I just spent the last two days naked with a bunch of strangers…and it was great!
I’d been to Harbin Hot Springs plenty of times in the past. In fact it’s become the place Francisco and I go when we feel like we need at least two weeks off but don’t have two weeks to spare. Twenty-four hours at Harbin, an incredible natural springs resort just north of Calistoga, does the trick. We camp and spend a full day pampering ourselves in the warm, hot, and cold spring pools, sauna, and steam room, among mostly unclothed people (Harbin is clothing optional) and return home completely relaxed.

Harbin Hot Springs by Luiza Leite Photography (www.luizaleite.com)

But this time was going to be a little different. I was going by myself and to make it even more challenging I vowed that this time, rather than feeling it out (figuratively!) when I got there as to whether or not to wear my bikini, I would just suck it up and go au natural like most other guests.

Twice as much time there as usual, first time solo, and no…clothes.

Was I afraid of making an approximately 2-hour drive after dark by myself? Nope-been there. Of driving winding roads in rain and fog? Nope-done that. In fact, I’m the girl who moved 3000 miles away from home to live in my first apartment (in LA) without a financial safety net, who moved to NYC with $700 to my name, who flew to Paris alone, knowing no-one, and who has no problem being the center of attention. But here I was afraid to go from the comfort of two small pieces of fabric to no fabric at all in a place where it’s culturally appropriate, and where I’d done so before with a companion. Why? Because of the “what ifs.” “What if I get stared at?” “What if I run into someone I know and I’m naked?!” It’s amazing how much power we can give fear.

I procrastinated as long as I could and finally got to Harbin at 10pm. I checked into my room and almost convinced myself I should just get a good night’s sleep and start out tomorrow…but I didn’t. I got to the locker room next to the pools and was hoping it was empty- it wasn’t. And then I did what I’ve done so many times when I’m scared to do something.

I got sick of myself.

I got sick of hearing all the crap in my head that was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do, and as fast as I could I got, well…


Image used under Creative Commons: nUde? by 27147 Sippanont Samchai.

And you know what? Nothing happened. And before I knew it, the anxiety I felt when everyone looked up as I entered a new pool, the sauna, or the steam room dissolved, and I had an amazing time. By the end, I even talked to people in the dressing room, while waiting for the sauna, full-on nude, and it would only occur to me later how I hadn’t been uncomfortable at all.  I can’t believe it, but now it feels like much ado about nothing…and so liberating!

So what would I say to other frightened nudie newbies to Harbin (or elsewhere) who have decided to give it a go?

Section-2 Sign Project Clothes Optional by Ellen McCaskill

Arriving at night (instead of daylight!) can make it easier. Don’t feel bad about wanting to ease in.

Minimize the robing and disrobing between pools, sauna, etcetera- that just allows anxiety to come and go in cycles.  Instead, once you’re comfortable, just commit to it and resist the urge to cover and uncover.

It’s worth it! What’s more relaxing- a bath in the buff or a bath in a bathing suit? ☺

What do you think? Ready to travel to a clothing optional spot? Already a seasoned nudist with a favorite? Tell us about it!

53 Responses to “First Solo Nude Getaway- Conquering a Fear”

Comments (52) Pingbacks (1)
  1. I would totally do it but have much anxiety like you did in the initial disrobing. Showing up at night is a tip I would have never thought of…

    • thanks ayngelina! that’s awesome that you would! it just means that many more places you can go, right? i think next time, i’ll see if i can jump in in the light of day :)

  2. wow! That’s awesome…brave girl!!! Terry and I have been to Harbin a few times and the first time it was hard taking off my cloths..but by the second it was easy. However, I’ve thought about going alone and what u would do…it’s easier with a partner. After reading your story I think I can..but at night:) Happy Thanksgiving to you and Francisco!

    • thanks kay! you CAN! it’s so funny how i’d built it up into something so big and then it was gone so quickly. if you’ve been totally comfortable since the after the first time, you’re way ahead of where i was! happy thanksgiving to you too :)

  3. awesome getaway! thank you for sharing and thank you for the tips — “Minimize the robing and disrobing between pools, sauna, etcetera- that just allows anxiety to come and go in cycles. Instead, once you’re comfortable, just commit to it and resist the urge to cover and uncover.” That is some priceless advice! I don’t think I ever would have thought of that – -thanks!!!

