Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Freehiking as a Public Health Issue

The Threat

Ticks. If you've ever seen one, that word should make you cringe. Despite their tiny size, many carry a nasty bite with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

There is a lot of mystery, controversy, and politics surrounding Lyme disease. On one side, there are organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which rely on scientific studies to influence their recommendations for diagnosing and treating Lyme disease. On the other side are organizations like the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), who listen to those affected by the disease and conduct their own studies.

The CDC [1] and ILADS[2, 3], for the most part, agree on the early symptoms: fatigue, anxiety, chills, fever, headache, muscle aches, and joint aches. They also agree that a “bulls-eye” rash or finding a tick prior or during the symptoms are a tell-tale sign of an infection.

According to the CDC, 70%-80% of people get the “bulls-eye” rash. They recommend performing both the ELISA screening test and the Western Blot test, both of which need to be positive to conclude a positive result. If untreated, a variety of neurological symptoms and joint pain/swelling will come and go. This is called Chronic Lyme Disease. If treated, 10%-20% of patients still get a similar variety of symptoms. They call this Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS).

ILADS takes a more dire stance. Their research indicates that fewer than 50% of patients recall a tick bite, and fewer than 50% have the “bulls-eye” rash. The ELISA test produces a false-negative 35% of the time, and the Western Blot test has a false-negative 20%-30% of the time. ILADS also believes that treatment sometimes cannot fully eradicate the disease, and questions if PTLDS really is something different.

The CDC maintains that the B. burgdorferi bacteria is primarily transferred through tick bites. ILADS and others believe the bacteria can spread in similar ways that other bacterias spread. Quite frankly, there isn't a lot of research on one side or the other. There is a lot that we don't know about this mysterious bacteria and the disease it causes.

Lyme disease is often called the “great imitator”. Since the symptoms vary widely, and are often similar to other diseases, it's often misdiagnosed. Both the CDC and ILADS suspected that there were more infections than were being reported.

The CDC originally reported about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease per year in America. ILADS, citing some studies in the early 90's, believed that the true amount of new cases was roughly ten times that number. The CDC conducted additional studies and in 2012 announced that the number was actually around 300,000. [4] This puts Lyme disease well beyond more commonly known diseases like HIV/AIDS (around 50,000 new cases per year in America) and even surpasses breast cancer (232,340 new cases in 2013 in America). It also makes one wonder what else ILADS and others have right.

Somewhere between the CDC and ILADS is the truth. It's scary. Living in one of the high-risk zones, and enjoying wilderness recreation, is what prompted me to learn all I can about Lyme disease and the ticks that carry it. What I eventually realized, however, is that the common advice to prevent tick bites isn't ideal.

In order to remain safe while venturing through tick territory, you need the best advice that research can provide. Before that advice, however, are some details that'll make your skin crawl.

Tick Life-Cycle

Ticks go through three stages in their three years of life: larva, nymph, and adult. [5] Each stage requires feeding on blood, and one more feeding as an adult allows it to lay eggs.
Ticks aren't born with Lyme, and receiving a bite from a larva usually isn't a problem. However, the larva tend to feed on small mammals such as mice. If the mouse has Lyme, the tick will become a carrier, and all future targets are at risk.

As the tick feeds on a host, not only is it sucking blood, it's also salivating on your skin. This numbs the skin so the tick can remain undetected for the 3-7 days it needs. It's also how diseases get transferred. After removing a tick, make sure to sanitize the area it was on.

Most applicable to this article is how they hunt for a host. Many people believe they drop out of trees at just the right time or somehow jump onto you. Neither is true. Ticks can sense oder, heat, moisture, and vibration. If a host is nearby, it'll crawl towards it. Otherwise, it'll start “questing”.

To quest, the tick climbs to the top of a nearby plant, hangs on with its back legs and sticks the rest outward. It'll grab on to anything that brushes by.

Fur and Cloth

Researchers have been collecting ticks for various studies for a long time. The best method, still commonly used today, is called “tick dragging”. [6] A researcher pulls a material behind them. Ticks grab on, and the researchers stop to pluck them off every so often. The researchers aren't using the natural choice – fur. They're using cloth.

With that in mind, it seems a little silly that we wrap up in cloth to venture out into the wilderness. Evolution has given us something better.

