What it’s really like to travel the world nude
"YOU didn't know that on Sunday evening there's a swingers party?"
They were the words that froze travellers Nick and Lins in their tracks. The jetsetting Belgian couple, who share nude photos of themselves travelling the world on their popular Instagram page Naked Wanderings, have seen thousands of people in the buff. But they never expected this super-awkward encounter in Brazil, where they ended up accidentally wandering into a swingers party.
It all started when the excited couple visited a beautiful beach in Salvador. With white sand for miles, coconut tress - and two nudist B&Bs - Massarandupio Beach proved to be truly stunning.
After a couple of hours of sun, sand and beers, they started to meet friendly nude locals. All seemed to be going swimmingly, and later that night they joined another couple at their holiday home in town to party on. The next day involved more beach time, and their new friends said they would meet Nick and Lins at their B&B later on.
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But when Nick and Lins arrived at the B&B's pool, they were greeted by a sight they had never seen before.
"There were (unused) condoms laying around the pool and people seemed to have sex everywhere ... with everyone," the couple said.
There were about 40 people there, and it wasn't long before Nick and Lins spotted the couple they had met at the beach. In shock, they made up a quick excuse about needing to eat and fled the scene, but later on decided to go back.
"Finally we got somehow bored, relaxed or drunk enough to realise that we were both huge chickens."
To their relief, it turned out the couple they had met at the beach weren't swingers but liked to hang out at the party: "We only watch, no touching."
So Nick and Lins joined them, and watched the swingers with fascination. This was definitely not the norm in the world of nudists.
"At a certain moment I was having a discussion with a Brazilian guy about cultural differences between Brazil and Europe while the guy was having sex with a woman," Nick said. "That was by far the most awkward situation ever."
He added, helpfully: "If you're ever planning to go to Brazil, know that swinging is forbidden over there and that swinger parties happen under the name 'naturism'."
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THE NAKED TRAVELLERS
The swinger kerfuffle is one of many colourful stories Nick and Lins have to tell about their time in the buff.
Nick, 35, and Lins, 31, previously held jobs as an IT system administrator and HR manager, before quitting to become "nudie bloggers". They fell into naturism accidentally about nine years ago after receiving a coupon for a birthday. They cashed it in at a public sauna, not realising there were no swimsuits allowed, but decided to try it out anyway.
Now, the duo are keen to break the taboo and educate people about their lifestyle, including differentiating between the different types of people who strip off: there are nudists, swingers, exhibitionists and voyeurs. And yes, there's a big difference in how they interact.
"Many people still link nudity automatically with sex," the couple said. "We (the nudists) try to remove this link ... in a nudist environment, sex or any steps towards it in public are a big no-no.
"But then there's another lifestyle: swingers. They gather in their own clubs where they're often naked as well with the intention to have sex with each other - either in public or not. Many swingers are also naturists and thus visit naturist venues.
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"Ninety-nine per cent of the swingers can perfectly draw the line between both lifestyles and won't cause any problems. But once in a while there's a couple that will test the borders. Some because they're just so used to be touching each other among others, others because they gain extra pleasure from the fact that there is an 'audience'.
"But this doesn't occur often and at private venues they might get one warning but if they keep pushing the limits they will be excluded.
"Then there are exhibitionists ... who enjoy being watched. Sometimes you can just see them proudly parade from one way end the beach to the other. Which is actually a bit strange as nobody will bother watching them. It's like parading with your Ferrari at a place where everyone has one. But some will take it more sexually and start touching themselves or their partners a bit too much at all the wrong places.
"And on the other hand are the voyeurs, who come specifically to watch the others ... Those cases are rare, but for some naturists they form a ground for more controls, more rules and as a result an even higher wall between a naturist and textile environments."
The couple said they didn't believe more rules would help and instead wanted to normalise nudity.
"How many naked bodies do most people see in their whole life? Five? Twenty? Maybe their parents or siblings ... We literally have seen thousands of naked people so for us a naked body has become something completely normal."
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After making headlines last October when their nude photographs were published on news sites around the world, the couple are making their way around Asia.
So far they've been disappointed. In Sri Lanka: "People over there swim in the sea in T-shirts and long trousers ... Need we say more?"
Malaysia and India have also proved difficult, and now they're in Bali, "known as the island where 'everything is possible', but mostly because we knew that they have a nudist resort".
"For the first time in about two months we are finally able to be naked again among other nudies. That doesn't mean that we kept our clothes on during the previous months, in fact we learned to be very inventive and we found the most amazing secluded beaches ...
"Meanwhile we've learned our lesson and gotten much better in researching. The next country we'll visit is Thailand, the nudist's heaven in Asia with six nudist resorts. It's very interesting to see that the taboo is mostly about the 'being nude just for the sake of it'.
"For example here in Bali there are plenty of public bath houses and while driving through the villages we often spot naked men or women bathing in a river. That's completely accepted. But being naked on the beach is a big no which can get you in jail. So from our Asia experience, we mostly learned that we have a long way to go to normalise nudity worldwide."
They are hoping to visit Australia by the end of the year.
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So what are their top tips for aspiring nudists?
"Start at a private place, resort, campground etc, because of the protected environment.
They go to a lot of effort keeping those with the wrong intentions out, and often maintain a male/female ratio, so you won't be the only woman among a bunch of men, or vice versa. In public places, like beaches, 99 per cent of the time nothing bad happens, but the chances are just slightly bigger that you run into a voyeur or someone who will do indecent proposals.
"In the past we also advised going to smaller clubs or resorts when you're not completely comfortable being naked, but we kind of changed our mind. The smaller venues are often very social, so you are more or less forced to talk to others, while at the bigger places, you can more easily blend in."
Their first nude adventure in public was in a spa, a place they recommend for newbies.
"A spa is actually a great place to start because you're only so supposed to be naked in the water, in between you're allowed to cover up with a bathrobe.
"The next step was a nudist campground ... We chose a spot away from the other tents, so we still had a bit of privacy to take things at our own pace. What we hadn't noticed was that our spot was also far away from the shower block. So every time we wanted to take a shower or had to go to the toilet, we had to cross the whole field, past all the other tents.
"That was very awkward at first, but after a couple of those walks it became more comfortable again. And then someone comes over to you and you have a complete naked stranger in front of you asking the most common things like 'where are you from?' or 'is it your first time here?' and it becomes awkward again. But also this is something you get used to.
"We've been to all kinds of private places, from very small clubs to fancy resorts to huge campgrounds. And they all differ. At the small clubs, everyone is naked most of the time. Everyone knows everyone else and there's a huge community feeling. In the resorts this is a bit different. In some resorts we noticed the same, that people got together in the evening and had dinner together at a long table but in others it was just everyone for themselves."
Their final message? Just give it a try!