Nakation Nation: Nudist Resorts And Beaches Solve Airline Baggage Fee Woes

nude sunbatherAnd from the, “OMFG” department comes this information, via press release: The American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) “encourages wholesome family nude recreation [“Nakations”] in appropriate settings such as designated nude beaches and AANR-member resorts, or around the home. Experts have attested that children raised in a social nudist environment grow up with a stronger sense of self-esteem, free of many of the body image issues that trouble the average textile youth.”

I’m most disturbed by the terms, “textile youth” and “Nakation.” I’m not going to touch those with a ten-foot…never mind. Why I’m so skeeved out by the naked family vacay thing is a bit more convoluted. I like to think that I’m pretty open-minded, and it’s true we’ve become a nation of body dysmorphic, eating-disordered freaks…when we’re not morbidly obese, that is.

I have no problem going topless on European beaches, and have often bemoaned the puritanical leanings of Americans when it comes to censorship with regard to nudity on television and in magazines. I just feel that it’s potential fodder for a therapist’s couch when children and their parents frolic about sans textiles after the toddler stage has passed; I also believe that public nudity past toddler-hood is something that should only be done by consenting adults.

I’ve been to a nude beach twice. Maybe it’s because I didn’t holiday in the buff with my family (my eyes, my eyes!) as a child, but I can tell you two things my nude sunbathing didn’t accomplish: providing me with a stronger sense of self-esteem, and freeing me of the body image issues that have troubled me ever since I was an average, deprived textiled youth.nude beachIt could have something to do with the fact that the first time I went, it was with an exhibitionist Australian boyfriend who was a professional athlete. It was (as we discovered) a gay beach, meaning most of the men were totally ripped. I’d also been on a month-long food writing assignment, so I wasn’t feeling very good about my body. And I was covered – literally – with mosquito bites I’d gotten several days prior on a camping trip. This included my ass, because…let’s just say that women have a tougher time peeing in the great outdoors than men.

So, I wasn’t exactly feeling empowered about this experience, but I forced myself to do it. Just so I could say my boyfriend and I went to a gay nude beach in Australia. The second time, I was by myself in Santa Cruz and it was all good until some freak threw his towel down three inches away from my toes. I haven’t taken my clothes off in a public place in broad daylight since.

Clearly, I’m the one with the issues, because according to the AANR, the “2011 Portrait of the American Traveler tells us that at least 53 million people are interested in visiting nudist resorts or nude beaches. This confirms the increasing public understanding that family nudity is wholesome, natural and comfortable after the first daunting but liberating plunge.”

I guess the issue really comes down to, “Is this behavior hurting anyone?” and that’s open to debate. Personally, I’m not too cool with kids being, uh, exposed to naked strangers. I agree that teaching children to have a healthy sense of esteem about their bodies is important (as important, say, as feeding them a well-balanced, nutritious diet and encouraging them to be physically active and play outdoors), but I think there are plenty of ways to learn that without going on Nakations. Or, for the cash-strapped family, “Staycation Nakations.”

One thing I will say about clothing-optional travel: it saves money on baggage fees and laundry. The downside is explaining how you got melanoma.

[Photo credits, sunbather, Flickr user uppityrib; sign, Flickr user Sister 72]

Skin Cancer 101

Summer travel: how not to sizzle your skin

The good folks at CNN have released a helpful guide and accompanying photo gallery horror show of solar ray-blasted epidermis. In “5 ways to avoid getting deep-fried,” you’ll find dermatologist’s tips to protect your sun from UVA/UVB damage, skin cancer detection links, and entertaining anecdotes of CNN reporters’ worst sunburns/precursors to melanoma.

I love the sun as much as most holiday-makers, but years of basting myself in baby oil, combined with the onset of crow’s feet in my early twenties and my mother’s own ongoing struggle with basal and squamous cell carcinomas have turned me into the Queen of Sunscreen. While my friends still mock me, and a former farmers market employer once remarked, “I can always tell when you’ve been hugging my dog, because he smells like sunscreen!” I feel vindicated because at 41, I look a good ten years younger, and have yet to develop my first pre-cancerous lesion. I get an annual screening at my dermatologist, and religiously apply a minimum of SPF 30 UVA/UVB sunblock over all exposed body parts (please remember the back of your neck, hands, ears, and knees, and tops of your feet).

Gadling has a more detailed explanation of what the heck all this SPF stuff means, and a guide to choosing sunglasses that do more than just look hip. I also wear, and heartily endorse (unpaid, of course) the sun protective clothing by ExOfficio, and sun protective hats by Outdoor Research. Sounds wacky, but these items are constructed with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) textiles that, while not a substitute for sunblock, provide a great dual-defense system. They’re also attractive, and incredibly versatile and travel-friendly. Don’t hide from the sun this holiday weekend; just take precautions, have fun, and think of all the money you’ll save by not requiring reconstructive surgery and Botox.

(Image credit: Flickr/Saspotato)

Skin Cancer: Avoiding and Surviving

The worst souvenir one can possibly bring back from a vacation in the sun is skin cancer. Of course, you don’t really know it at the time, but later on in life when some strange looking moles began to appear, you will learn the horrible truth.

Skin cancer is a very serious problem for those who travel to far off destinations and binge tan during their two weeks of holidays. The sun is not your friend, especially if you live somewhere like England and your lily white skin doesn’t see much of it until you head out on vacation and shock your skin with extreme doses of solar radiation.

Rosanna de Lisle learned this the hard way, according to a recent article she has written for the Telegraph. The Brit, who used to holiday in Australia many years ago, was recently diagnosed with a cancerous melanoma which probably began developing more than a decade ago while she was Down Under.

She’s had the mole successfully removed, but not everyone is so lucky. Melanomas can be fatal if not caught early.

Something rather interesting she discovered during the frantic research conducted after being diagnoses was the following statistic:

“Australia has by far the highest rate of melanoma in the world – 8,800 cases a year, among a population of just 20 million – but fewer than 1,000 deaths, about half the number in Britain.”

Australia is located underneath a rather massive hole in the ozone layer and this wrecks havoc on Aussie skin. They are painfully aware of this danger, however, and are extraordinary proactive in having moles regularly checked. This is not the case in Britain where, according to de Lisle, “the death rate for those diagnosed with melanoma in the UK was one in four. The death rate in Australia was more like one in 10.”

With this in mind, de Lisle has penned a rather extensive article aimed at educating the general public about skin cancer and how to avoid it. I recommend you take a moment to read the article if you are heading anywhere sunny in the near future. In the meantime, here are a few highlights:

There is no such thing as a safe tan
Have your moles checked regularly at a place like the Mole Clinic
Mole danger signs: ragged borders, changes in color, shape or size
Use at least SPF 15, but preferably higher
Take advantage of new technology like the Solar Safe Wristband that tells the wearer when too much is too much
Wear clothing with built in SPF