A 2003 publication by Mark Pagel and Walter Bodmer [7] discusses a unique trait shared by only a handful of mammals: hairlessness. Excluding the mammals which have fur or have thick, tough skin, only two species remain; humans, and naked mole-rats.

How did this unique trait evolve? Pagel and Bodmer put forth a convincing hypothesis that ridding our fur is an adaptation to reduce ectoparasites. (Ectoparasites are parasites which live outside the skin, like fleas and ticks.)

With intelligence, fire, and clothing, human hairlessness became feasible. Since ectoparasites are easily found and removed from hairless regions, being hairless became an advantage. Finally, sexual selection promotes hairlessness since having a parasite-free and disease-free mate is good. Traditionally, males are more selective, which explains why women typically have less body hair.

Similarly, naked mole-rats group together in an always-warm underground environment where ectoparasites are expected to be common. They don't need fur to keep their body temperature regulated, so they lost it. Ectoparasites are relatively rare in these colonies, compared to similar colonies of furry rodents. [8]

Is nakedness still to our advantage when ectoparasites are involved? A different study has the answer, although indirectly.

Tick Psychology

Once a tick hitches a ride on a human host, where does it crawl to in order to feed? The best study I've found [9] comes from Switzerland. Although the Swiss ticks aren't the same species as the the ones in the U.S., they have very similar characteristics, including being a primary vector for Lyme disease.

The purpose of the study was to measure the effectiveness of a typical commercially-available bug repellent containing DEET (15%) and EBAAP (15%) in a real-word setting. The study included 276 volunteer forestry workers and orienteers, and spanned from May to September, 1999. Orienteers, by the way, are people who race through any terrain to finish at a specific spot on a map.

An important aspect that isn't detailed in the study is what clothing the participants wore. The forestry workers were likely wearing long pants, which were not tucked into their shoes or socks. The study mentions that the orienteers typically wore short pants (presumably capri-style) and t-shirts, but doesn't detail if anything was tucked in.

The volunteers were split into two groups, one got the repellent and the other got a placebo. They were given instructions to apply the spray on exposed skin (excluding the face) and the nearby edges of clothing. They logged all ticks they found on them and where they were at.

In total, the placebo group found 335 attached ticks, and the repellent group found 202. The percentages were similar for both groups. The head had the least number of ticks (0.2%-4.0%), with the arms next (13%-14%). At the other end of the spectrum, the legs were attacked 56%-61% of the time, followed by the torso 23%-27% of the time.

Thinking about how ticks quest, most probably land on the shoes along a normal trail. If the person is going through thicker brush, they land on the legs or shirt. From there, they wander around until they find a good warm spot. It makes sense that the legs and torso are most popular.

The study continues with: “75% of the reported attachments were on skin covered by clothing, whereas only 14% were on uncovered skin. For the remaining 11%, it was unclear whether the skin had been covered or uncovered.” From those observations, they conclude that “ticks search for covered skin.”

Lastly, their overall conclusion states that the tick repellent “offers at least moderate protection against tick bites.” Presumably, going naked with tick repellent is the best protection we can get.


All repellents on the market are based on a small collection of chemicals. There are two chemicals which stand out.

The first is DEET. In July 2010, Consumer Reports [10] found DEET to be the best repellent for skin. However, remember that it's also toxic, so more isn't better. Their research suggested that 30% strength is ideal. Make sure to reapply as directed, and wash it off when it's no longer needed.

According to the CDC [11], products which combine sunscreen and bug repellent should be avoided. Always apply sunscreen first, followed by insect repellent. The insect repellent should be applied on the outside of clothing. Don't apply it to skin that is covered by clothing.

The second chemical is permethrin, an insecticide applied to clothing. According to a recent study [12], both the manufacturer-treated clothing and the home kits are equally effective. However, the success varied depending on the article of clothing. Treated shirts made it 2.17 times less likely to get a tick bite. Treated shorts made it 4.74 times less likely. Treated shoes and socks, amazingly, made it 73.6 times less likely to get a tick bite. Since most ticks probably grab onto the shoes, it makes sense that few would make it to the bare leg alive.

