I was 29, alone, and 5,008 miles from home, a continent and half the Pacific Ocean between me and most everyone I knew. I scaled the craggy bluff of volcanic buildup that separated the very-much-clothed Big Beach from the very-much-unclothed Little Beach at Makena State Park on Maui.
“These people have got to know where I’m going,” I thought as I began my ascent. Of course they knew where I was going, because everyone knew what was on the other side. The only question would be whether I was there to be a participant or a gawker. And then, if I was a participant, was I going to be worried about being gawked at?
On this warm, sunny, tropical afternoon on the southern coast of the island, I peaked over the top and saw a small, but sizeable enough beach flecked with beachgoers wearing nothing but their skin. After years of being closeted, of feeling out of place, I knew I had found my people and felt immediately at home.
I did not feel immediately confident though and I squirmed out of my clothes and lay down on my blanket. Almost immediately, gawkers appeared and I kept myself breathing rhythmically to remain calm. But I realized something in that moment. These gawkers were out of place. They were the ones who were suddenly different, whose provocation of any reaction would be to make us feel out of place where we all actually belonged.
I looked around. I was the only one who really noticed the interlopers. Everyone else was just chilling and having a good time. So, I steeled myself, said “this is who I am” to no one in particular, and focused on the hues of blue in what would turn out to be the warmest ocean water I’d ever touched. I stepped into my future that day.
A little later in my stay, I was able to get there again. And I have to say, while it was relaxing, it wasn’t fun to be there alone. Three years later, I returned on my honeymoon and had a much more vibrant time. Of course, by then I was confident and had also visited Pirate’s Cove in California (while also finding relatively private spots on some Malibu beaches). And on that honeymoon trip, I managed to be alone enough to disrobe at a variety of waterfalls you’ve seen on this site. The closeted nudist had become a naturist.
If you’re a beginner, trepidation is natural, because the messaging we’ve had pounded into us is consistent. We are not a kind society when it comes to differences, so the shame is instilled while we are young and those earliest lessons are the toughest to let go. But it will get easier and you’ll find yourself and your place in our world. And if you’re as lucky as I’ve been, you’ll learn at all these stops that the naturist community is among the finest and nicest out there.