    • thanks lia! it WAS awesome. i came to that tip by trial and error ;) at first i was carrying my sarong and using it as a shield between spaces, and it just made it worse! you know, going there i always come away with any tension melted away and it was just great to have some fear melted away too. that stuff can weigh a lot!

  4. I would totally do that… Great to hear how liberating it is…

    • thanks theodora! it really is :) and you know, harbin is family-friendly too. they have a special pool area for kids. i’ll be writing another post that’s more of a guide soon :)

  5. See, that’s one of the things on my “to do” list. Although we have been at a naturist beach, I guess it is not the same as a sauna/resort. It was fun to feel the breeze and the sun though!

    • thanks federico! that’s great that you’ve been to a naturist beach! please feel free to share the name/location here! i might just turn this into one of my new ways to travel, because i agree- it does feel great!

  6. I’ve only ever been to a nude beach and, even then, only took my top off. I definitely don’t think I’m ready for a nudist resort…thanks for sharing this experience though. We’ve been talking about whether we’ll participate in the onsen in Japan, which I’ve heard is a cultural must-do. I think I need to work on my bravery!

  7. this was such a great story! you are so brave and i am so proud of you :)

  8. Oh you are so brave, thanks for sharing! I live in Germany where you go in the sauna naked and I made it a total of 10 minutes – I just have too many inhibitions!

    • thanks laurel! hey, that’s 10 minutes more than so many people- good for you! and you know, it’s not everyone’s bag (and is not always about being brave/unbrave). i just knew in my case i’d love it and it was fear controlling me. :)

  9. I had a similar fear the first time I went to the onsen in Japan. I was more worried about how much I stuck out as a foreigner in the small town rather than just about being naked, but I had a bit of anxiety about both. When my husband and I met up again afterward (since they are single sex only) he was talking about how the little towel hardly covered anything. I thought, what little towel? The women didn’t use little towels like the men did when walking in between areas. I think I would’ve felt more “naked” trying to cover a tiny bit of my entire body with those little towels than just being totally starkers.

    • oooh- i can see how that would add another element of fear to the equation. what i didn’t add, but maybe should, is that i always feel like i don’t “blend” even here since i’m not tan (sooooo fair).
      and YES! understand completely about the little towel situation. it’s far more uncomfortable- think it broadcasts discomfort and draws more attention. good for you! bet onsen was great. absolutely on my list :)

  10. Loved this story. I’ve done the nude beach before, but never the nude resort. You’ve piqued my curiosity. Is it okay to be curious at a nude resort?

    • thanks ben! glad you loved it! i think it’s natural to be curious at a nude resort! harbin has strict rules about how that curiosity can/cannot be expressed ;) (stay tuned for another harbin-related post) but i think anyone who says they’re not at all may be fibbing :)

  11. i am afraid of nude getaways, i am comfortable with my body and everything. what i am not comfortable with is seeing other naked bodies. am glad you enjoyed it

  12. Good for you, Lorna! I’ve never done a nude getaway – organized nudity anyway :-) . I just never understood why it would feel so rewarding. Calistoga is pretty close to me, too. Might be a good place to try it out!

    • thanks cathy! i can’t recommend harbin enough! and remember- you can go in a suit if it makes you more comfy. either way it’s my ultimate stress melter :)

  13. Going to the sauna is a weekly ritual for Koreans, and you wouldn’t think of wearing anything inside the sauna/pool/shower area. I have the feeling you’d get asked to leave pretty quickly. Even the towel they give is so tiny it wouldn’t hide a mole! I love the saunas here, and have never given the naked thing a second thought. However, I know a lot of expats that have been here for years, and would rather get hit by a motorcycle running a red light (not at all uncommon) than naked in a sauna!

  14. Woo hoo, good on you!

  15. Great post, I admire your courage!

  16. We read about lots of fantastic travel tales on people’s blogs but this…this has got to be the bravest thing I’ve read about so far!! :) And no, I would never be brave enough to do that. Good on you!

    • thanks julia! wow! i was actually just thinking i should get back there to make sure i’ve still got the courage…and well because it’s AMAZINGLY RELAXING :)
      i bet you could do it! it really helps that everyone else is naked :)

  17. “What do you think? Ready to travel to a clothing optional spot? Already a seasoned nudist with a favorite? Tell us about it!”

