“Nothing in my Duffel Bag.” …Can a Blog Become a Book?

Originally posted at: https://meanderingnaturist.com/2020/05/10/nothing-in-my-duffel-bag-can-a-blog-become-a-book/

Or perhaps I should ask that differently… SHOULD a blog become a book? I need your help dear readers. This is a participatory post!

I published my first blog post as The Meandering Naturist on December 15th of 2012. It represents my third and most enduring attempt at advocating for family naturism on the world wide web. The first pass was a website called P and C’s Naturist Travel where we simply posted reviews from our visits to naturist places. That, in turn, led to an ill-fated project called the Naturist Family Network intended to help American families interested in nude recreation find one another. A few of us did, but the project was impossible to moderate, and if it proved anything, it revealed that there are surprisingly few naturist families in the United States of America. Or at least, few willing to go public about it.

One of our first trips to France

When I launched this blog, I was in the midst of planning a one-year sabbatical from my university teaching job during which we had the opportunity to travel from one corner of Europe (northern Spain) to another (the Ionian Islands of Greece.) (SEE: Blowing Through Europe) On that very first splash page, I laid out my dreams that perhaps my meandering inspired musings might one day become a book bearing a title like Nothing in my Duffel Bag: A Naturist’s Travelogue.

Here we are, almost eight years later, and the meandering has taken us to over one-hundred naturist places over six continents. The last venture was just a couple months ago, when the borders closed, airports and hotels went dark, and social nudity reinvented itself onto plasma screens subject to internet glitches and garbled speech. It seems that the opportunity to meander in the coming months, naked or otherwise, is going to be a limited endeavor, when organizing a gathering of like-minded naturists may be contained to a 42-inch television screen in a matrix of little boxes. (SEE: Social Nudity in the Age of Isolation.) At this writing, it looks like I will need to hone in my ability to speak to the virtues of meandering naked to each of the four corners of my own backyard.

Our first time on St. Maarten

As is so often is the case, the original concept of the Meandering Naturist blog reinvented itself in the months – if not moments – following its original inception. Early on there were a few pieces about what one might expect when visiting a European spa, and of course, I had to dedicate a bit of prose to offer my own personal advice for the novice or nervous nudist. But I think it’s fair to say that over time, I’ve become decidedly more opinionated on matters related to social nudity, realizing that in the end, it’s all but impossible to contextualize a trip report about a naturist destination or ideal if you don’t have some sense of the values and criteria, explicit or implicit, of the person authoring the review. Put another way, when I read recommendations for food, wine, movies, or vacation destinations, I may conclude, “I don’t like anything this dude likes, and therefore, I bet I’m gonna love the movie he just panned.” Context and perspective matters.

The post you’re reading now will be the 156th post The Meandering Naturist has published since 2012, about half of which could be categorized as travel reports, and the other half opinion/reflection pieces. Those “reflection pieces” include advocacy for the naturist cause, rants about how such is handled by the mainstream media, or most often, simply stream of consciousness essays that capture a moment in time from one person’s perspective, that one person, of course, being… me!  In this case, the author has been hell-bent on legitimizing family-oriented naturism in a country where the media references to social nudity are typically full of sexual innuendo with an inferred sense of ridicule. All the while, the reading nudity-curious public simply wants to know, “Does my skin make my butt look big?”

So maybe I should write the book!

The first sights of Croatia

Thing is, there are lots of books about nakedness, nudity, and naturism. A few of my favorites are of an academic nature. Philip Carr-Gomm’s A History of Nakedness (Reaktion, 2012) was pivotal in helping me understand the cultural norms that infuse many of the misgivings about social nudity today, and Brian Hoffman’s NAKED: A Cultural History of American Nudism (NYU Press, 2015) helped me translate those misgivings into the pervasive ideals about naturism in America today. And I’m still working my way through Sarah Schrank’s Free and Natural: Nudity and the American Cult of the Body (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), a hefty volume that approaches the topic of nudity with a broader stroke, beginning with “The Nudity Colony” and ending up with “Naked Lifestyle Consumerism.” A great read, but a good bit more than your average would-be naturist really needs to know.

On the other end of the spectrum are a plethora of smaller volumes that carry titles like “How to Be a Nudist,” or “Tips for Removing Your Clothes.” (I attempted to avoid actual titles, but you get the gist. Perhaps you’ve read these books.) Many of these are self-published, often heartfelt, but more often than not, poorly edited and limited in scope. Even when combing through blogs, a writer will lose me by the second misspelling or grammatical error*. That might not be fair, but I suspect I’m not alone on that point. Moral of the story? I will need a cracker-jack editor if this is going to work.

*The Meandering Naturist fully concedes to the realization that despite fastidious proof-reading, a goodly number of typos slip through on these pages as well.