Staying Safe

No matter where you go to find advice about preventing tick bites, it's basically the same. Here, the “common advice” comes from either the CDC [13] or the Minnesota DNR [14]. Combined, they seem to cover everything. “My advice” is based on the research I discussed in the previous sections and personal experience.

The common advice is to wear light-colored clothing so ticks are more visible, and to tuck pants into boots and shirt into pants. While this may be good to keep ticks outside your clothing, it'll be extremely warm. Sweat attracts more bugs and makes repellent lose effectiveness quicker. Wearing loose clothing to stay cool allows ticks to sneak in. My advice is to go naked when weather permits. This keeps you comfortably cool and gives ticks no place to hide.

My favorite bit of common advice is to bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and find ticks. Why not start that way? From my own experience of textiled hiking, the commute back home with ticks crawling all over is the worst. It gives them extra time to find a spot and bite. I believe all of my bites stem from not being able to get out of my clothes fast enough.

Although the common advice to do a full-body check, wash clothing, and check gear is good, my advice is much more simple. Keep your clothes sealed in a plastic bag or in the car, and do the full-body check before getting dressed. A shower and a double-check for ticks at home is a good idea, but you'll already be confident that you're tick-free. There's no need to rush home, so you can grab some food and continue the day normally. 
For optimal protection, the common advice is to apply the minimum amount of DEET to exposed skin and clothing. I recommend 30% strength, which lasts up to 7 hours. If trails are nice and wide and you don't brush up against anything, you could skip the DEET.

Don't skip the permethrin though. The common advice is to treat everything you wear. If you're hiking naked, I recommend treating a good pair of solid boots and some shin-high socks at a minimum. Backpacks and hats are good too.

I'd like to offer a few additional pieces of advice. These aren't typically found in the common advice, but they probably should be.

Find a hat that keeps ticks out of your hair. If it has holes in it, ticks might find their way in. Also, if ticks can hide in your body hair, you should consider trimming it down.

It's best to hike with others. Take turns leading so others can “watch your back”. I've gotten into the habit of running my hands across most of my skin every so often. If there are any ticks, they get brushed off or I feel that they've recently bitten.


With Lyme disease impacting such a large number of people, I believe the best advice that research can provide should be promoted as a matter of public health. In a high-risk area during the warm months, wearing clothing significantly increases your chances of getting Lyme disease through a tick bite.

In a growing number of states, a nursing mother can breastfeed openly in public. Laws allow the “nudity in public” since public health takes priority. Freehiking in the wilderness should someday be accepted on the same basis.


[1] Centers for Disease Control (2012, Aug. 27). Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/index.html

[2] International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (2009). Top Ten Tips to Prevent Chronic Lyme Disease. Retrieved from http://www.ilads.org/lyme_disease/lyme_tips.html

[3] International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (2006, April 15). Basic Information about Lyme Disease. Retrieved from http://www.ilads.org/lyme_disease/about_lyme.html

[4] Centers for Disease Control (2013, Aug. 19). Press Release – CDC Provides Estimate of Americans Diagnosed with Lyme Disease Each Year. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0819-lyme-disease.html

[5] Centers for Disease Control (2012, Sept. 9). Tick Life Cycle and Hosts. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/life_cycle_and_hosts.html

[6] Falco, R. C., Fish, D. (1992). A comparison of methods for sampling the deer tick, Ixodes dammini, in a Lyme disease endemic area. Experimental & Applied Acarology, 14(2), 165-173.

[7] Pagel, M., Bodmer, W. (2003). A naked ape would have fewer parasites. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, 270, 117-119.

[8] Scharff, A., Burda, H., Tenora, F., Kawalika, M., & Barus, V. (1997). Parasites in social subterranean Zambian mole‐rats (Cryptomys spp., Bathyergidae, Rodentia). Journal of Zoology, 241(3), 571-577.

[9] Staub, D., Debrunner, M., Amsler, L., & Steffen, R. (2002). Effectiveness of a repellent containing DEET and EBAAP for preventing tick bites. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 13(1), 12-20.

[10] Consumer Reports (2010, July). Best ways to keep bugs at bay. Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/july/health/insect-repellent/overview/index.htm

[11] Centers for Disease Control (2012, Aug. 27). West Nile Virus Q&A Insect Repellent Use and Safety. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm

[12] Miller, N. J., Rainone, E. E., Dyer, M. C., González, M. L., & Mather, T. N. (2011). Tick bite protection with permethrin-treated summer-weight clothing. Journal of medical entomology, 48(2), 327-333.

