For some, moving around the world free of care and clothing is as natural as a gentle breeze or a drop of rain. But for a larger group, getting nude in public is intimidating or quite honestly, confusing. Writer and naturist Chris Moore is here to help by answering a few questions you’re too embarrassed to ask about naturism.  

A man wearing a Panama hat and nothing else, takes a photo of the sea. In the background are a pair of topless women also taking photos of the ocean
There are so many misconceptions about naturism © Chris Moore / Lonely Planet

Terminology

There have been many inches of column space devoted to the debate of “naturist” vs. “nudist”. Frankly, they are one and the same – don’t sweat it. At the end of the day, it's just people who simply enjoy living life naked when it is appropriate to do so.

Isn’t naturism all about sex?

The biggest misconception about naturism is that nudity automatically equates to sex. It doesn’t. Naturists do everyday things you would do clothed except without the encumbrance of clothing. 

Why lie on a beach in a soggy, uncomfortable swimsuit when it’s simply more comfortable without one? If you enjoy a sauna, why would you cover your skin when it is designed to breathe? And if it’s warm outside, why get hot and sticky gardening when it’s more comfortable to do it nude? 

None of this has anything to do with sex – it’s simply living life without clothes when it is comfortable to do so.

Do naturists enjoy sex? Of course and like any group of people, they use common sense and behave respectfully. In fact, in dedicated nudist resorts or on nude cruises, there is a clear emphasis on rules regarding overt sexual behavior just in case people get the wrong idea when visiting. 

Under no circumstances is overt sexual behavior in public appropriate or tolerated and anyone found to be flouting the rules is quickly expelled. It’s impossible to police activity on public beaches so inappropriate sexual activity has occasionally been reported on more remote stretches of beach.

Related article: This nude cruise redefines fun in the sun

A group of naked people stand on a shoreline with their backs to the camera.
Don't worry about having the perfect body, the naturism lifestyle is for everyone © Chris Moore / Lonely Planet

Is it OK to hug someone when nude?

Of course. You would do it clothed, so why not nude? Clearly, a hug is a hug and nothing more. 

What are some tips for going nude for the first time? 

There are three essential rules.  Rule No. 1– naturists always sit on a towel and never leave home without one. Rule No. 2 – no matter how cloudy it may be, there are parts of your body that have not have seen much sun before. So oil up. Rule No. 3 – Being nude can be a pain (literally) if there are killer mosquitos around. Bug-spray is essential if you don’t want to cover up.

Lastly, wear loose-fitting clothes or at least ones that you can slip out of easily. We're all self-conscious the first time we strip off and struggling to get out of some complicated clothing will not help. After a few minutes of being nude around like-minded people, you'll not realize you’re naked and any self-consciousness will disappear.

What if I don’t have the perfect body? 

Join the club! Over the years I have met naturists from all walks of life, from newborns to folks in their 80s, families, gay and straight couples, from fashion models to 400-pound individuals, people with missing limbs, ladies with mastectomies and people wearing colostomy bags. I remember them all and I remember none of them. Who cares? It’s impossible not to look at others, but when you are talking directly to people, look into their eyes, not at their breasts or genitals. It’s no different to when you’re clothed.

Anyway, it’s rude to stare at the best of times.

A naked couple prepare to snorkeling in the ocean. The woman is adjusting the googles on her head, while the man still has his snorkel gear in his hand
Always bring sunscreen when doing activities in the nude © Chris Moore / Lonely Planet

What if I run into someone I know?

They are nude and want to enjoy that same liberating experience just like you. You now have something very special in common. A number of years ago, I bumped into my secretary at a naturist resort. Were we self-conscious when we met? Yes – for about 30 seconds!

What about children and safety?

Naturist resorts are extremely safe places for children since (especially in Europe) they are very much family-oriented. In North America, nudist resorts (with some very notable exceptions) tend to be more adult-oriented so do some research before arriving with kids. The best time to introduce children to naturism is from day one – they grow up familiar with the human body and body acceptance and by the time they reach puberty, seeing a person of the opposite gender naked is no big deal.

Related article: 7 best nude beaches to get naked in public for the first time 

Can I take photographs of my naturist experience?

Beaches are typically public places so photography is OK but you must never take photographs or video other naturists without their permission. Be respectful. 

In nude resorts, the use of cameras is expressly forbidden without management permission. Generally, resorts will agree to you taking pictures of your family but be sure to check first. As for sharing your pictures, be careful to not post full-frontal images on social media and assume once posted, they are out there forever. A neat way to capture memories is the use of photo books – but again you are sharing images with an external provider. For total security, buy a simple photo printer.

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