Volunteering As A Way Of Life
By Pete Williams
THE BULLETIN—September 2008
Audrey Weber figures she never would have discovered nude recreation were it not for a nine-year stint working for the U.S. government in Germany from 1995 until the end of 2003.
There she met her future husband, Bob Johnson, who introduced her to nude recreation. She marveled at how ubiquitous nudism is in Germany, from the many resorts and beaches to the casual, everyday aspect of it.
"Business people in major cities think nothing of heading out at lunch hour to a park and getting completely undressed," says Audrey, AANR-East Woman of the Year, newly-elected AANR-East Trustee, and AANR-East Government Affairs Team chair. "Nobody thinks anything of it."
The couple became regulars at public saunas, large indoor facilities with multiple steam rooms and swim facilities, always co-ed and nude. Some were mini-water parks, with sprawling wave pools and waterslides. Many featured lounges, bars, and cafés.
Audrey, 49, grew up in the town of Colonial Beach in Virginia's Northern Neck, an area far removed from organized nudist activity. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in 1981 and began working for the state as a biologist and environmentalist, eventually moving to the federal government.
While based in Germany, her work took her throughout Europe and Asia. Her exposure to nudism came just months after arriving in Europe and spotting a copy of the AANR Bulletin on Bob's coffee table.
Bob, an Oklahoma native, had traveled extensively internationally and was wrapping up a stint in Germany with the U.S. Navy Reserves. He suggested they visit a sauna where people would be nude.
Audrey was stunned. "I'm an American, we don't grow up that way," she said.
During her initial visit to the sauna, she ran into her landlord and was surprised that it didn't seem awkward. Soon she realized how nudity is part of the everyday fabric of Europe, from beaches and resorts to television programming to bus stop advertisements featuring topless models.
She adjusted quickly to nudism, and soon the couple was visiting nudist destinations in Spain, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the Canary Islands. For four years, they took a two-week vacatuion at Euronat, the 900-acre nudist resort in southwest France.
One of their favorite nudist destinations was a beach near the Frankfort Airport on the site of an old rock quarry. The beach was divided into nude and non-nude sections and the couple soon learned that they needed to arrive by 9 a.m. to procure space on the nude side. The non-nude side remained virtually empty all day.
Audrey and Bob married in 1998. It was the second marriage for both: Bob has grown children. Family members on both sides are accepting of their nudist lifestyle, though none participate.
As a government employee, Audrey has found that it's best to be upfront about her involvement in nudism. "It's not a secret; I'm not a closet nudist," she says. "It has not hindered my progression through government at all.
While in Europe, Audrey became such a convert to nudism that when she began planning her return to America, she searched for areas where she could best enjoy the nudist lifestyle. The couple purchased one of the first properties in The Oasis, the gated subdivision near several AANR clubs north of Tampa that features a nude community pool.
While Audrey completed her assignment in Germany, Bob moved to The Oasis a year early to set up house. With everything still overseas, he borrowed furniture from his college-age children and augmented with thrift store items and donations from neighbors.
For the next year, Audrey piggybacked visits to Florida onto business trips. She searched for work in the Tampa area but found nothing for someone with her qualifications. Instead, she took a job in Northern Virginia and the couple sold the home in The Oasis. On New Year's Eve, 2003, they loaded their belongings on an auto train in Florida and headed north.
"We popped a bottle of champagne in our cabin and said, 'Okay this is our new life,'" Audrey says. "We figured we had left the nudist life behind."
In Florida, Bob knew of realtors who market themselves to nudists, helping AANR members find homes with private backyards and pools conducive to nude recreation. He placed an ad in the Saturday classified section of The Washington Post that read "Nudist couple seeks Realtor to help find a nudist-friendly home. Must be AANR or TNS friendly."
"I figured Washington is a pretty liberal place," Bob said. "If nothing else, I thought the ad would end up on a lot of bulletin boards in real estate offices."
He received just one response, from a young man fresh out of real estate school who had no idea what TN (The Naturist Society) or AANR stood for, but was gung-ho and ready to help.
There's little privacy in Northern Virginia these days, with two-story homes packed together into every available parcel of land. Traffic ranks as the nation's worst, with 90-minute commutes commonplace.
Audrey lucked out. She has a "reverse commute" of just 20 minutes, driving opposite traffic from their home in Fairfax. The couple has made the most of the home's layout, building a deck and installing a hot tub that's somewhat shielded from neighbors, who are aware of their nudist tendencies.
Best of all, they discovered that the AANR club, Avalon, was only a two-hour drive away in West Virginia. They quickly became regulars, spending most weekends during the warmer months and many weekends during the winter. They purchased a condo and soon were volunteering.
Bob helped Audrey work an AANR booth at the Washington Travel Show for three years alongside longtime AANR activist Susan Weaver, who eventually convinced her to get more involved with the organization. Audrey agreed it would be a good fit. After all, she had enjoyed the AANR affiliation while in Europe as a card-carrying International Naturist Federation member.
"One of the reasons I got involved with government affairs was because I was used to going nude virtually anywhere I wanted in Europe, and I felt we should be able to have that here," she said. "The idea of getting involved to make sure nudists can recreate and socialize really appealed to me."
Like other AANR volunteers, Audrey benefits from having a supportive spouse who can pick up the slack when she's working for AANR.
"As a volunteer, you have to rely on people who live with you to help take care of regular life," she said.
Audrey still hopes eventually to relocate to Florida or another warm-weather state where nudism can be enjoyed year-round. She figures she has another decade before retiring, so she enjoys visits to Avalon and gardening at home. An excellent cook, she hopes to attend culinary school.
As for Washington's cold winters and notorious traffic, she's yet to adjust, though the couple enjoys all of the city's cultural offerings and holds season tickets to the Washington Nationals baseball team.
Every vacation involves nude recreation. When Audrey moved to Europe in 1995, she took a bathing suit. By the time she left, the suit was dry rotted from lack of use. The only time she's worn one since was last summer during a family gathering in Nags Head, NC. She and Bob have been to numerous AANR clubs.
"While we haven't seen them all," she says, "we are working on it, and as AANR-East Trustee the clubs in the East are my priority."