me.

  67. ali says...

    Personally I think the fact that it is so intentional is the strange part. I’m a doula and also studied figure drawing for quite a long time so nudity has been quite the norm for me you could say. But I also think it should serve a particular function and purpose. Does that make sense? From what your describing it just seems to unnatural.

  68. I immediately recognized that photo! Esalen is such a special place. I’ve been there three times. Beautiful place, beautiful people, amazing workshops, and yes, lots of boobs (I did the baths and massage during the day and at night), but it seems so OK at that place. I thought it would weird me out, but it all seems pretty natural there. Plus, the fact that the baths jut out into the Pacific Ocean doesn’t hurt!

  69. My husband and I did Esalen a day after our wedding and it was the most beautiful and genuine experience.

  70. Eileen says...

    I became much more comfortable being naked after having a baby. Probably because we had trouble breast feeding at first and I spent those early weeks topless all the time. Like at the dinner table, even with my visiting parents. Baby’s gotta eat! Anyway, this is a great trend and I probably should look for a naked option for our next vaca!

  71. Ah, I love hot springs.

    I am living in Japan and bathing here is a ritual. Going to hot springs and public baths are cheap luxuries that most anyone will be up for and of course, you’ll look like an idiot if you insisted on wearing a suit into the baths.

    I adore it and it’s uplifting, I don’t think we see enough regular bodies in their natural states and that’s when we start to hold ourselves against incredible standards and nitpicking our own bodies. When you are with a group of women, varying from children to grannies, you realize that your body is fine and being hard on it for not looking like models or celebrities just seems silly.

  72. My husband and I are returning to our favorite B&B in New Orleans this month…and it happens to have the only clothing optional saltwater pool in the city! Since it’s a small group of folks, I felt totally comfortable shimmying off my bathing suit top and jumping in but for some reason I can never leave off my bottoms. Even when I visited Black’s Beach in San Diego as a resident there I’d got topless but not bottomless. Maybe it’s a smidge of the southern Baptist (no longer) upbringing that refuses to bend?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds like so much fun!

  73. Cool! My first thought when I saw the photo was, “Is that Esalen?” I went there when I was a kid, maybe 11? with my mom and her friends. At that time you could go for free at night. It was magical, camping and walking through eucalyptus forests to pebble beaches, going in the hot tubs up on the cliffs in the dark and hearing the waves crash below. The nudity was very weird to me. I went back in my 20’s with a group of woman and it wasn’t weird at all.

  74. I lol’d so hard at “Is everyone getting nude without me?”. I didn’t know nakationing was a thing. Hate to admit it but I’m way to self conscious to try it. Would be way more anxiety inducing than liberating for me :( I’ll stick to private spaces for now.

    http://www.disfordreamer.com

  75. Annabelle says...

    I always enjoy reading your blog – thank you, ladies. I clicked through to your article on feeling comfortable naked, and saw that it had been massively threadjacked. Hope you can keep the jackers away, I love reading comments and feeling part of the cupofjo community.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note — we are on it! we got so many spam comments through blogger (drag), so we are still working to clean it up. we’ll clean that one up as much as possible tomorrow. happily, moving forward, we should have little to none. thank you again, annabelle!

  76. Emily says...

    I went to a spa with a friend where everyone was naked, and I realized that I had never before seen ordinary women’s bodies like that! I’d seen movies and billboards and photoshopped magazine ads. It was so encouraging to see all these different kinds of bodies. I’m also pro-skinny dipping, but have only done it twice (once under a full moon – I felt like loveliness itself). My daughters are being taught to cover up even as toddlers in our conservative town, and I’m sad for them. I feel like they should get to run around naked or in their underpants until they’re about 5!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a good point, emily! when we were in san francisco a few years ago, alex and i went to the baths in koreatown, and i went in the huge women’s area and everyone was naked. it was so awesome to see all kinds of bodies, and i felt the same way — oh look! saggy boobs! oh look! a wrinkly belly! oh look! big/small/this/that/and/the/other! it was so refreshing and empowering to just see these women of all ages hanging out doing their thing.

  77. Kathleen says...

    You can bet your life I would never poet nude in public! I have nightmares about it.

  78. Such serendipity! I wrote about nudity just yesterday as I was reflecting on an experience I had at a spa in Vegas a couple of weeks ago: while clothing was optional, I was the only one in the buff. I thought it was mighty strange to be in a sauna in a bikini but nobody else did. I have lived in this country for 20 years now and I have always found American women much more modest, when it comes to nudity, than their European counterparts. But maybe things are changing, judging from the comments to this post.

