When Tim announced he wanted to “chuck it all” and travel around the country in a converted bus for a year, I gave this profound and potentially life-altering notion all the thoughtful consideration it deserved.

“Why can’t you be like a normal husband with a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?” I demanded, adding, “I will never, ever, EVER, not in a million years, live on a bus.”

We’re both psychiatrists, but he’s obviously the better shrink, for we soon set forth with our two querulous cats, sixty-pound dog—and no agenda—in a 340-square-foot bus.

The trip was truly life-changing in many ways: We learned how not to put off our dreams, and the importance of living our best lives now. We also learned to pare down our lifestyle, so that we could spend more time with the people we love – instead of the things we love. Finally, I hadn’t realized how comfortable—too comfortable—my life had become. That’s why I didn’t want to take the trip in the first place. I had become content, but “the bus thing” taught me that content was not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. I hadn’t understood how important it is to continue to challenge and stretch myself.

Although we had our share of disasters on the trip (fire, flood, armed robbery and my developing a bus phobia, just to name a few), the adventures and misadventures helped us grow, shake things up and add back a certain “spark” that we didn’t even realize was missing. Perhaps nothing taught us the importance of getting outside our comfort zones more than our visit to the nudist RV park, Olive Dell Ranch, in Colton California.

Although as a psychiatrist Tim is very much in tune with unconscious drives, hidden meanings, and deep-seated motivations, he is also a typical guy. And typical guys want to go to nudist resorts. Not being any type of a guy myself, I had always informed him I would never, ever, EVER, not in a million . . .   Oh, what’s the use? By now I had clearly lost any semblance of free will. I was, after all, living in a bus for a year. I didn’t stand a chance. Not that I was nonchalant about this, mind you; I’d started Atkins in anticipation—just in case—months before. I need not have bothered, for as I discovered, nudists are incredibly low-key. Unless, that is, you’re trying to get into one of their parks. Then they can be just as big a pain in the ass as any prudes.

As we neared California, I checked around on the Internet. One place seemed particularly promising, so I called and asked if they were, indeed, clothing optional.

“No,” the lady unequivocally answered.

“Oh. I’m sorry. I must have the wrong information,” I apologized, hoping she didn’t think me some weirdo.  But something in her voice made me query further.

“So . . .  people don’t walk around naked?” I tried to confirm.

“Oh, yes, they do,” she answered. Is this place English optional, or what?

“Okay . . .  but you’re not clothing optional.” I offered slowly, with impeccable pronunciation.

“No, we’re nudist,” she snapped. Well, excuuuuse, me.

“I’m not sure I know the difference,” I conceded. She explained that when inside the park, one is required to be naked. Now I got it. It was the optional, not the clothing, that was the problem with the whole clothing optional thing. Who knew? I proceeded with what I thought was a perfectly reasonable follow-up question.

“Can I wear shoes?” She guffawed, muzzled the phone, and called out to some other nuditity-requiring linguiphile, “She wants to know if she can wear shoes!” For those as clueless as I, the answer is yes. I decided she could keep her shod-optional accommodations and found a different park.

When we pulled into Olive Dell Ranch Nudist Resort near San Bernadino, I faced yet another dilemma: Usually, I headed to the office to check in while Tim stayed with the bus. Should I take my clothes off now? What if, in a variation on the universal nightmare, this was some God-awful joke and everyone was clothed but me? I was wearing earrings. Do I take them off, too? A valid question, methinks, even after the shoe debacle. I could have called on my cell phone and asked, but it seemed a mite like the shoes question and I didn’t feel like being laughed at again just yet, especially as I was anticipating that reaction as soon as I stepped off the bus, anyway.

I kept my clothes on. The woman in her home office had not. (Note to self: This could very well be my dream job, for not only can one work at home, but not even have to get dressed.) She told us where to park and that the owner would come by to show us around.

The campground itself is at the end of a long, winding road set on 140 acres up against a tree-studded hill with views of the surrounding countryside and valley. There are about two hundred members, half of whom are permanent residents, the rest weekenders with about another fifty to a hundred visitors like us, just passing through at various points in the summer to stay in the handful of cabins and RV spaces. After we parked, we saw the owner approach. He was in his forties and nude, but wore an open work shirt against the sun (and sneakers, I was pleased to note). We quickly donned (or rather, undonned) similar gear and met him outside.

I soon discovered that none of my concerns mattered. In a nudist park, everything is stripped down, so to speak. As Tim observed, there’s no macho, no pretense, no posturing. Your balls (and whether or not you have any) are out there for everyone to see. (Especially, as we would later discover, when partaking of naked karaoke.)

Our first night, Tim started closing all the curtains in the bus. I wondered why – we’d been nude all day, anyway. He explained that he was about to start cooking and for his own safety needed to put on clothes and didn’t want to offend anybody.

Throughout the bus thing, we met so many diverse, interesting people, and the nudist RV park had plenty of its own. But our favorite there had to be the maintenance guy who walks around naked – except for his tool belt. An interesting effect, for every time he turned around, I nearly exclaimed, “Hey! You dropped your . . .” Oops.

Since we’ve returned from our year-long trip, our lives have dramatically changed. It seems Tim got not only a converted bus, but a converted wife as well: I was the one who suggested that instead of selling the bus, we sell our house, to live on the bus full time. And, that’s what we’re in the process of doing.

