Australians like to think we’re pretty relaxed. We go with the flow. We’re up for anything. And that largely holds true.
That is, until we have to take our clothes off.
Maybe it’s a hangover from our British heritage, but Australians are usually a little uncomfortable about getting naked around strangers – or, even worse, getting naked around family members and friends. Without the benefit of a skinful of alcohol, we’re kind of prudish. Do you really want to let it all hang out with work colleagues, or acquaintances, or travel buddies you’ve just met? Thought not.
The thing is though, there are certain experiences around the world that require the removal of one’s clothes. There’s nothing shady about these activities, nothing seedy. In other countries, it’s normal to get nude. And if you want to enjoy the world in the way everyone else does, then you’d better be prepared to do the same…
Take a sauna and a splash in Finland
The humble sauna is as much a part of Finnish culture as egalitarianism and slight madness. If you’re going to Finland, you will have a sauna. It’s as simple as that. And if you’re getting in the sauna, you’ll be naked. Everyone will be naked. Men, women, people of all ages – all in the sauna, all nude. And you’ll remain nude, too, as you step outside and jump into an icy cold lake, before running back into the sauna for more. Maybe that’s where the slight madness comes from?
Go to Austria’s Aqua Dome
Austria and Germany share a similar sauna culture, and the Aqua Dome, a wellness retreat in Austria’s Tyrol region, perfectly represents what’s on offer. Within the confines of this huge wellness theme park you’ll find seven different saunas, as well as a “glacier room”, a salt pool for floating, and much more. And to experience any of these facilities, you’ll have to be naked, and happy to share said facilities with a lot of other naked people. Again, these are mixed facilities. What’s amazing, however, is how quickly it all starts to feel normal.
Visit a Russian banya
To the non-Russian-speaker, a visit to a banya, or traditional bathhouse, is an exercise in extreme bafflement, as you try to figure out what’s going on, why naked people are gathered in the sauna hitting themselves with birch branches, why they’re scrubbing each other down in the shower area, why they’re gathered in groups to drink beer in the lounge. You’ll probably never get good answers, but you will just follow along. Naked, of course. And it will be great.
Dine at Bunyadi in London
Sadly, this naked dining experience in London’s Elephant and Castle is currently closed, with plans to reopen as soon as funding is in place. The concept at Bunyadi is a fairly simple one: it’s as close to nature as possible. The food is vegan, and the diners and wait staff are all naked. Presumably, this is the paleo diet taken to its most extreme degree. If nothing else, it’s an experience, and it will hopefully be available again soon.
Visit a Japanese onsen
Many has been the Australian tourist who has baulked the first time at the idea of nuding up and joining friends and strangers in a big, hot bath. However, it only takes one visit to a traditional Japanese hot spring to get hooked, to enjoy the experience of stripping down, of sudsing up in the shower area, of easing aching bones into a natural hot spring and soaking your cares away. The fact you don’t have any clothes on ceases to matter.
Enjoy a jimjilbang in Korea
Don’t confuse a jimjilbang, the Korean version of a bathhouse, with a Japanese onsen. It’s same-same, but different. A jimjilbang is less about communing with nature, and more about an overall experience. Yes, there’s the chance to get naked and jump in a series of warm baths. But jimjilbangs in the big cities also feature barbers, and restaurants, and relaxation nooks, and sometimes even cinemas. You could spend an entire day in a jimjilbang and not get bored.
Visit a naturist resort
Obviously, if you want to visit a naturist resort, you’re going to have to be comfortable taking your gear off around strangers. No one wants to be the creepster who’s hanging out with a bunch of naked people while fully clothed. At least, you shouldn’t want to. There are naturist resorts the world over, including plenty in Australia, where you’ll spend your entire holiday in nought but your birthday suit.
Go to a Turkish bath
It’s a rite of passage to visit a traditional bathhouse in Turkey. These are often centuries-old establishments practising rituals that date back just as far. You’ll lie on hot stones. You’ll be scrubbed and pummelled by an enthusiastic attendant. You’ll lounge around on a couch afterwards and drink warm tea. And you’ll do most of this, of course, with only a small towel to preserve your modesty.
Have you visited a bathhouse or sauna overseas? Were you uncomfortable being naked, or did you enjoy it?
See also: What it’s like being nude with 40 strangers