Meet Nick and Lins, part of a new generation of naked travellers.
If you are a naturist and are unlucky enough to have been born in a country with unpredictable weather, there are several tried-and-trusted options in your search for a much-needed boost of Vitamin D: book regular holidays, buy an overseas property, relocate your business, or retire to your place in the sun.
Nick and Lins, two enterprising thirtysomething Belgians, had another idea: set off on a round-the-world trip and part-finance it by producing a naturist travel blog called Naked Wanderings.
After discovering naturism in their own country almost by accident, first at a public sauna and then at a naturist campsite, they were hooked, and decided to throw caution to the wind on a quest to travel the globe in order to find the best places to get naked.
Naked Wanderings has taken off at a remarkable rate, with a wide range of first-hand content that currently includes comprehensive Country Guides to Greece, Croatia, Thailand and Mexico, individual venue reports from across Europe, Asia, and North/South/Central America, tips and directory listings for naturist travellers, interviews with other naturists they have met on their journey, and general musings on the wider subject of naturism, social nudity and body image.
It looks, then, as if everything is going according to their plans?
“We had a firm route set in our minds when we started this whole adventure,” laughs Lins. “The idea was to begin in Europe in the summer of 2017 and keep traveling south-east so we would end up in Australia roughly at the beginning of 2019. If you’ve been following our blog, you might have figured out that things didn’t exactly work out as we thought…”
Southern Europe went well, she explains, “and we enjoyed Croatia, Montenegro and Greece, all naturist-friendly countries. Then we routed quickly through the Middle East, where we knew that getting naked would be a big no-no, and headed for Sri Lanka, where we hoped to find plenty of naturist places. We didn’t.
“This was a bit worrying because we were starting to run a little low on editorial content. The next stop was supposed to be India, another country we thought would have nude opportunities - the hippy region of Goa, tribes in the south, naked ceremonies, etc. The more we researched it however, the less options we seemed to have. And then our India visa got rejected. So we had to act fast: we had two days before our visa for Sri Lanka would expire and we decided to focus on the only two Asian destinations that appeared to welcome naturists: Bali and Thailand.
“To cut a long story short, by March 2018 we felt we had seen most of what Asia had to offer to the naturist. Winter was coming to Australia and New Zealnad, so that wasn’t an option either. So we decided to head to the USA, followed by Mexico and Canada. Around ths time we were invited by the French tourism board to visit several naturist resorts in France. So in September 2018 we found ourselves back in Europe again. This also gave us the chance to attend the international INF congress in Lisbon but then winter came to Europe. The choices for naturists become a lot less when cold weather hits the northern hemisphere. Australia was now out of the question as it would have been a disaster for our budget. So would the Caribbean. South Africa has some great naturist resorts but we feared that (just like in Asia the year before) we would get stuck after a month or two. So South America was a logical choice. Not too expensive and several countries with naturist opportunities.”
So, she passes the question back. “Does it look like we have a plan? Basically we just follow the summer and make our plans along the way, trying to learn from our mistakes!”
One of those early mistakes included their misguided faith in social media.
“It was sharp learning curve,” says Nick. “After less than a month, our Facebook account received its first ban. We had no clue about their anti-nudity policy. So we adjusted to their terms, and found this actually become an advantage, especially on Instagram. Because we don’t like photos where genitals or nipples are hidden by black squares and smilies, we started to use our own kind of censorship in taking photos in the first place. People who follow us now immediately recognise our style, where something always ‘happens’ to get in the way. A little like Calendar Girls, I suppose!”
Several followers advised them to move on to other, less known social media, like MeWe. “These work well as a communication channel among naturists,” agrees Lins, “but one of the goals of Naked Wanderings is to bring naturism to more people. And for that the mainstream social media channels are the best option. So we have had to adjust and hope to stay under the radar.”
In fairness, they aren’t doing too badly. Naked Wanderings currently has about 60,000 readers on its blog and about 30,000 social media followers. “Clearly people enjoy what we do,” says Lins. “We also get a lot of interaction, and receive many messages and e-mails from people asking where they should go for their next naturist holiday, which is great. The only real problem we face (just like most naturists that are doing something online) are what we call the ‘faketurists’ - people using naturism as a way to receive some sexual pleasure by harassing women, sending “dick pics” and so on. It’s sad, but then so are they.”
And how is the naturist industry reacting to them?
“The feedback we have received from naturist venues is not 100% what we expected,” admits Nick. “Many naturist businesses have never really made it to the 21st century when it comes to an online presence and online advertising. We have received numerous invitations from naturist resorts asking us to come and review them, but not every resort seems to understand the importance of online marketing, PR and what is, in essence, free publicity.”
Both Nick and Lins see a correlation between this and one of the other major issues facing naturism today: the ageing problem. “We’ve been asked many times by resort owners why we think they fail to attract more young people. When we ask what they already do to encourage them, they reply ‘we’ve lowered the entrance fee by 50%.’ And they are surprised that they still don’t come! Spending an afternoon playing petanque with a bunch of people that could easily be your grandparents is not really an attractive proposition, even at half price.
“Most importantly, clubs and federations aren’t benefitting from ideas and enthusiasm from newcomers. When we attended the INF congress, apart from Hector Martinez (president of the Mexican naturist federation who’s still in his twenties) we were the youngest there. We totally agree that experienced people are needed, but you can’t expect a majority who are in their fifties, sixties or seventies to have much of a clue about how to attract a younger audience. We believe - and we’ve seen examples which prove this - that adding more young people to the board of clubs and federations and giving them responsibilities is the way to help naturism grow.”
