When my husband 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
"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 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. Many of us work so hard all our lives,
wake up one day and ask, "Is this all there is?" I hadn't realized the
importance of continuing 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, to just to name a few), it were the
adventures and misadventures that helped us grow, shake things up and add
back a certain "spark" that we didn't even realize was missing. Perhaps
nothing taught me the importance of getting outside my comfort zone more
than... well, let's just say it was hard enough getting on the bus. But a
nudist RV park?
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
"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
"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
"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 in Colton, California, 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,
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.)
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.) But our favorite part of the entire experience
had to be the maintenance guy who walks around nude except for his tool
belt. An interesting effect, for every time he turned around, I nearly
exclaimed, "Hey! You dropped your . . ." Oops.
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.
Doreen Orion is a psychiatrist and award-wining author. Her book, QUEEN OF
THE ROAD: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1
Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus With a Will of Its Own has just been published
by Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House.