[13] Centers for Disease Control (2011, Nov. 15). Preventing Tick Bites. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/on_people.html

[14] Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (2013). Deer Ticks. Retrieved from http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/insects/deerticks/index.html

Comments and feedback can go on the Preface.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Public Health Issues - Preface

The next article, to be posted tomorrow, has been a long time coming!  It's perhaps one of my best research articles so far, and will hopefully have a positive impact.

Naturists have always been pushing to expand opportunities.  Although "nakations" have been fueling some growth recently, I believe the biggest growth was way back before the 1960's when naturism was part of the health movement.  Back when doctors would sometimes recommend it as a way to rejuvenate health.

Right now, naturism is merely a form of recreation that is often struggling to survive.  Top-freedom is leveraging "equal-rights" and is gaining ground.  The LGBT community has done the same too for their acceptance and rights.  Breastfeeding has advanced the most, by leveraging itself as a matter of public health.

Freehiking, as my research shows, should also be accepted in high-risk areas as a matter of public health.  To clarify, I don't mean in a "health movement" type of way; I mean in a "use of clothing greatly increases your risk of contracting a horrible life-long illness" type of way.  And the little-understood illness is spreading like wildfire, as the article tomorrow will show.

This revelation was actually an afterthought, after I was already deep into the research.  At that point, I decided that it would be best to get it published as soon as possible, to the largest audience that I could.  That didn't happen as I'd hoped.  Here's the timeline of events:

July 2012 - A presentation on the subject, along with meeting someone who's been dealing with the health problems, and along with a few prior close-calls myself (some still visible), prompted me to learn a lot more about it and write what I found, especially since I live in a high-risk area.
March 2013 - Originally written for the blog, I pitch the article to TNS to get it published there first.  They (both Nicky and Mark) say it's something they'd be interested in.
November 2013 - After an extensive re-write, I submit it to TNS.  Nicky says it's too long, and I re-submit to the specifications.
April 2014 - I don't see the article in the Spring issue, so I check in.  Nicky says the Summer issue is all-female-written, so it'll be published in the Autumn issue.
Autumn 2014 - No article.
Winter 2014 - No article.
Spring 2015 - No article.

"High-risk" season is starting right now, and I don't want to go any longer without publishing.  The last thing I want is for TNS to kick the can further down the road, so I'm not checking in about it again.  If both Nicky and Mark simply forgot about the article, then it must not have been very important to them.

I decided to publish here. I apologize that the article has 2-year-old or older references.  Also, that there's no hyper-links within the article.  It was written for the magazine, and I don't want to spend more time updating references and in-lining them into the article.  It's magazine quality: concise, informative, important.  But it has far fewer eyes on it, a year later than I was hoping for.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Blueprint for Progress

We all wish society was more accepting of naturists.  We all wish there were more opportunities for nude recreation, without the occasional social and legal repercussions.  We all believe that the lifestyle is healthy and natural, and we wish others could understand that.

Every naturist seems to have their own opinion of what the problems are and what needs to be done to advance our cause.  My opinion is quite straight-forward -- do what works.  And I look to the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community as a good example of what works.

LGBT vs. Nudist Statistics

There are a lot of parallels between being a nudist, and being gay.  (Or part of the LGBT group, more specifically.)  There is a period of self-discovery, followed by a duration of keeping a secret, followed by a "coming out".  Although we live in an America which is more tolerant of some things, it seems less tolerant of others.

There are some important differences too.  First is that naturism is a choice, and being gay is typically not.  Second is that discovering and "coming out" usually occur at very different ages for each group.  The LGBT group typically "come out" in their teenage years.  Naturists often discover the lifestyle and "come out" much later.  Despite the differences, I think there is still a strong comparison between the two groups.

I previously mentioned a surprising statistic, and asked the obvious question:  8.2% of Americans have engaged in some form of same-sex sexual activity, yet most Americans think 25% of the population is gay.  Per the NEF poll, 25% of Americans have gone skinny-dipping or nude sunbathing in mixed company, yet many Americans think we're a fringe group.  Why are these statistics inversed?  For the sake of this post, let's assume that these two groups have roughly the same numbers of people, somewhere between 8.2% and 25% of the population.

