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These are hard times for clothing-optional travelers.
Last summer, thanks to two highly publicized incidents, naked became synonymous with crazy. In one, a passenger stripped during a US Airways flight and resisted an attendant's efforts to cover him; in the other, a Southwest Airlines flight was forced to turn around after a male passenger went au naturel.
The American nudist community has endured other recent controversies as well, including the withdrawal of a Florida clothing-optional resort called Paradise Lakes from the American Association of Nude Recreation (AANR) after running a controversial ad campaign that violated AANR's "family-friendly principles."
All of this has taken a toll: The number of people who say they're interested in what's being called a "nakation" slipped from 11 percent in 2008 to 10 percent this year, according to the Orlando-based market research firm Y Partnership. Erich Schuttauf, AANR's executive director, acknowledged his concerns in a recent interview.
"It is fair to say that members are traveling less and visiting clubs closer to home," he told me, adding, "There is a lot for which we are thankful."
With all of this happening, why would you still want to consider baring everything on your next vacation?
First a warning: A clothing-optional vacation isn't for everyone. For example, when I posted Schuttauf's interview on my blog, I illustrated it with what I thought was an appropriate photo of four unclothed women running into the Baltic. The picture only showed their uncovered derrieres, but the outcry from some of my readers was loud. They demanded I remove the "not-safe-for-work" image, and because I love my readers, I did. (Even if they're prudes.)
And by way of full disclosure, no, I haven't taken a nakation. But I'm open to it.
Click through for a few reasons you might consider vacationing in the buff.
--Christopher Elliott, Tribune Media Services
(Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org).
November 17, 2008