Global recession or not, moving to warmer climes - whether permanently or by virtue of purchasing a holiday home - still remains an ambition for thousands of sun-starved northern Europeans. It’s especially true for naturists, keen not only to discard their clothing on a more regular basis than they are often able to at home, but to do so in more relaxed surroundings, away from prudes, prying eyes or simply just too many other people.
As somebody who has been there and done that - over ten years ago in our case when we relocated from the UK to Portugal - I’m hoping I can pass on some practical, first-hand advice, and an honest assessment of the pro’s and con’s. A lot of what I’m about to say of course applies to anybody moving countries or buying overseas, but as somebody who enjoys being a naturist (and makes at least part of his living from that connection), I also hope the following tips - and the questions you need to ask yourself - are particularly relevant.
THE BIG DECISION
Are you planning to move full-time, or do you just want a holiday bolt-hole, or long-term investment? Do you need to work? Do you want to work? Can you work? Are you making the move because you are bored, restless, unfulfilled? Because you’ve seen other people do it? Or because you have fallen in love with a particular destination, and feel that you ‘belong’ there? Are you running away from something? Or heading towards a goal?
Whether your move is designed to be permanent or temporary, don’t burn all your bridges in your native country. You never know when you might want, or need, to return.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
It can often be seen as very romantic to suddenly up sticks and move to another part of the world on a whim. If you’re young, free and single, you might just get away with it. If you have ties, responsibilities, commitments, it’s often not as easy as that. And being older doesn’t necessarily make you wiser, but it does make you a little more cautious. So don’t fall for the smooth ‘now or never’ timeshare sales pitch, or the first ‘dream’ villa you have seen in the estate agent’s window. If it’s practical, get to know your intended destination well before you move there. Try to experience it at different times of the year, not just when the sun is shining. And rent a property - or several - before you purchase one. It’s a good way of not only getting to know a new country, but deciding which destination (or even locality) suits you best.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Red tape can wind most of us up. But if you think it’s annoying in your own country, at least you understand the language and the way things are done. So do your best to tie up as many loose ends at home as you can (tax, pensions, bank accounts, medical records, etc) before you have the joys of tackling more levels of bureaucracy overseas to begin your new life.
THE BEST LAID PLANS
Not everything is going to go the way you think it will, or should. Be flexible. Be patient. Factor delays into your time schedules and contingencies into your budgets. Don’t lose your sense of humour, or perspective. And if all else fails, stock up on your favourite tipple. Or just take the rest of the day off and sit in the sun. It’s part of the reason you came, isn’t it?
WISH YOU WERE HERE?
If the desire to move at the moment is just a notion, and you have yet to decide exactly where or when, weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of your short-list of destinations: flight times and costs, the property market, the cost of living, the climate, the job market, the language, the cultural differences, the schools, the medical system. Devour guide books, surf the internet, join expat forums. You can’t get to know anywhere properly until you have lived there of course. So at best, try to set up an extended holiday, a workaway experience or a house swap/sit. And if that’s not possible, be prepared to give it a real go when you do take the plunge. Don’t get homesick, give yourself a long settling-in period, and focus on the positives of where you have moved to. Nobody likes a whingeing ex-pat.
Buying overseas can be daunting. It’s a big commitment. Don’t undertake it lightly. Don’t overstretch yourself. Get to understand not just the way purchasing a property works in your chosen destination (agents, lawyers, notaries, taxes, etc), but the wider property market: its ups and downs, its history, its projections, real-life stories. Have an exit strategy if you want or need to sell at some stage in the future. And consider any work you may need doing to renovate, extend or simply maintain the property: planning permission, the cost and availability of builders, craftsmen, suppliers and the like.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
In an ideal world, wouldn’t most of us love to live right on a beach? And a naturist one at that. It’s not always that simple. You’ll pay far more for the privilege of overlooking the sea than you will for living a little inland. Your idyllic, out-of-season deserted beach might be flooded with noisy (and textile) tourists in summer. And parked cars. And busybodies peering over your fence. And the coast, regardless of where it is, can often be a bleak place to be in bad weather. Also consider the fact that your rural, secluded haven of a home might sometimes prove to be too rural and secluded: you’ll need to get around (to shops, restaurants, services) and people will need to get to you. If you live up a narrow dirt track, will a builder’s truck make it? And if you’re in the middle of nowhere, what do you do when you need a plumber to make an out-of-hours emergency call?
THE NAKED TRUTH
Firstly, a reality check: you’re not going to be able to be naked all day, every day. There are few places in the world where the climate allows for that. But you’ll see far more sun than you ever would at home, and most naturists will be happy if they can be clothes-free for a good two-thirds of the year. For the rest of the time, you might need to grin and not bare it. Good central heating of course will help. So too, if it’s possible or affordable, will a south-facing garden or terrace, a conservatory, a sauna, a hot tub, or the luxury of an indoor pool. And if you don’t have them yourself, maybe somebody else (or a club) does. Seek out naturist groups or associations in your area: always a good way of making friends with like-minded people, and a great way of settling in to a new life. And if there isn’t already a group, why not start your own? It’s also worth bearing in mind that you are likely to have gardeners, maids, pool cleaners or workmen visiting you on a regular basis, so either cover up or make sure they have no problem with you being naked when at home.
A HELPING HAND
So where do you start looking for naturist-friendly property? There isn’t as yet, or likely to be, a fully comprehensive website covering the globe: an almost impossible task, given that website operators need to charge fees or commissions to be able to supply such a service, and couldn’t hope to persuade that many property owners to contribute. But there are a few options. Naturist Property Direct covers a reasonable number of destinations. Several naturist travel sites also include some naturist properties for sale: take a look for instance at Naturist Holiday Guide, Naturist Directory and Naturist Travel. And some websites, including Naturist Escapes (in Spain) and Portugal Naturally and Meravista (in Portugal), list naturist properties in their respective countries. Other than that, naturist buyers face the same challenges as their clothed counterparts: finding the right place via an estate agent, property website or word-of-mouth. Just don’t be shy about your criteria for your dream location, and why you don’t want nosy neighbours - or any at all.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Did I make the right decision to move? Undoubtedly. Would I recommend it? Yes, but not to everyone: it depends on your personal circumstances. Do I love living in the sunshine, having a pool in the garden, walking in beautiful open countryside, and having a magnificent selection of naturist beaches on my doorstep? Of course. And do I miss the cold, the rain, the traffic, the crowds, the stress, and the legions of desperately unhappy people who I come across on my now-increasingly infrequent visits back to the UK? What do you think?
Written by: Paul Rouse