Last summer, a publication caught my eye:  "A Survey of LGBT Americans" from Pew Research. In the back of my mind, I contemplated what naturists would say to those same questions.  (I wish a similar poll was conducted on naturists so that we have a baseline.)

92% of LGBT adults find America more accepting of them compared to 10 years ago, and expect it to be even more so 10 years from now.  Naturists might say the opposite, or say there has been little progress.

54% of LGBT adults say that all or most of the important people in their lives know that they are LGBT.  (Only 14% haven't told anyone.)  Do you think that many naturists are open about it?  Not only that, but 70% of LGBT adults believe that the biggest help to making society more accepting is "people knowing someone who is LGBT."

The LGBT adults clearly saw Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres as important public figures advancing their rights.  Although I once tweeted that Obama could fit in as a nudist, we really don't have any public figures that we can proudly point to.  LGBT adults also point to the entertainment industry, with 70% thinking it's friendly.  Most mainstream TV depicting naturists isn't so friendly, especially the news media.  And what do LGBT adults think of the news media?  Most think it's friendly or neutral.

The LGBT adults are active too.  52% have attended a pride event, 40% attended a rally or march, 39% are members of an organization, and 32% have donated to the cause.  For naturists, I'm betting these numbers would all be much lower.  (For attending an organized gathering or conference, participating in a protest, being a member of TNS or AANR, and donating to support naturist rights.)

The Blueprint

In order to:
  • Move America in the right direction for accepting naturists.
  • Make society more accepting to naturists.
  • Have celebrity support.
  • Have a naturist-friendly entertainment industry (TV, movies, news).

We need to:
  • Have at least 54% of naturists "come out" to most friends and family, with  another 32% or so telling at least someone else.  This would have the biggest impact.
  • Have at least 52% of naturists attending gatherings, conferences, or other similar events.
  • Have at least 39% of naturists be members of a naturist organization.
  • Have at least 32% donate to naturist causes.

I've helped all of those metrics, and I hope all of you will do the same.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Accidental Hiatus

It's been more than 6 months since my previous post.  Time goes fast!

This spring, I labored on a really good article for the blog, and then decided that it might be better for N magazine.  Recognizing significant differences in writing for the blog and writing for a magazine, I re-wrote most of it from scratch.  It's still a work in progress, and I'm targeting a submission date in the winter months.  The article would be ideal for spring-time publication.

While writing it, I stumbled upon another great article idea.  Again, it might be better suited for the magazine.  I'm collecting data this summer and through some of the winter.

Both articles are interesting and applicable for naturists, and academic-style with original research.  I plan to publish each here a while after they run in N magazine (if accepted).  No spoilers in the meantime!

My summer has remained busy due to a more personal reason too.  My significant other and I are finally, after nearly 11 years, getting married.

In other blog news, I've decided to stop (or at least significantly scale back) writing about trips and events.  I'm the only naturist blogger who has written about ALL of my social naturist trips for the entire 7 years I've been participating.  I don't think it has much value anymore.  (Unless someone can persuade me to continue?)

With that, expect the hiatus to continue for a while longer and for posts to be less frequent.  I'd like to shift more to quality instead of quantity.  Thanks for understanding.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Future Resort Summary

Since the Future Resort series is a good start for a business plan, I'll summarize all the best ideas from the Original series (O) and the Redux (R).  As I mentioned at the start of the Redux, I'm interested in a business partnership.  Contact me here if you'd like to play any part in opening a venue which satisfies this criteria.

Obviously, I've published all of these ideas already.  Anyone can open a venue.  I'm not looking for profit from a business partnership.  I'm focused on the long-term benefit of having the venues in place.  I'm hoping that profits from the venues get wisely reinvested into nudist causes, instead of pocketed for lavish lifestyles.  And I'm hoping that anyone who may copy my ideas also copies my philosophy.

The word "should" indicates a goal to strive for as a best effort.  The word "must" indicates the venue needs to have it to earn my support.

