“I’ll be back,” writes newcomer Robert Hulme after his first YBN experience.
Unlike many of you who will be reading this I don't come from a naturist family, I don't have any naturist friends and in fact I'd never really looked into naturism. So it came as quite a shock to my friends and family when I announced that I was going along to the YBN gathering in Telford. Nakedness has always been fairly natural to me: whenever I'm alone (and in private!) I'm naked - it just feels a lot more natural than being covered in hot, sweaty clothes, but I've led quite a sheltered life and the number of times I'd seen another person naked could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
I went down to Telford with no real expectations of what it would be like and feeling fairly calm about the whole thing. When I arrived I was quite shocked (surprise, surprise!) to see 20 or 30 naked people (mainly twenty-somethings) around! One in fact came over to me and said hi. It was a bit alarming to begin with...this guy (Joel, I later discovered) helped me to set up my tent and then I got inside and wondered what I was going to do next. I decided that if I was going to be there I ought to do it properly, so I stripped off and covered myself in SPF 50 (I burn very easily). I waited in my tent for as long as I dared, so long in fact that someone came and asked if I was OK.
Eventually, I came out of my tent in all my naked glory (so to speak). It was really quite odd at first being naked around all these people, but after only a few minutes it didn't seem like a big deal - I mean, I did keep noticing that there were naked people everywhere, but I was less and less bothered by it. I think the thing is that it's not being naked that is shocking or surprising or even stimulating, so much as what people are doing at the time. You can look at a high art nude photo and not find it erotic at all - in the same way being naked doesn't automatically result in an 'Oh, my God, everyone is naked!' kind of reaction.
In fact I found that, once I got over the initial surprise of the whole thing, it started to feel pretty natural and normal to be naked around other people. Indeed, looking back it seems a lot more strange for us all to be going around in our clothes. Added to that, it makes you think more realistically about your self-image - I know that I should lose weight (and I want to), but my view of myself is compared against some kind of unrealistic expectation of what I 'should' look like. Seeing what everyone else actually looks like naked helps you (or at least helped me) to have a much more positive view of my own body.
What was really good about the weekend was the company. The people there were really welcoming and friendly - I find it really hard to get to know new people, but it wasn't so hard with these guys.
On the Saturday some of us went off to Water World to swim naked with 400 other naturists! It was pretty amazing, both in terms of the experience of swimming naked (which was very nice and liberating) and also the experience of being there with all the other people. Perhaps I'm going overboard here, but I felt a certain closeness with these people that I don't in general in society. Perhaps it was just because in some sense I belonged to the same group as them (tiddlywinks players, I suspect, feel at home with other tiddlywinks players), but I couldn't help but feel that it was more than that - that by removing their clothing these people were removing other less visible barriers between one another. Perhaps that's crazy talk, I don't know - it was pretty good fun either way.
So my first dip into the world of naturism was, I think, something of a success. A great time spent with great people. I'm hoping to go along to as many YBN events as I can manage, and I'd encourage any other twenty-somethings to come along, too.