This past Sunday, I ventured to Avalon Resort in Paw Paw, West Virginia. Unlike my previous experiences, I had no one with me and no one to meet this time. Just…into the wild.
Normally I work during the weekend. However, just a few days before Memorial Day Weekend, I received an email on the studio’s adjusted schedule. No afternoon or evening classes through Sunday. So, that meant I was free to frolic about and do whatever. With that, I decided to finally visit Avalon.
oh sheep, no service!
Before calling Avalon’s office a few days ahead of time, I read through the website. And compared to some other naturist organizations’ sites, this one was much easier on the eyes. It presented the information in a clean and concise way. And it even warned that there was zero cell phone service up there, so to print directions. Which I did.
And, um, there was also this Tweet:
The Black Bear is Back !
Please store and dispose of food properly.
— Avalon Resort (@avalon4fun) May 24, 2017
Nervous and freaked out much? Yes, I was.
Anyway, after comfortably navigating out of Washington, DC and into nature, things changed. Corporate buildings and apartment complexes dissolved into homes, which dissolved into fields. And the minute I passed a pasture full of sheep, my phone read “No Service” and the NPR podcast dropped. Not gonna lie, folks. I did, in fact, freak out. Yes, I knew it would happen. But… a part of me hope that I’d luck out.
Nope. All gone. Darn those sheep! (But actually I love sheep.)
Thankfully, the Waze navigation app still worked with satellites, and I arrived to the resort safely.
A very welcoming woman checked me in for the day. I even got a first-time discount! The only downside was that I couldn’t check in with my friends for a bit. Before driving out, I told two people that I would venture to Avalon. But, given no cell phone service and that the wireless was down, I couldn’t connect with them to confirm that I was OK. The staff shared that the wireless company came out to address the issue but didn’t quite fix it. The staff did provide a landline which I used to call one of my friends. (Yes, I did have to look up her number, because no, I didn’t have it memorized.) Left a message. “I’m alive!”
An important note here. And this isn’t just for naturist organizations. Rather, it’s also to authorities that determine where clothing optional venues can set up. While it is wonderful to get away from the buzzing urban life, sequestering these places exclusively in the hills is suboptimal. For instance, I, a single young woman, effectively had no way to tell my two friends that I was OK. And if say, my Zipcar had died, I fell ill, or something, I couldn’t reach anyone. Let clothes free stuff exist in urban and suburban areas, too. Safety, accessibility, etc.
(Pro Tip – Some shared that Google Voice helps, particularly in areas where there is no cell phone service. Google Voice can route calls and messages over WiFi. As long as there is WiFi.)
Anyway, once the wireless returned from sabbatical, I checked in with my friends. Yay!
I will say that it would be nice to offer quick tours for newcomers as they give an idea of the layout and activities. One of the guests gave me a quick tour, which was helpful.
Most of the activities centered around the pools although there was a nude casino next to the pool. One guy who attends regularly stated that he had never seen people really engage at any activities there. Indeed, most of the grounds did not appear to have places for specific activities. Rather, trailer homes, cabins and condos were most popular. I think this particular venue’s focus might be a more residential experience. However, I did hear that they also host events throughout the year.
That day, rain came and went like a puppy on caffeine. So, most people kicked back in the indoors pool and hot tub. I brought several things along, including books, food, journals and yoga mat. And I did, in fact, get to do outdoor clothes free yoga! Nudist-ste! (Get it? Namaste. Nudist. Nudist-ste. I know, I’m here all night. Tickets on sale.)
happenings and other things
It was an interesting experience being on my own. There was no problem getting into conversation with people. Folks approached kindly and sparked up chit chat with me. And I also inserted myself into the hot tub clique. Most people had questions about my relationship and family status. Some expressed surprise that I didn’t have kids. And what about a partner and all that. Still others wanted to stay in conversation and company for quite a while. For someone who leans more toward the introverted side, it was interesting navigating all of that. I do have my social moments. But then, you know, I want to just sit in the middle of the field and do/say nothing.
At some point I was able to step away and have some outdoor yoga alone time. During those moments, I enjoyed feeling the whole environment all over me. I forgot what it was like to practice yoga with the wind brushing my face. And then to see so much green around me wherever I set my gaze. It’s truly remarkable to look up in a sun salutation and actually see the sun (or clouds). Honestly, I forgot how much I missed and needed that. So refreshing.
(not all) naturists are totally accepting
The trip is still processing in my body and soul. Heck, it might take several weeks and posts for me to share it all. But something stood out to me during some conversations.
You know how many naturists/nudists claim that they accept everyone? That there is no shaming and all are equal? While many hold this intention, I heard some remarks during my visit that, well, went against that. When a professional said that he only wants to massage women and not “big hairy dudes,” that set off an alarm for me. I asked him why. Because in my mind, body hair is just body hair. And bodies are just bodies. Whatever the gender. But he twisted his face at the idea of massaging men professionally. He only wanted to touch women.
Now, most of the men I encountered said nothing of the sort. Many men, naturist or not, are totally fine with the male body, hairy and all. But that particular conversation stood out to me, because I’ve heard some guys say things like that before. And I’ve always wondered why some men are SO repulsed by the male body. And to see it in the naturist/nudist setting too, well it made me wonder. Is there something in the socialization and upbringing of some guys that creates that for them? What is it? I’d appreciate hearing thoughts.
clothing closing thoughts
The experience got me thinking about some things regarding naturism/nudism.
For instance, for venues – thinking on focusing either on residential experiences or dynamic activities and hosting events. That might be something for some places to look at in terms of business model, planning, advertising, funding and outreach. Because as I listened to some of the people at Avalon, many value the quiet private residential experience. And yet, we know that other people want tons of activities. So, perhaps not all venues have to have the same focus. Maybe some can specialize in residential experiences while others focus on hosting events, groups, activities. Many possibilities.
Perhaps I will share more in subsequent posts as things process. But for now, I will say that going alone, well, it was interesting. Of course it was great to see that I could do it. Confidence wasn’t an issue. But…it wasn’t the same. Interesting, educational. But not the same.