I am a lifelong, though definitely part-time, naturist; I don’t go on naturist holidays in Britain because it’s frankly too cold! Naturism and nudism, are basically the same thing, but naturism is a more accurate description because of its emphasis on nature rather than nakedness. There is a long list of what naturism does not involve, chiefly any form of voyeurism or exhibitionism. It’s not usually a requirement that you get naked, unless and until you’re comfortable. Naturism is, as its name suggests, a way of getting back to nature in all ways, including dress. It is, in fact, the ultimate in green camping. Most naturist campsites cater for families, and the best ones pay attention to sustainability by recycling, upcycling, harvesting rainwater, and using alternative energy sources where possible. One of my favourite examples of this is the restaurant at a site we stay at regularly, which is built around a large tree growing in the courtyard. The Dutch owner explains, ‘We simply respected the tree.’ Most naturist resorts encourage visitors to use environmentally friendly cleaning and washing products to support their green ethos. Obviously, when you’re not wearing many clothes on a day to day basis, the amount of washing you generate is dramatically reduced too!
It’s not all about nudity
Which brings me on to the main point: clothes. Many first time naturists are worried about clothes. Don’t be. It’s not about going naked all the time; it’s about wearing what you want or need to wear. Getting up in the morning is so much easier when you don’t have to get dressed in your tent! You can just grab a towel and wander over to the shower block. When it’s raining or cold, you’ll see people wearing an occasionally hilarious assortment of clothes, from nothing but wellies and a hat, to street clothes. On a sunny day, someone with very fair skin might be wearing a t-shirt to protect them from the rays. A naturist up a ladder fixing a roof will be wearing safety gear, but may not be wearing anything under it! Naturists are a friendly lot, and will welcome you whether you feel the need to wear clothes or are immediately comfortable in nothing at all. This is particularly the case with teenagers. Even the teenagers who’ve grown up as naturists get self-conscious about their bodies and want to cover up. I know, I’ve been one. That’s fine; sarongs become standard teenage attire, for both boys and girls. The only place where there’s likely to be strict nudity rules is around the pool and in the sauna. And trust me, when you’ve swum naked or lounged in the sauna with only a towel to sit on, you’ll never want to do either with a swimming costume on again! Your skin will thank you too; it’s much healthier not to wear a swimming costume because your skin can breathe and will dry more quickly.
Can you imagine anything more idyllic than a crowd of stark-naked children, happily charging around in the woods getting muddy, getting wet, making new friends? Children adore the freedom of naturism. No having to get dressed in the mornings! For obvious reasons, the sites are set away from main roads and not overlooked, and many are in woodland. My daughter loves to run wild with new friends, getting muddy with no risk of spoiling her clothes. If you’ve ever been camping with children, you can imagine that it’s much easier to hose down a naked child than to wash a load of dirty clothes. Of course, breast feeding on demand is much easier.
“Naturism is, as its name suggest, a way of getting back to nature in all ways, including dress”
Other guests are likely to be a wide range of nationalities though most often we meet French, German, and Dutch families. If your child doesn’t speak other languages, no matter. Kids swiftly develop a glorious polyglot, combined with sign language, which enables all kinds of play and of course teaches them about communication and cooperation. I remember my daughter, aged about five, coming to me with a book and saying ‘Mutti, can you read this to me, bitte?’ That day she’d been playing with some German kids, and had unconsciously picked up some vocabulary. The only problem is you’re likely to face some rebellion about wearing clothes again when it’s time to leave!
One of the best things about a naturist holiday for children is the acceptance which it fosters. We come in all shapes and sizes. Seeing a wide variety of people going about their daily lives in a clothing-optional setting is a great way to foster positive body image in children. Scars, wobbly bits, even prosthetic limbs cease to be remarkable when you can see that everyone’s got something different about them.
Although I’ve always found it hard to be ‘out’ to non-naturists because I am very far from having a ‘perfect’ body, I take pride in the fact that it sustained my daughter for nine months of pregnancy and then 14 months of breastfeeding. Which actually makes it perfectly amazing.
So, what do you need?
Top of the list is, of course, an open mind and willingness to try something new and different. If you’re camping, you’ll need the usual things for a camping holiday, but fewer clothes! The rest of the list is quite brief: a towel or something to sit on when you’re in communal areas; a sarong, shorts, or sundress to slip on when you go into the resort shop (it’s good etiquette to cover up near food); plenty of suncream, and perhaps a hat.
Where to start?
The British Naturism website, bn.org.uk, is full of advice and encouragement for first-time naturists, Naturism is very popular in Europe, and there are many lovely campsites and resorts available. For a start there are two French associations with slightly different memberships but both with lots of lovely places to try: the Fédération Française de Naturisme (French Naturism Federation) (ffn.naturisme.com); and the Fédération des Espaces Naturistes (Federation of Naturist Spaces) (www.naturisme.fr).
The last word of encouragement comes from British Naturism, “When you shed your clothes you also shed just a few of the burdens of everyday life. The feeling of liberation, discovery and freedom is something that you cannot describe”.
Illustration: James Gibbs
TOP FIVE NATURIST CAMPSITES
- LA PLAGE DES TEMPLIERS Bourg Saint Andréol, Rhône Alpes - The campsite La Plage des Templiers is set in the heart of a breathtaking area in Vallon Pont d’Arc in the centre of the Ardeche, just upstream of the Gorges de l’Ardèche. Surrounded by nature with a beach right on the river, this campsite is just the right spot for a relaxing family holiday… and some exciting canoeing trips. camping-templiers-ardeche.com
- DOMAINE LABORDE Monflanquin, Aquitane - In beautiful and historic Perigord, 4-star naturist campsite Domaine de Laborde is settled in Monflanquin, in the heart of Pays des Bastides. Nestled in a beautiful setting with oak and chestnut trees, two naturist swimming-pools and two lakes. Perfect for nature lovers looking for quiet holidays. domainelaborde.com/en
- RIVA BELLA THALASSO AND SPA RESORT Aleria, Corsica - 4-star naturist campsite Riva Bella in Aleria is set between the beach and mountains with sea water pond, long sandy beach and pack of llamas. naturisme-rivabella.com
- CENTRE DE VACANCES NATURISTE LE COLOMBIER Saint Martin, Region Pays de la Loire - On the Atlantic coast, in South Vendee, discover 4-star naturist campsite Le Colombier. Explore the forest, stream and spa with massages and hammam for genuine peaceful holidays. lecolombier-naturisme.com
- HELIOMONDE Cheron, Ile de France - On the outskirts of Paris, Heliomonde is the perfect destination to visit the capital. Relax at the campsite naturist swimming-pool after a day of sight-seeing. heliomonde.fr/fr