In 2016 I spent three months backpacking across Europe. Over one month of that time I couch-surfed using my favorite alternative travel resource, couchsurfing.com. I absolutely adore this site and the people I have connected with on it. It is honestly one of the best things I have ever done (more about the network on my couch-surfing blog post).
One of the more unique experiences I had while couch-surfing was staying with a naturalist in Brussels (more commonly known outside of the community as “nudist”). My host was a middle-aged gentleman and he had gotten involved with the Couchsurfing community because he wanted to connect more people with his way of life, in the hopes that people would find more comfort and acceptance in the skin they’re in.
I had put out a message in a Brussels forum about looking for a host for the coming nights. My host had messaged me that he was more than happy to host me, but only if I was comfortable with his way of life and that I could read more about him on his profile. He was very explicit about what to expect and that anyone who stayed with him must at least make the effort to try his way of life. If they weren’t comfortable, they could opt out but only after giving it a shot. I was intrigued to experience life from his perspective and, after checking his references (he had hundreds of positive reviews) happily accepted his offer.
Upon arriving to his condo, I was greeted with a warm (naked) welcome, and taken to the downstairs area which was a beautiful and cozy suite with its own bathroom. He gave me a clean towel and asked that once I had gotten comfortable, I come up and join him at my own leisure. Another American who was currently living in Germany was to join us later that evening. After getting settled, I took off my clothes and headed upstairs with my towel (used to sit on the furniture and keep it sanitary) to hang out with my host. It was definitely odd at first and took some adjusting. Here I was, naked with a stranger in his living room and it was not going to lead to sex.
While we waited for the other traveler to join us, we got to know each other and my host told me more about his life’s journey. It was a strange time to be in Brussels because the terrorist attacks on the trains has happened only weeks prior. We discussed the socio-political tensions in the city, how the government had done a poor job of integrating the immigrant population with the rest of the community and how the wealth disparity was causing increasing controversy in the city. The attacks had only made the discrimination towards immigrants worse.
When the other American woman arrived, we all sat down in the living area and continued to chat and get to know one another. It was her first time being naked in this way, as well. Our host explained that he met a lot of travelers who were uncomfortable with their bodies, and he wanted people to feel free and find a new sense of self-love in his home. Being naked is completely natural and we have been socialized to feel otherwise; to be ashamed of our bodies and to hide them. After staying with him, many of his previous couch-surfers had decided to incorporate nudity into their own lives and communities by having naked pizza parties or get togethers.
The next day I took to wondering the city (fully clothed). Later that evening the other American and I returned to the home of our host and were greeted with Belgium chocolates (!!) and I prepared dinner. It was my first naked dinner (including by myself, I don’t know why I never thought to cook naked-some things become so engrained in our conditionings that we self-police, even when we are alone) and we again engaged in some lovely conversation. While I completely enjoy one-on-one time with a host it is always fun to have a few couch-surfers from around the globe as it generates additional dialogue from different perspectives and is a nice addition to conversation.
Overall I had a wonderful time and really enjoyed my host- I would visit again and I would couch-surf with a naturalist again as well. While I haven’t incorporated this way of life into my day-to-day, I do try to get naked in nature more often. I would recommend this experience to anyone- it’s a great way to step out of one’s comfort zone and recognize the social conditionings around the clothes we wear.