  79. Oh my gosh this totally reminds me of the Sex and the City when Charlotte explains that a particularly “liberated” woman in a locker room must have grown up in a “naked house.” I’ve always thought about that, because I grew up in the opposite of a naked house! Until I was about 12, it was just me, my sisters and my mom–all women, and yet we always closed doors to change, etc. I’ve been skinny dipping in the ocean at night (took swimsuits off once we were in the water) and it was awesome, but I can’t imagine participating in any type of public nudity! It’s just not for me. :)

  80. Kristy says...

    Since I’ve gained weight in recent years and become self-conscious and uncomfortable in my body, I have found that going to a nude beach is far more comfortable and liberating than a clothed beach. I don’t feel any pressure to look a certain way in a bikini or bathing suit and knowing that there are so many others with “imperfect” bodies enjoying the sun and sand in the buff, makes me feel comfortable and confident. I also love not having to sit around in a wet suit, which is something I loathe. And who doesn’t love a good skinny dip?

  81. Alex says...

    I love being naked! I go topless at the beach whenever I can. Maybe growing up in Miami with lots of Europeans and South Americans at the beach made me feel more comfortable. That’s why Ft Tildon is the best city beach in NYC – tona of boobs. This summer I’m pregnant with my first and I actually am not sure if I’ll go topless. I think I’m afraid of making other people uncomfortable. Any thoughts on this dilemma?

  82. Natalie says...

    We have a nude beach here in Vancouver, BC called Wreck Beach, and it is so liberating! It’s a total escape, it faces West so you can’t even see the city, just a huge forested hill behind you and the open ocean (almost) in front of you.

    • Emily says...

      Oh, wreck beach is gorgeous, but I’ve never been there nude and never seen anyone naked there – I think I’ve always gone at the wrong time of year. Maybe someday…for my 60th birthday? :)

  83. Jenni says...

    When I was younger I attended a summer camp (which was one of a few under the same organization that run camps in North America as well as the rest of the world) and the showers were “communal” meaning there were shower heads around the room and the curtains were only used if certain campers were self-conscious, but everyone had the choice to use them if they wanted. These showers were separated by gender, however. Many people, when they hear about this situation, often are quite shocked but if anything these showers taught me that everyone has a body and even if we feel self-conscious, we should be comfortable in our own skin, since our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of! It was extremely liberating. When I became a junior counsellor at said camp, I learned that counsellors are only allowed to shave their legs in front of the older kids, so that younger age groups didn’t feel any pressure to do so. Overall, I think nudity (in certain, appropriate situations like at hot springs, sauna or nude beaches) can be a great way to accept who you are rather than stigmatize people for being comfortable in their own skin!

  84. What a great topic! I love your posts that inspire a super interesting comment thread, like this one :)

    I have never done public nudity, but I have to say it’s so appealing to me. I used to be somewhat modest, but in grad school I had this AHA moment on a camping trip, where I just decided it wasn’t worth worrying about! It went something like this: WHO CARES if someone sees me with my pants down peeing in the woods. It’s really not a big deal. It was sooo liberating. I am no longer shy about changing in front of people or anything like that. It’s the best. It really, truly is.

    The best part about being 8 months pregnant is how tight my stomach is. I like to joke that I’ve always wanted a super tight stomach; I just never imagined it would be rotund at the same time ;) But it is tight, and so I feel more comfortable than normal in a bikini, for example!

  85. I did it in an Onsen in Tokyo, and it was very awkward, but fun. I was the only occidental women and nobody cares. This is a normal thing in Japan and in fact I saw families (children and Granmas) there.
    I think I would never do that in my city, but if I’m on vacation and nobody knows me, I would do it again.

  86. Amy Lauree says...

    When we vacationed in Nelson, BC Canada, we went for a swim at a regular old recereation center pool waering bathing suits and so was everyone else. But when I got back to the change room, every single woman walked around naked and showered totally naked. Here in Edmonton, Alberta, after swim, everyone attempts to rinse off with a bathing suit after, so I was surprised on this vacation. It felt weirder to keep my swimsuit on, so I peeled it off and showered freely. It felt so GREAT. I could actually clean myself without awkwardly trying to do so with a swim suit on. I loved it, even though it was a baby step to being in full on public. :)

  87. Nikki says...

    I am 100% a naturist and proud of it and invite everyone to try it at least once! I am sure you will love it, you’ll find the nicest people, get an incredible tan, and swimming/not sitting in a wet bathing suit is EVERYTHING. Plus, you have no need to buy a new bikini every season bc you don’t wear one ;)

    I’m thinking about starting a blog reviewing all the nudey beaches my husband and I have visited bc there aren’t enough resources out there and there are so many fantastic places. Props to you for foraying into the FKK world, Joanna!

    • Nikki says...