Summary of ideas:
  • The venue must be one of the following:
    • Castle-style, with building(s) surrounding an open lawn. (O2)
    • Commercial building. (R2)
  • The venue must be located in a city, and should be located in one of the largest cities in the states listed in (R4).
  • The venue must provide privacy/seclusion and access control. (R2)
  • The venue should be spacious and able to support a crowd. (R2)
  • The venue must provide access to sunshine for sunbathing. (R2, R3)
  • The venue must be easily accessible, and within range of a taxi.  It should be along a main road. (R2)
  • The venue must be comfortable. (R2)
  • The venue must provide food through an internal restaurant, snack shop, groceries, or selection of delivered food. (R3)
  • The venue must provide both hostel-style lodging and hotel-style lodging. (R6, R3)
  • The venue must allow more granular "grounds fees", such as charging by the hour. (R7)
  • The venue should evaluate the green technologies listed in (O3, O3.1, O3.2, O3.3) and implement any which would be profitable as soon as they can be afforded.
  • The venue should diversify using my crowdsourced evolutionary model. (O4, O5)  Note: Initial projects will likely be a pool, hot tub, games, fitness equipment, and other things nudists like to do.
  • The venue should do iterative development. (O4)
  • The venue should specialize in one or more specific events. (O4)
  • The venue should consider all ideas from guests, and track the decision making process for transparency. (O4)
  • The venue should offer chores in exchange for credit, so people can have a cheaper stay if they help out, using the framework in (O5) and the suggestion in (O-Recap3).
  • The venue should encourage fundraisers, both to fund internal projects (O5) and to fund community projects (O7).
  • The venue should implement ideal resource-sharing methods as described in (O6).  Avoid the main example, however.
  • The venue should make use of regulars with specific skills who are willing to support side-businesses, fundraisers, and community involvement. (R3)
  • The venue must be open and involved with the community, such as attending meetings, fundraising for community efforts, offering textile "open house" days, and doing good whenever possible. (O7, R7)

Of course, there are other good ideas outside of the Future Resort series.  For example, I cover effective use of markerboards here, might inspire a venue name and marketing ideas here, and might offer a few event ideas here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p7) - End Effect

The venues described in the series aren't entirely revolutionary.  There are numerous venues which already fit in to the urban nudist oasis category.  N magazine 31.4 talks about Fawlty Towers in Cocoa Beach, which is a hotel that recently turned nudist.  Another recent addition is Clover Spa in Britain, which is more like a bed and breakfast.  A commenter pointed out his "Clothing Optional Home Network" of bed and breakfast venues.  (There are many more, including some traditional nudist venues which happen to be at the city's edge.)

The existing venues basically market themselves as hotels.  You go there, pay a substantial sum of money, and enjoy a room for the night.  Some go a step beyond and allow guests to enjoy the facilities for a day fee.  This is often a substantial sum of money and they feel like they need to stay all day to make it worthwhile.  With these policies, the venue attracts vacationers and people who have the day off from work.  It becomes a tourist destination and a hotel.  Although this can be profitable, my venue would focus on a different market.

My policy for an urban nudist venue would be to also take the next logical step: charge by the hour.  With this policy, the venue would provide dual roles.  It can still be a tourist destination and hotel, but it will also become an entertainment establishment.  It would compete with things like bowling alleys, skating rinks, gyms (both workout facilities and classes such as yoga), theaters, arcades, restaurants, and bars -- all of which you pay a small amount of money and have some small duration of entertainment or use.

Think about how much time you spend at vacation destinations.  Perhaps a week or two each year?  Now think about how much time you spend at the entertainment establishments I listed above.  Likely a few evenings each week and most weekends the rest of the year.  When people want to get out of the house for a while, or have time to kill in town, they can stop in.

If anyone is curious, a small fee and an hour of time is all it takes to give nudism a try.  (An hour is usually all it takes to become hooked, too.)  As people drive by the venue, many will be curious.  They'll think about it and talk about it even if they never go.  And this would be good for nudism.

How many nudists do you know on TV?  Probably none.  Is nudism a talking point in each political election?  The obvious answer is "no".  However, gay rights are a talking point and I'm sure you know several gay characters on TV.  Here are the stats: 8.2% of Americans have engaged in some form of same-sex sexual activity, yet most Americans think 25% of the population is gay.  Per the NEF poll, 25% of Americans have gone skinny-dipping or nude sunbathing in mixed company, yet many Americans think we're a fringe group.  Why are these statistics inversed?