    Well, i live in Germany.
    I go to the Sauna at least once every week. Saunas are coed and “no clothes allowed”.
    Germans do not have a problem with this.

    • thanks wazaghun. that’s fantastic! a sauna a week- you really know how to treat yourself well. i’ve often gone nude in saunas, etc., but what was different about this experience
      was that at this spot, folks (hundreds of people) spend their entire day walking around in the open air from the pools, to the sauna, the steam room, the trails, the sun decks, etc. nude the entire time. in fact, the only place that nudity is off-limits is in the kitchen & restaurant (good thing!) and their little theater. for me, that was so much more intimidating than going to a sauna and being nude, or even being at a nude beach (both experiences i’d had in the past). but i’m really got over it! :)

  18. I discovered a nude beach while hiking in Portugal. It took me about two hours but I eventually went all in as well. For Americans, it’s very hard to get past that effort but I enjoyed the experience as it was nowhere near as big of a deal as we make it out to be.

    • totally agree jeremy! i’d gone to a nude beach before, and even been to harbin too, but hadn’t been anywhere alone and where you walk through your entire day nude except when you enter their kitchen or restaurant. surprisingly that was SO different than my nude beach or couples harbin experience. i’d better get back their before i lose my nerve! ha ha :)

  19. Don’t really have any desire to go somewhere like this, but bravo to you for having the balls to do it.

    • LOL thanks stephanie! yeah, this has definitely been a more recent desire of mine and understandably not on everyone’s list! :P

  20. Good for you! I’ve done my share of skinny dipping as a youth, and I must say it is nice to swim in the buff. When we were in Iceland, in order to use the city thermal pool, it was required that you shower in an open group-style shower before entering the pool. I’ve always preferred individual showers, but because I didn’t have choice, I just went for it.

    • yeah! good for you randy! it’s funny what parts of being naked in public can feel weird, right? like you mention showers, not really being in the pool. i get that. i’d been to a nude beach before, and been pretty comfortable laying out, but at harbin it’s the walking around acting like you’re wearing clothes when you’re naked thing that’s the toughest for me. AND the extended period of time. like all day, for every situation (except being in their kitchen- phew!). i know i’m probably a weirdo, but i actually kind of enjoy quaking in my inner boots and making myself just do it at the same time. makes me feel alive! :)

  21. I have to admit that I haven’t had the courage to get naked in public. I am so conscious about it and always think about what would people think about me, naked! It’s funny that two or three days ago I was thinking that in my RTW I should break free of so many fears that I have, and being naked in public was one of the thoughts that came to mind. I should make a point of going skinny-dipping or to some naked beach anywhere in the world and experience it. Like you say, I believe it will be very liberating once you’re into it.

    • that’s exactly what i’m working on norbert! if you have the desire to overcome that, i say go for it! i’m going to! :)

  22. Bob and I did this a few months after we met in College… Great way to really get to know someone! haha!

  23. No Chance. I am keeping my clothes on!! :) Kudos to you for doing it though

  24. i’ve swam nude in pools and even in teh ocean, but i thik i’m too bashful to go full on without hitting up some p90x for a while first. i must say that it does feel good to swim naked.

    • LOL mack! yeah, i’m a new woman. wouldn’t have done this at other points in my life, but i keep re-testing my ideas about myself and sometimes i’m really surprised by who i grow into. :)

  25. The Steam rooms and saunas in the Dutch Spa resorts are all nude. I must say it didn’t bother me too much. Felt a lot like the communal showers in the mines, except with both sexes present.

    • that’s great john! it’s so funny that now that you mention this that i can’t help but think of how many oppportunities there are to be naked with strangers! LOL

  26. I have been overseas where there is not much stigma to public nudity, I visited Harbin, and it is one of the few places in the US where there seems to be no taboo towards public nudity. As far as Harbin being non sexual nudity, that is not the case, there is a bit of a sexual vibe to the place but it is very mild. I am a male and did get ogled at in the coed changing area that they have, but no big deal. Anyway nothing wrong with men and women admiring one another.

  27. Wish I could get my wife of nearly 40 years to even be nude in bed!
    Some phobias are so deeply seated they’re virtually incurable.

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