      Ah, Caroline sorry! :)

  88. anon says...

    Went naked hot-tubbing with my MIL during a spa day in Vegas. We were both pretty self-conscious at first, but had a great time…met some great other women. Have no problem with public nudity in this context. But that was a women’s only spa. The idea of having men and women sharing a jacuzzi in the buck makes me a little more uncomfortable…unless of course it was my hubby ;)

  89. I feel comfortable being naked at home with my husband. That’s it. haha Power to the people who want to be naked around others though. I don’t think anything’s wrong with it, it’s just not for me.

    Her Heartland Soul
    http://herheartlandsoul.com

  90. I had a pretty strange childhood and one of the big things I was taught was to hide my body, this really caused me to feel shame regarding my body. Now I am passionate about body positivity and wish I could go back and tell my younger self that I should be proud of my body and not afraid to show it. I am thirty-one now and I’m just starting to let myself wear red lipstick or show a curve or two, it’s so liberating! I am still incredibly shy being naked, even around my husband, but I would be willing to try public nudity at some point, or at least a bikini!

  91. Ashley says...

    It’s all fun and games until someone blames your nakedness for causing an earthquake!

  92. Hmmm. I’m Norwegian. We are pretty relaxed about nudity, but I’m also Mormon, which brings with it quite strict cultural standards of modesty. My father thought I was too prudish and too self-conscious growing up, so on a trip to Germany when I was 13, he took me to a German ‘Kurbad’ where everybody was naked. It totally backfired! If anything, I became even more obsessed about covering up! I can laugh now, but then it was totally traumatizing…! I don’t mind others being naked, but I would rather not be myself, at least not in public… :-)

  93. In my town (in the Alps) the sauna is an institution and I try to go every week if I can, and bathing suits are not allowed. Everyone is totally naked and it’s totally normal.

  94. Annie says...

    I am a very religious person (Mormon!) and I’ve always been a little unsure of if it’s “okay” to do public nudity in acceptable places like a nude beach. I have always been a closet nudist (ask any roommate I’ve had or my husband). I looove being naked, and even though my body is MUCH different post-baby, I am more comfortable and confident in my body than ever before (jiggles and stretch marks included!)

    I think the human body is so amazing and beautiful in all shapes and sizes. I’d say it’s a definite DO! Maybe someday I’ll summon the courage to ask my church leaders if I can still be considered a good Mormon and visit a nude hot spring. ;)

    • Anne says...

      i share your background and have to say if you ask, I can’t imagine the answer would be yes. That said, I really think this is a personal thing and as I get older I don’t think this would bother me or my standards personally. Being naked sounds better than being out in my underwear which I routinely panic dream about!

  95. Anna says...

    Thanks for bringing up this topic, I feel very strongly about nudity! I grew up in East Germany where it was normal to be nude a lot. Beaches and outdoor pools were usually nude so you would go with your parents and their friends and children and see a lot of naked bodies. Growing up like this has given me a much more confident and, I think natural, attitude towards my body. I don’t feel self-conscious when I’m naked, my body isn’t perfect but I know most peoples’ aren’t. Very grateful to have been introduced to nudity at an early age!

  96. My husband and I love backpacking and whenever we come across backcountry hot springs we always go nude — whether there are other people there or not. That beings said, when I was in CO a few years ago I saw a billboard for a Family Nudist Camp. Naturally my curiosity brought me to their website where i learned hundreds of families gather for week-long vacations at this resort during the summer months. They even had advice for helping your teen get adjusted to nude vacationing. Honestly, that was too much for me!

  97. Gina says...

    I live in Barcelona, where you can see more women going half naked (topless) at the beach than women with the bikini top on. I don’t remember wearing my bra at the beach since I was 18 (I’m 23 now). For me, is the most natural thing to do. My parents are big naked leisure fans since their twenties and while I’m not most of the time (well, not in Barcelona where the beach is crowded) I do it sometimes and it feels so good! Totally liberating. Plus, I’m an actress and we didn’t have women/men room/bathrooms at the drama school so changing clothes and being naked in front of others was the rule. (And, of course, acting involves being naked sometimes)

  98. In a safe and comfortable environment, it can be empowering. In years past I’ve done the women-only days at San Francisco’s Kabuki Springs & Spa, and to see women of different shapes and sizes (read: not “perfect” bodies) walking around so relaxed in their skin was liberating.

  99. Britt says...

    A definite yes! I sunbath topless/naked whenever i can, even in my own garden (oh, the luck of having 0 neighbours!). I do cover up on the beach if most people are doing it, but when I spot some topless women, I definitely join the pack.