Our only naturist cruise, aboard the Royal Clipper

Books about nudity promoted by major publishers are marketed for mass appeal, and thus, frequently loaded with double-entendre, such as Mark Haskell Smith’s Naked at Lunch or Ross Velton’s The Naked Truth about Cap d’Agde, each of which serve as part travel guide and part parody, leaving the unsuspecting reader with that funny after-taste that concedes, “Yep, I think those people who run around naked really are a little nuts.” I love Bill Bryson’s (not a naturist author, just a great writer) use of sarcasm and humor when he goes off on a tirade about the perils of queuing up to get into the Louvre, but that has never diminished my desire to see the Mona Lisa. A serious author on the topic of naturism can’t afford the luxury of self-deprecation.

Enter bloggers turned authors, Nick and Lins of Naked Wanderings, who have produced a series of travel guides that emulate and expand upon their ever growing web resource at www.nakedwanderings.com. Now available on Amazon, Nick and Lins’ travel books represent the most comprehensive guides I know to help a newbie or seasoned naturist find just the right place to commune with the sun. They follow in the tradition of some of the landmark naturist guidebooks, such as Lee Baxandall’s World Guide to Naturist Beaches and Recreation or Mike Charles’s The World’s Best Nude Beaches and Resorts. Nick and Lins have brought a breath of fresh air to table, but of course, the minute you release a hard-copy edition that reviews a particular place, it’s likely out of date before you can hit the check-out button on Amazon.

Exploring the Greek Islands

And thus… I’m not really interested in writing a guide book either. So what’s left to write?

One of the things I enjoy most about being a blogger is bumping into other people’s blogs, especially when I tap into a truly gifted writer who can speak to the dimensions of naturism that go beyond trends in pubic hair, sitting on a towel, or learning to look someone in the eye when you greet them on a nude beach. Perhaps it has been our naturist travels in Europe, where the per-capita percentage of the total populous is more naturist friendly than anywhere else on the planet. Naturism is a significant part of the tourism sector in Europe, well represented by the cross-section of people you encounter when you visit a European naturist resort.

All of which makes me wonder if Americans have simply fallen victim to the dumbing down of the naturist ideal. There is so much incessant banter about how “nudity doesn’t equal sex” – except for the people who totally embrace the idea that nudity does equal sex – fails to spawn more thoughtful discussion about why people are drawn into naturism (for reasons other than sex). My wife notes that the preceding statement sounds confusing and chaotic. Exactly my point!

Then there was naturist Brazil

Perhaps more importantly, why is such a large part of the population so vehemently opposed to the public display of a woman’s breasts, or a pair of buttocks, despite the fact that everyone has them. We tend to dismiss the whole matter by calling Americans prudish, or at very least, consumed by paranoia. But neither of those arguments really hold up in the age of sexting and casual sex. (SEE: Social Nudity in the Age of Casual Sex)

So, in the voice of academic language, maybe this is a qualitative study of the ongoing “research” my wife and I have conducted since she first visited a nude beach near Santa Cruz during college back in 1979. That’s nearly forty years of data collection that might provide something different than a directory of where to go, aiming for prose that’s a bit more introspective than instructions on how to take your clothes off once you get there.

But still, one might say, “That’s already in the blog. Why bother with a book?”

And so many beautiful beaches in Australia

Blogs are linear by design, and usually consumed in bite-size pieces as they make their way across one’s news-feed. By contrast, a book should find its essence in an over-arching architectural idea. In this case, a decided extension of the recent trending campaign for #normalizingnaturism. Working from that principal, I’m thinking such a publication might be organized something like this:

  • PART ONE: A series of essays extracted and rejuvenated from the blog, eliminating some of the dated references while refining a few key philosophical themes one derives from traveling naked on six continents.
  • PART TWO: A general overview of what to expect if you intend to get naked in France, or Spain, or Thailand, or Honduras, or Japan, or New Jersey. Those are each distinctly different experiences, each with their implicit traditions and rules.
  • PART THREE: A series of location specific reflections, not intended to serve as yet another guide-book, but instead, an effort to draw the reader into the joys of walking clothes-free on the coastline of Mallorca, or swimming naked in the turquoise waters of Greece, or who you’re likely to meet should you visit a remote naturist village on Phuket.

Remember, I’m one of those university types who thinks the best lessons are the ones that leave people with more questions than answers. In this case, the answer could only be found by making one curious enough to go experience it – naturism in a distant land – for themselves.

Something Exotic – Naked in South Africa

So, what do you think, loyal readers? What have I missed? What else goes in the book? Are there other things the thoughtful naturist (or would be naturist) really needs to know? Or more urgently, what does the gymnophobe* most need to hear?

*Gymnophobe: One who experiences anxiety about nudity

Here is your call to arms. Help me write the book!

Leave a comment. Send me an email. Take a moment to join the campaign in normalizing naturism. I’m just a blogger… I can’t do it alone!

Naked in Thailand… contemplating a book.

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