My partner and I discovered naturism and the joys of naked camping completely by accident five years ago. We were on holiday in France, strolling along a beach on the Atlantic coast when we inadvertently walked across the threshold onto the naturist (nude) beach. We quickly discovered this was far more than just a beach. We’d stumbled across CHM Montalivet, Europe’s oldest and largest naturist resort.
The resort is 175 hectares, bordered on one side by the beach and fenced off from the outside world in all other directions. There are 1000 bungalows on site, as well as huge camping grounds, recreational areas, tennis courts, an archery range, two swimming pools, shops, bars and restaurants. There’s even a hairdresser. We checked in nervously that first time five years ago. But within a few minutes being naked seemed normal, natural. Walking through the resort’s little supermarket in my birthday suit felt ordinary. After all, everyone else was naked too. Naturism isn’t about sex. In fact, the point of naturism is to normalize human bodies. As a woman who, like all women, has experienced wolf whistles from builders, cat calls from lads in white vans, and strangers in the street telling me to smile, naturism felt like a wonderful escape. Here I was walking around completely naked, and nobody was being creepy, nobody was even giving me a second glance. I recommend naturism to everyone I know, but women in particular. It really hammers home the idea that our bodies are our own, and that nobody has the right to make us feel uncomfortable, regardless of what we might be wearing (or not wearing). A lot of people ask about the practical side of things. Aren’t clothes helpful sometimes? Who wants to cook bacon naked, for example? Naked camping isn’t about constant enforced nudity. Yes, if you’re cooking something that’s going to spit hot fat at you, put on some clothes, or at least an apron. If it gets chilly throw on a jumper. Naturism isn’t about banning clothes, it’s just about demystifying nudity. Challenging the idea that our bodies are something to be ashamed of. Once you’ve been naked on a beach, it’s hard to understand the logic of a bikini. Nothing traps sand and makes you uncomfortable all day quite like a bikini. And nothing makes you feel freer than swimming in the ocean with no clothes on. Being naked makes the stresses of day to day life feel very far away. Clothes very quickly begin to feel like tedious life admin. I can go from the swimming pool to the bar for a beer without having to mess around getting changed. I’m not tempted to check my work emails because I’ve left my phone back in the tent (and I don’t have a trouser pocket to put my phone in anyway). The second we take off our clothes it’s like shutting out the ordinary world. Last summer, some friends came with us on our naked holiday. After hearing us rave about it so many times they finally cracked and gave in to their curiosity. It was a bit nerve wracking bringing our friends into this part of our lives, but we didn’t need to worry, they loved it. Introducing our friends to the naked camping experience meant we could see it through fresh eyes as well. There are lots of little rituals that go along with the naked camping holiday. One of my favourites is the outdoor showers. All over the campsites are large open-air shower blocks, a bit like you’d see at a swimming pool. Showering, at a naturist resort, is a social experience. Why wouldn’t it be? Everyone’s already naked, after all. Last summer I introduced my friend to the shower blocks and told her not to be alarmed if somebody struck up a conversation. Sure enough, within minutes, while I was shaving my legs and my friend was shampooing her hair, a Swiss man with a toothbrush in his mouth started chatting to us. The next day we got talking to an elderly French man, who invited us to a communal meal that evening. Communal meals are a regular part of the naturist experience. Everybody brings plastic chairs and tables from their own campsite and we set them up in a long row. Somebody offers to cook (usually something that can be made en-mass like a chilli) and everyone brings enough wine for themselves with a bit extra to share. Usually somebody will turn up with a guitar and, after a certain amount of wine has been consumed, a sing a long happens. Naked camping fosters a sense of community and camaraderie that you don’t get with other kinds of holidays. Everybody automatically has something in common – that we all like to be naked. There’s something very uniting in having a common interest that the rest of the world might think is strange. We’ve made real friends there, and year after year it’s great to catch up with the same people and know that a community is waiting when we check in. I believe that everyone should try naked camping at least once. Some people find the idea of being naked in front of strangers horrifying. Ever had that nightmare where you’re suddenly naked? Once you’ve experienced naked camping, you’ll never have that nightmare ever again. Once you’ve done it once you wonder what you were so worried about. You see all kinds of body types, and what you look like isn’t important. Nobody cares if you’re fat, thin, hairy, pale, or anything else. Naturism is a fantastic way to learn that your hang ups about your body are all in your mind. Getting dressed again at the end of the holiday is probably the hardest part. It usually takes me a few hours to get used to wearing a bra. But discovering naked camping has made me feel comfortable in my own skin in a way I never did before. And it’s for this reason that I’ll keep telling people to try it.