  100. Jessica says...

    Do! I live in CO and we have quite a few hot springs, several clothing optional. My favorite, which I don’t dare name…is my happy place. So relaxing! No one cares what you look like! Cellulite, bush, no bush, flat stomach, beer gut….it’s all about disconnecting and relaxing…whoa I sound like more of a hippy than I thought I was!

  101. Pascua says...

    It’s different when it’s a place where nudity is required. When everyone is doing it, it’s no biggie

  102. Esalen is one of my favorite places on Earth. I’m a very modest person in most aspects of life; I’ve worn a one-piece for years while all my other 20-something peers flaunt about in bikinis. But at Esalen, I felt equal. Everyone was bearing all and no one was self-conscious. Everyone seemed so confident and I was hoping I did too. I felt to free from judgement, which is the complete opposite of what I thought I would feel. I felt myself thinking that everyone else was so beautiful, their eyes and their boldness. Amazing experience and everyone should try. (We also had great conversations with a few professors there, visiting from upstate California; such wonderful, interesting people!)

  103. Hannah says...

    I’ve never tried it and it would be tough for me to be so bold. BUT I can imagine it would make it a lot easier to pack…

  104. I’ve just come back from Palma in mallorca and there were quite a few people sunbathing topless or on the nude beaches. I went topless in front of my four year old and husband on the normal beach. i wanted to show him there should be no shame around the female form and tbh i felt comfortable and it shows my son how to be comfortable in his body and you shouldn’t be ashamed of your naked itself. I know it’s not for everyone but my mum taught me to love my body when i was tiny so i hope to be able to pass it on to my child. xx
    http://www.wildandgrizzly.com

  105. I love the way clothes feel on my body, so I probably wouldn’t seek out a nude vacay. Maybe I’ll revisit the idea on my 60th birthday!

  106. Jeannie Pham says...

    It definitely depends on the culture one was brought up in! Being naked at home, alone, totally rocks. And, I love being nude at (the appropriate, often Korean) spas, but I prefer if it’s separated by gender (inclusive of trans who identify as a woman).

    My mother and I are close and we’ve always been comfortable being nude around each other; I’ve really carried that confidence and comfort with me as an adult. Love the body you were given….around other people!! lol

  107. Sarah says...

    P.S. I am soooo happy to not have to login into a Google account to leave a comment! Love this new updated featured, gals. xx

  108. First of all Caroline, you are such a great writer! I love reading your lovely, thoughtful posts! I think an activity like a Korean spa where everyone is au natural might be fun, but I’m always so nervous!! What an interesting trend!

    http://Www.angelhearthomes.blogspot.com

  109. ashley says...

    ha. spa castle. such a funny place yeah?

    and i support this notion! in many ways i feel a lot more comfortable naked than i do with clothes! ie i only notice “problem areas” when i have to dress them! (am i the only one?)

    • Ana Simoes says...

      Totally. I find the exact same thing with holidays and mirrors. In my 20s, I could only afford camping, so I got to travel all through Europe beaches without much grooming time. In the public bathrooms, I could only brush, put on a dress and then go out, forget the mirror and just enjoy the vacations. It fell so liberating, not having to check myself out, adjust clothes, hide tummy. I wet to a lot of nude beaches and it felt great. I would not, however, go to a nude vacationing place. It sounds more like a lifestyle and I do not identify with it.

  110. Sarah says...

    Yes to nakedness! Hot springs, cold springs, warm springs, any springs. Naked all the time. Celebrate your body and get free!

  111. This sounds awesome. I feel like I wouldn’t mind being naked around strangers, but would feel awkward with friends. Even though: no one cares!!

  112. Amen! Nothing to be ashamed or afraid. Everyone has a naked body!

  113. Chelsea says...

    I think I would! It sounds like fun, if the environment feels comfortable enough.

    Plus then I wouldn’t feel compelled to pack so much. ;-)

  114. Caitlin says...

    I’ve been to Korean spas in Los Angeles where everyone is nude and felt pretty comfortable. I went with a friend and I think the initial taking off your robe part made us hesitate for a second, but then you just get over it and hop in one of the pools. To be fair, I’ve worked as a nude art model for the last few years so I suppose I have more experience being nude in semi-public places than most people. After a while it just starts to feel like another day at the office haha. That being said, I definitely don’t think of myself as an exhibitionist by any means and am only comfortable in certain places, situations, or company. In fact, I don’t think I’d be any more or less comfortable “nakationing” than other people, but if it looks fun I might as well try it!

  115. I knew I recognized that view! My husband and I actually went to Esalen Hot Springs when we honeymooned in Big Sur :)

    It was one of the most memorable things we did, but we went at night and you could see the waves and the stars. Can’t wait to go back sometime.