What other adventures are in store for us? Unfortunately, I’ve caught Tim on the internet surfing for sailboat sites. Neither of us knows anything about boats.

Why can’t I have a normal husband who just surfs for porn?

If you’d like to see my video of the nudist RV park (now, I have your attention), please visit my website, www.QueenOfTheRoadTheBook.com and click on the travelogue link.


Although I am loath to admit it, I am a prude.  I never would have thought myself to be uptight before now but being faced with the Freikörper Kultur has brought me up to speed.  I am 100% American prude.  What is the Free Body Culture, you might ask?  Why it’s the Society of Naked Germans, of course!  And with the advent of summer, the parks and lakes are overflowing with frolicking, happy nudists.

I have never before been even slightly weirded out by the thought that anyone would want to lie naked in the sun.  It sounds rather naughty and delicious, actually.  That being said, I have rarely been faced with an entire city of people who can’t wait to publicly shed their clothing at the slightest opportunity.  Summer is here or at least June is and even though it hasn’t been anything even approaching warm enough to be called bathing suit weather, anything above 60 degrees Fahrenheit is apparently warm enough to bare it all.  Nobody worries about shrinkage.  One day I was happily cruising around Berlin admiring the greenery and suddenly the next, the view had changed entirely.  One might have fancied oneself in a veritable Garden of Eden were it not for the tattoos and lack of strategically placed fig leaves.

In truth, this year I was well prepared.  Last summer on a visit the boyfriend took me to a lake to replenish our vitamin D deficiency.  He had warned me that everyone would be nude and that was fine, I’d said, but it wasn’t going to be me.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t what was.  We were surrounded by everyone and anyone you could imagine, as long as you could imagine they were all white; Germany not being the most color diverse country in the world.  There were tall, short, fat, thin, old, young, beautiful, those not traditionally considered good looking, some obese folks, someone going through chemo, someone who’d undergone a double mastectomy, someone who was clearly anorexic, spider veins abounded, cellulite glistened in the sunshine, waxed and unwaxed, shaved and unshaved, if you can think of it, it was there.

As I looked around I was overcome with admiration for the group of people so comfortable in their own skin.  So unashamed of their bodies as they existed; a foreign concept for most Americans, let alone New Yorkers who are constantly under pressure to stay at the forefront of the fashion and body beautiful trends.  And I realized I was more conspicuous as the only one with clothes on than I would be if I just let go of my Puritanism and freed my body from its spandex confines.  It was elating to lie naked and unnoticed in a park full of people doing the same.  But I didn’t kid myself either.  The only reason I could do this at all was because other than my equally naked boyfriend, I didn’t know a soul.  There is courage in anonymity.

This year for my birthday, he took me to a spa to relax a little.  Once again I was prepared ahead of time for the lack of clothing.  Given the park experience, I no longer felt the need to take a suit.  But when we got to the spa and into the co-ed dressing room I found I was a little bugged out.  I mean, yeah it makes sense.  We’re all about to be naked together anyway, why separate us for the donning and removal phase?  But regardless of the rationality, I somehow felt more exposed fully undressing that close to strange men.  Then in walked the Swedish bombshells who parked themselves directly next to my boyfriend and proceeded to disrobe.  Wait, what happened to all the every-bodies I saw at the lake?  Where were they?  Why was I wobbling my sizable nether parts next to Sweden’s Next Top Model?  This wasn’t what I’d signed up for.

But we wandered down to the sauna anyway.  Walking through the rooms filled with spa-goers, I felt awkward and uncomfortable.  I couldn’t understand why at first.  It shouldn’t feel so much different than it had the last time, after all I didn’t know anyone there.  But as I took a seat in the very crowded sauna, I began to be conscious of the people around me.  These weren’t the naked folks I’d been at the lake with.  Nearly everyone there was under 40, somewhat toned or put together and were all painfully, horribly, nakedly close together.

I am a natural voyeur, a people watcher.  I love to openly gaze and wonder at the happenings around me.  But when you’re sweating together in a small room packed full of fellow nudists, you somehow lose the freedom to do that.  If you spend too much time looking at someone, you could be quickly labeled a sicko letch and excommunicated.  So there we all sat, carefully avoiding each other’s eyes, peeking out of the corners of our own to somehow get the bearings of our surroundings and not talking.  It was awful.

Today I went to a beach with some friends and was shocked to see the sand bursting with colorful bikinis and trunks.

“Where are all the naked Berliners?” I asked.

A fellow sunbather indicated a sign that said in big, black lettering, Freikörper Kultur, and pointed down the beach.  In that moment I knew.  I knew I was a prude because I was relieved.  I was so relieved not to be faced with the pressure to be naked with my friends.  I knew I couldn’t do it.  As they say, some things are better left unsaid, but there are an equal number of things better left dressed on my body and I decided to agree with my friend Juan’s assessment.  There’s something sexy about a little guesswork, even if it is just a little.  So although I may again lie naked in the sun it won’t be anywhere I might run into someone I know and you can rest assured my blanket will be far enough away from the next guy so I can take in the beauty of a park full of everyone basking in their own glory.  Just don’t tell my mother.