So, how did I come to join a naturist group in Ireland at the age of 51?
I’ve always been curious about naturism but have always been too shy to indulge myself. Growing up in Ireland in the 70’s and 80’s it wasn’t something that was considered normal so absolute privacy was needed and growing up in Ireland in the 70’s and 80’s where large families in small houses was the norm so the opportunity for this seldom presented itself. There was also a stigma, real or imagined, that If you were into that sort of thing you were some weird pervert. Personally I didn’t associate what I felt when nude with any kind of sexual mood, I just liked to feel the sun’s rays on my skin.
I suppose there were opportunities when I first started going abroad on holidays at 18 or 19. I first went to some of the most popular holiday destinations in Spain. The first two weeks in August, landing in Majorca, applauding the pilot and stepping off the plane into an outdoor oven. Unfortunately my pale complexion resented this and decided to torture me with the sting of sunburn and the curse of the itch when I got home. I decided that naturism was best practiced at home indoors.
I got my first flat as half of a couple at 23. My girlfriend was very receptive of the idea and we spent most of our time at home nude, however as with most flat dwelling the common areas had to be navigated carefully. With having the space and willing accomplice allowed me to feel very normal about being naked, at least at home in private with someone that was sharing my life.
My last proper relationship ended many years ago and I’ve remained single since, so nudism at home hasn’t been a problem. I’ve done some travelling in the company of a good female friend who while not a nudist herself did grow up in Germany in a family where nudity was normal so she was perfectly happy for me to be nude in her company, indoors in private spaces. I don’t know about anyone else but having a friend like that is so good. She saw absolutely nothing weird about me being naked while in her company. The fact that we were not in a physical relationship but I trusted that she didn’t think me odd and that She trusted that I wasn’t in any way threatening to her was very liberating for me. Perhaps other people would be the same!
Luckily I have some close European friends or maybe being from mainland Europe has nothing to do with it as they are just the right people. I was in Slovakia visiting a friend in August 2010 or 2011. As some of you may know, central Europe gets the most amazing thunder and lightning storms in summer. It was night and we had just arrived at her house after a social evening where some drinks were consumed when one of these storms started. Now, I love rain and this was proper downpour but it was also kind of warm. We went around to the back of the house and stood under the protruding roof just looking at it. It was dark except for the lightening and there was nobody around so I took off all my clothes and walked into the garden to feel the ground under my feet and the rain on my skin. It was amazing. I stood there for about 30 seconds although it felt longer and then I returned to the house and began to dress. “You’re crazy” she said. I apologised for the outburst and blamed the drink and the moment. “It’s not the nudity, normally I’d join you, it’s the lightning, you could have been killed”. We laughed at my stupidity but I have to say I loved every second of that experience.
Fast forward, it’s late 2018 and I’m chatting to a friend from Austria. She’d lived in Ireland for a few years then traveled the world and then returned home to Austria. She invited me to visit and even though I’d visited her there before a few years previous I’d never seen it in winter. So in March 2019 I flew to Munich and got the Flixbus through the snow-covered Alps to Innsbruck. That bus journey alone was worth the trip. It was 2 hours of wonder and amazement looking out the window. I arrived late afternoon, was brought to my hotel to check in and then off to dinner and drinks at a great little vegetarian restaurant. She is vegan and for any vegans reading this once you get off this Island your options really open up. We discussed the plan for the weekend, it was to be a weekend of thermal spas and saunas.
The first one was called Aquadome. It was about an hours drive away. It was something ridiculous, like €35 for a day pass and another couple of euro for a robe. This place is awesome a warm thermal spring heated pool with other pool options, one with salt another with sulphur and I can’t remember the last one. After trying all the pools we went to the sauna. There is a big sign on the door that translates as “bathing suits are not permitted beyond this point”. I initially was a bit nervous and conscientious. I had never been naked in public before and I’m not exactly cut like Michelangelo’s David.
Needless to say I bit the bullet, went in and removed my robe. I was expecting a sauna. What met me was a whole other complex with outdoor thermal pools, steam rooms and multiple saunas with different temperatures, minerals and even building materials. They really take this stuff seriously over there, and everyone was naked. Young adults, mature adults all shapes and sizes. This is when I really got a sense of what being naked meant there. It meant nothing, it wasn’t even considered. It is just what you wear to the sauna. No vanity or exhibition, just normal. This is exactly what I needed to get me going. A sense of total normality being nude among complete strangers. Nudity wasn’t the topic of conversation. It wasn’t common ground. People still talked about work and sport and the news like they were in the pub. This is what I wanted without actually being able to express it before, total normality. But the icing on the cake for me was being outdoors nude, although it was -5 degrees C, and stepping into a heated swimming pool. I relaxed, floated face up surrounded by the snow-capped Alps with flakes of snow falling on my face.
I repeated that experience in different venues over the following few days, totally amazed at how accessible they all are price-wise. I absolutely love it. But the thing I loved most was swimming nude. This is how I found Irish Naturist Association. I searched for somewhere I could go that would accommodate me and found it. I have yet to avail of the opportunity. I am back in Ireland now, it won’t be the same. A certain fear has returned. Not the fear I had before. A new fear – this water will be cold!