So what is the solution?
“Too many clubs concentrate on rules and memberships and volunteering, and the problem with perverts and keeping people out: they seem to forget the beauty of naturism, and the fun of being naked. That’s what we try to do with Naked Wanderings. We’ve noticed in countries like Thailand, Mexico and Brazil - where naturism is relatively new and which don’t have as much ‘historical luggage’ - that they are attracting a lot of younger people. While in Europe or the USA the average age at a naturist place is often twice ours, in places like Brazil we sometimes feel like the old people! Another interesting thing: the ‘single male’ issue doesn’t exist here. Of course they also face some problems with perverts, but they seem to handle them better than we Europeans do.”
However naturism has, they maintain, been evolving over the last decade or so. “Almost the only way you used to be able to enjoy social nudity was at a club behind a large fence, or at a designated beach. There were few alternatives. Today there are nude festivals, bike rides, museum tours, resorts, B&Bs, cruises, spas, walks and runs, yoga classes and all kinds of other activities in which you can participate naked.
“And people partake for many different reasons than traditional naturism. The first ones to notice this were the vacation naturist resorts who wanted to loosen the strong naturist rules to attract more visitors. They wanted to allow smoking, have meat on the BBQ, attract visitors who just want to sunbathe nude and so on.
“So today, we think the main question is: should we redefine the term ‘naturism’ to include all those other people or should naturism become a segment of a much wider definition for social nudity? Over the years the naturist community has been able to build a strong and professional movement with associations and federations and the international federation on top. This is a strong infrastructure and we would hate to see it fade away and have to rebuild something new from scratch.
“But so many people in western Europe go naked to a spa but don’t like to be called ‘naturist’ or ‘nudist.’ Many people go to a nude beach during their holiday but don’t think of themselves as naturists. And in New York we talked to a nude yoga teacher who also frequently visits nude beaches. When we asked her when she started with naturism she said: ‘Oh no! I’m not a naturist!’”
From their experiences closer to home, Nick and Lins believe that the Dutch naturist federation NFN is one of the first to tackle this issue officially, pointing out that below their umbrella federation NFN structure they have built two new ones: NatuurlijkNFN (meaning ‘naturally NFN’) and BlootGewoon (meaning ‘just nude’ but also ‘normalised nude’), the first focusing more on traditional naturism and the latter more on other nude activities like events, saunas, spas, etc.
“We just hope that others will follow their example and we can see more organisations based on the two most important pillars: non-sexual nudity and respect.”
With such refreshingly honest and open viewpoints, and the fact that they obviously connect with their audience, it’s not surprising that Nick and Lins have generated a lot of positive publicity for Naked Wanderings, in a relatively short space of time.
“The first media approach we had was totally unexpected,” says Lins. “We received an e-mail from an Austrian newspaper who wanted to do a feature about us. We agreed and a couple of days later it was published. Then came a Swiss newspaper and a German newspaper who had picked up the story, followed by the British newspaper Metro. The interview with them went online, was translated, and then republished in more than 30 different countries. That was the day we suddenly became ‘the couple that travels the world naked.’
“Since then we have had regular media requests, but have learned to become a bit careful with them. Last year an Australian newspaper did a full story about Naked Wanderings, an excellent piece which also contained a paragraph or two about how one time we accidentally ended up at a swingers party. We don’t mind telling that story, it’s something that happened and was part of the full article. The day afterwards however several other newspapers had taken those paragraphs out of context, ignored eveything else we had said, and ran stories with ‘naked couple reveal their most embarrassing moment’ headlines. We weren’t impressed, and feel there is no place for such lazy or bad journalism.”
Whilst Nick and Lins don’t consider themselves to be ‘innocents abroad’ they do admit that a lot of things in their lives of late do seem to happen by coincidence. “The book is just another example,” says Nick. “We had never really considered writing a book until we were contacted by a Belgian writer who also happened to be a naturist and a fan of Naked Wanderings. The original idea was just to compile some of the best of the blog posts, but the more we started brainstorming, the more the idea came to start from scratch and write an actual book about our story. About nine months later Alles Uit! - Dutch for ‘everything off! - was born. The publishing company currently only targets the Flemish/Dutch market, so it had to be in Dutch, which also happens to be our mother tongue, and as our blog is in English, it has introduced us to a slightly different audience. We would certainly love to get the book translated into English and other languages, but that’s a discussion for the future, perhaps when our travels are over.”
Quite when that will be, the couple aren’t yet sure. Having toured Italy, France, Spain and Portugal in summer 2019, they haven’t lost their appetite for travel yet.
“Naked Wanderings moves the way we move,” concludes Lins. “It began simply as a blog about naturism through the eyes of a young couple who were discovering the naturist world. Then as we started traveling, it became more of a travel blog. We tell stories from the road and about places we visit. But we also know that one day this will stop. Maybe we’ll run out of money. Maybe we’ll get bored of moving from one place to another and head home to Belgium. Maybe we’ll find a place we really love and just stay there. “Whatever happens, we don’t want Naked Wanderings to stop right there and then. So we’re already evolving from a naturist travel blog towards a naturist travel resource, so that even if we’re not doing that much travelling, people can find all the tips and information about their next nude vacation on our website: accommodation, venues, flights, car rental and so on.
“We hope that one day, whenever a naturist is planning a nude holiday, they’ll think: let’s check Naked Wanderings.”
© Paul Rouse 2019
Website and blog: www.nakedwanderings.com