(CNN) – Filled with nerves, I intentionally left my bikini behind before embarking on my first nude beach experience on the uninhabited island of Lokrum in Croatia.
It was the only way I could be sure that the fear of revealing everything in front of strangers wouldn’t make me back down at the last minute.
After surveying the rocky beach, located in the southeastern part of the island, I positioned myself on a rock right next to the water so I could dive in to cool off – or if I felt awkward.
As the sun warmed my body, my uneasiness about being naked in public quickly dissipated with the heat.
Then a boat filled with tourists holding long-lens cameras crept near the shore. Dismayed, I jumped into the ocean, allowing the deep blue sea to shield me from their curious gazes.
Despite this rather unwelcome hiatus, my love for nudist beaches officially started that day in 2016, and I quickly searched for them wherever I went.
Darcy Tuscano, an educational development consultant who lives within walking distance of two nude beaches in southern Spain, is also a big fan of the practice.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to get naked after a hot hike and run into the sea. It’s very invigorating,” says Tuscano.
There are hundreds of beaches around the world where it is legal to sunbathe and / or swim naked.
“My children are growing up without being ashamed of their bodies and they see all body types and shapes proudly displayed without shyness or puritanical ‘blanket’.
“Being naked is not a sexual thing on a beach.”
Travel writer Geena Truman believes nudist beaches help break down societal stigma around nudity.
“I like to get naked as often as possible in nature and I like a good nude beach,” she says. “It’s about freedom and reveling in your body while being immersed in nature.”
This feeling is shared by many others who regularly frequent the nudist beaches.
For me, being able to let go of my inhibitions, as well as my swimsuit, has been a truly liberating experience.
By embracing my natural state and grabbing vitamin D where the sun (usually) doesn’t shine, I accept and celebrate my body in all of its imperfections.
It also helped me stop obsessing over my belly rollers, stretch marks, and acne scars. Bare beaches are like sacred spaces without judgment.
“I feel really comfortable in my own skin and a little embarrassed in a bikini,” Truman says. “I love how free I feel when I let the sun see my whole being.”
Study Abroad Coordinator Allison Yates was also able to overcome her bodily insecurities by sunbathing naked.
“Seeing everyone living their lives in their bodies, I no longer let my insecurities control me,” Yates says.
“I dared to be naked because I was in a new place and I knew I would never see these people again.”
For those who have never been to a nudist beach, but feel ready to take the plunge, there are a few important things to consider to make the experience as comfortable as possible.
First, make sure it’s legal to be nude in public at the beach and obey local laws.
It’s also a good idea to find a beach that has access to the services you might need, including restrooms and refreshments. I prefer a naturist beach located far from non-naturist beaches.
Some have physical barriers to separate the beaches and many are wild and wild beaches away from populated coastal areas.
According to Tuscano, the best nude beaches are off the beaten track “so you don’t have other people walking by and gaping”.
If you’re worried about onlookers, opt for a place like Ada Bojana nudist island in Ulcinj, Montenegro, where clothing isn’t optional – everyone must be naked.
All types of people love nude beaches. I have seen families, groups of friends, individuals and couples of all ages, genders, ethnicities and sexualities enjoying a day in the sun without a bathing suit.
Resorts with dedicated nudist beaches, such as couples in Jamaica, Negril, are a great option for first-timers as they are protected areas.
Whatever nude beach you visit, be sure to bring something to sit on, SPF, and appropriate clothing to wear when you go and leave.
Do not look at other bathers. Be respectful to everyone around you and don’t publicly engage in sexual activity.
While there are nude beach clubs and resorts for those looking to party, the atmosphere at public nude beaches is generally laid-back. I often go alone and I feel safe as people tend to go about their own business and let you go.
Fortunately, Chihuahua, the nudist beach in Uruguay where I live, has been open throughout the pandemic. I spent some lovely days there alone, with LGBT friends and my ex-girlfriend.
Feeling of freedom
Ladies Beach in Ulcinj, Montenegro is exclusively for women.
International ground coach Chris Roe’s first time on a nude beach was a bit awkward, but he says it quickly became a release and “a celebration of myself inside and out” .
As an LGBT traveler, Roe experiences a strong sense of inclusion, freedom and connectedness with nature when visiting nude beaches.
“All judgments are thrown out the door,” he said. “It’s so powerful to claim ownership of the skin you find yourself in. On nude beaches, I am not separate from nature, I am part of it.”
If you’re nervous about sunbathing nude, Truman recommends making the experience easier by going topless first.
And it’s important to remember that you can just put on your blanket and go if you don’t enjoy the experience. There’s no shame that nude beaches aren’t your thing.
Some are exclusively reserved for women. Ladies Beach, which is also in Ulcinj, remains my all time favorite. Visitors are not allowed to take photos here, so bathers can relax knowing their privacy is protected.
The beach also has high fences around the perimeter to protect the shore, preventing voyeurs from peering inside.
Local women flock here to bathe in the sulfuric water, as it is believed to increase fertility. Ladies Beach also offers natural medicinal mud, which you can apply yourself or have a mud massage by the beach.
For those who have spent more than a year locked indoors due to the pandemic, the idea of sunbathing on a nude beach can be extremely alluring.
Beaches are generally low risk to visit, provided they aren’t overcrowded, and nude beaches tend to be in secluded areas.
And nude bathers usually respect everyone’s privacy, space out along the beach, so it’s not difficult to maintain social distancing.