With the advent of social media channels such as Instagram, comes the desire by many people to achieve some level of popularity and fame on these social media outlets. Everyone is out to get famous quick and, in all honesty, there is nothing really wrong with that desire. But lately it seems more and more people are taking their pants off while they travel as a means of accomplishing this goal. “Naked tourism,” as I call it, is a thing and I believe it really needs to stop. It’s not so much of an issue with nakedness. Anyone who knows me knows I have no issue with hanging out in my birthday suit when the time calls for it. But there are appropriate times and places for stripping down to nothing and it’s wrong in many of the places travelers are choosing to do this. So if you think it’ll be fun to take all your clothes off at that national park, consider this: Do you really need to be a naked traveler?
Naked Traveler Issue One: Nudity Is Not A Bad Thing
Now, bashing nudity is not my goal here. In fact, I am a very-sex positive person and believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with nakedness. I understand there is something liberating about walking around in nature with absolutely nothing between one’s skin and the outside world. I understand this because I’ve experienced it and totally agree. The human body is a beautiful thing and nothing to be ashamed of in most circumstances. But this isn’t about being naked. This is about being naked at the wrong time and the wrong place.
Naked Traveler Issue Two: It’s Annoying
When it comes down to it, we travel to experience the place, the culture, and to meet new people. Traveling and taking your clothes off when it isn’t necessary detracts from that experience because statistically speaking fewer people are likely to approach you if you’re hanging out in the buff (haha). But let’s be honest here, in most instances those Instagram shots of some guy or woman posing ass-bare as the wind blows through their hair in front of a panoramic landscape shot are done in seclusion where there aren’t many people around. Come on people, you’re traveling and there is an incredible landscape, mountain, beach, temple, statue…whatever, before you and your first inclination is to remove all your clothing for the money shot. It’s absolutely unnecessary. [Remember, we are talking about this in the context of social media] There is so much beauty around us to focus on and instead some people choose to focus on their rear end. It’s silly when you think about it.
And don’t get me wrong, a nice bum is a sight to behold. There is nothing wrong with the occasional naked shot. However, when I click on an Instagram account and (quite literally) every shot is of the same ass in a different setting, I think about how uninspired this person must be when they travel. It takes no talent to shoot a pic of your butt. Don’t believe me? Hop on any gay dating app and just wait for it. Like I said, most the time there is actually something really interesting around the subject of the photo. The butt detracts from the quality and ruins the actual beauty of the shot. I find it annoying but maybe it’s just me.
Naked Traveler Issue Two: The Law
While most these naked traveler photographs are shot in seclusion, that doesn’t protect the people in the photographs from the ramifications of the law.
For instance, one of the more famous places for stripping down is the famed site of Machu Picchu. But if you decide to take your clothes off at this sacred and historic site, you might end up in a whole lot of trouble if you’re caught. In fact, Peru’s Minister of Culture told CNN: “There are places in the world that people can get naked, but not all places are (appropriate) for getting undressed…Tourists should comply with local rules and regulations when they are traveling, otherwise there will be thousands of problems,” Getting naked here could lead to detainment, fines, and jail time.
Another incident involves a gay couple visiting Thailand who posted a photo of themselves exposing their buttocks at a Buddhist Temple. When I first read about this, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes really hard. Why would anyone think it is a good idea to do this at a place holding such intrinsic spiritual and cultural value to so many people? The couple managed to shoot the photograph without being caught. Then they posted it to Instagram and, as a result, were detained by Thai authorities at the airport as they attempted to leave the country. These men could have faced up to seven years in Thai prison for indecent exposure in a place of worship. Luckily, these guys were released and the charges dropped. I’m happy they are OK but their behavior was really irresponsible.
I’ve said this a million times before but it’s our responsibility, as travelers, to know and respect the laws of the country we visit. Sure…we might not always agree but we must adhere to those laws whether we like it or not. If we don’t believe we can abide by the laws of the country we visit, then we shouldn’t visit that country. It’s simple. And when it comes to getting naked where it isn’t appropriate, just because you aren’t caught doesn’t make it OK.
Naked Traveler Issue Three: It’s Disrespectful
Aside from the fact that stripping down can often lead to jail time and other legal ramifications, it’s also extremely disrespectful in a lot of situations. In the example of the gay couple busted in Thailand, the incident took place at a Buddhist Temple. It was extremely insensitive to the Buddhist religion, Thai culture, and to other people visiting this site.
In 2015, a British traveler posed naked on Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia after reaching the summit. Of course, the photos were shared across social media channels and she and some of her fellow travelers were arrested. You see, Mt. Kinabalu (translates to “the resting place of the dead”) is sacred and is inhabited by spirits according to the locals. Each December the locals perform a ritual to placate the mountain and allow tourists to continue climbing the it. You aren’t even supposed to swear or shout while on the mountain. Not too long after the photos were shot, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck, causing a landslide on the mountain, and killing 18 people. The local authorities blamed the naked tourists for showing disrespect to the mountain and angering the spirits. Consequently, they were arrested and charged with committing obscene acts in public. She could have faced up to three months in prison and a fine. Instead, she only served three days in jail and paid a 5,000 Malaysian ringgit (approximate $1200) fine. Fortunately, it seems this woman learned her lesson as she apologized for her offense even though she is banned from ever returning to Malaysia.
In order to be a good and responsible traveler, it’s of utmost importance to understand local customs, culture, and the law. While to many of us in the West, the idea of a mountain having anthropomorphic qualities and supernatural abilities might seem foreign and unfamiliar, this is the norm in some places. As visitors, we must show respect for these norms. If we do not, it could come back to bite us.
Naked Traveler Issue Fin: So What’s A Nudist To Do?
As I’ve explained above, I am not anti-nakedness. I’m simply advocating for responsibility when we travel and not violating laws, local norms, or customs when it comes to getting naked. There is a time and a place for everything. And it seems completely unnecessary to remove all your clothes to take that Instagram shot. The top of a sacred mountain is not the place. A Buddhist temple is not the place. And the list goes on. Before you strip down the next time to get that perfect shot of your bum in nature, ask yourself; “Is this the time? Is this the place? Am I causing others to feel uncomfortable? Am I violating some cultural norms? Could I go to jail for this?”
If the answer to any of those questions could lead to potentially unsatisfactory results then maybe reconsider. Try shooting photographs of yourself enjoying your travels…clothed. Or maybe even focus on the amazing scenes around you. There is so much beauty to capture if you just open your eyes. But if getting naked is a priority for you, just do it where it’s appropriate. There are nude beaches, camp sites, and even resorts. You name it and you’re bound to find the naked version. Heck, there are even naked bike rides, festivals dedicated to nudity, and more. You could even try shirtless but clothed. Those types of photos are just as intriguing without being disrespectful (though if you’re visiting a religious or spiritual site, I’d suggest keeping all your clothes on).
When it comes down to it, we don’t have to agree about whether or not people should be jailed or face other repercussions for getting naked. The reality of the matter is people can, will, and have faced major repercussions for stripping down at the wrong time and the wrong place. Are those few hundred Instagram shots really worth going to jail and being banned from returning to a country?
If you are a fan of being naked then check out this post about opportunities when it’s totally OK to strip down!
Reactions to naked travelers are always divided.
What do you think?
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