I believe that the difference in attitudes is related to the difference in primary social frameworks over the last 50 years.  Nudist resorts are hidden away in rural areas, keep to themselves, and in general become forgotten.  Gay bars, on the other hand, are in the middle of town.  They are seen on a daily basis.  They are talked about among the community.  They are frequented by a lot of casual visitors, both regulars and the curious.  They are a social hub for tight-knit local communities who are actively pushing for change.

I'm not advocating that we open a bunch of "nudist bars" to mimic the success of the gay culture.  (Legally speaking, establishments serving alcohol and offering nudity are heavily regulated, so a "nudist bar" would be very difficult to open and operate anyway.)  But if similar facilities -- minus the alcohol and plus the numerous features I've mentioned in this series -- popped up around the country, I believe it would have a huge positive impact on nudism long-term.

In conclusion, my revised prediction for the future of nudism is within an urban setting.  Existing urban venues can be repurposed with casual nudists in mind, in cities which are already ripe with demand.  A healthy mix of people will give it a try.  Naturally, a strong sense of community will develop.  With the increased visual presence, nudism will become a topic of political debate and mainstream media.  Change is coming in the next couple decades, and I'm already looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p6) - Targeting Youth

Follow the Trend

Many nudists acknowledge a declining trend in youth at traditional nudist campgrounds.  Although there is a lot of speculation for why that might be, there is one hypothesis which pertains to this series.

The National Wildlife Federation, citing several studies, presents this conclusion:
"In the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors. The average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen."

Youth don't go outside as much anymore.  (And when they do, I'd bet most of that play time is in urban playgrounds.)  As they grow up, they'll gravitate to the city and prefer to be inside buildings.  I don't think many have a desire to "escape to nature," especially since many find nature uncomfortable and maybe even a little scary.  Why would they want to travel hours away from the city to spend the weekend at a nudist campground?  This goes for kids, teenagers, college students, and young adults.  The younger generation just isn't interested in nature anymore.

By having an urban nudist venue, you'll implicitly target the youth.  When given the choice, I'm confident that many young adults would prefer a smaller local urban venue over a distant large rustic venue.  As time goes on, more and more will choose the urban one.

Additionally, according to the CIA World Factbook, about 82% of the total population in the US live in an urban environment and it's increasing by 1.2% annually.  Everyone goes to the city -- either by moving there or traveling there regularly.  It only makes sense that most businesses would prefer being in the city.  That's where the customers are.

Leverage Nudist Culture

In the USA, it's rare to find a hostel.  In Europe and Australia, they're quite common.  Backpackers are often young Europeans or anyone else who wants to take a year off from school or work and travel.  As the name implies, they travel with little more than a backpack full of necessities.

Hostels cater to this group by offering up a bed.  From my own experience, backpackers pay between $10 and $20 at a hostel.  In return, they get a bunk bed and sometimes a pillow and blanket.  The rooms are shared among many different people (mixed gender).  They typically aren't even locked.  They're dirty and often things are broke, but they're cheap.  And many backpackers love meeting new friends through the random room assignments.

The reason hostels aren't popular in the US, I believe, is due to trust.  We're a culture of locking doors and protecting our space with guns.  We Americans don't trust anyone.  Sharing a room with a bunch of strangers seems absurd.

Nudist culture is different.  At hotel parties, we don't always close/lock doors.  We trust leaving our stuff on a table while we make a trip to the room.  Everyone becomes a friend.  It's difficult to be a thief when everyone is naked, trusting, and friendly.  In addition, I'm willing to bet a nudist hostel area would remain cleaner than the textile hostels I've been to.  Offering chores to reduce cost is always a good idea.

I suggest including some hostel-style rooms in any urban nudist venue.  I believe cash-strapped nudists (especially the youth) would jump at the chance for a $10-$20 bed for the night, sharing a room with a new group of friends.  Most nudists don't care if they have a big comfy bed, a door that locks, or the seclusion they get with their own room.  Give them the option of their own fancy hotel-style room (at a price), or a cheap hostel-style bed.  Nudist culture makes a choice like this possible in the US, and I suggest we make use of it.