The Naked Bucket List

Everyone should have a naked bucket list. Places around the world where you strip down and heartily join in the bathing and body care rituals of other cultures. 


These are often my favorite travel experiences.


I was once folded into a pretzel in Thailand and had my back popped—which felt great at the time but by morning my body thought I’d been in a bar fight. In a remote island in Indonesia, I survived a painful pinching massage, an unforgettable and slightly traumatic experience I refer to as “naked and afraid.” The best massage of my life was by a man from Transylvania named Vlad—and only after making sure his last name wasn’t “The Impaler” did I consent to what turned out to be the most wonderful massage of my life.  And in the heart of a Ukrainian winter, I learned the art of gently plunging into a freezing cold pool without showing any hint of shock on my face. This exceptional feat of Ukrainian composer took three tries before I could master it.


All these unclothed experiences are some of my favorite travel memories. 


A visit to a Turkish Hamam—or bathhouse has been on my naked bucket list for as long as I can remember. And you need to put it on yours. It is now my all-time favorite travel experience—hands down.


My friend Karen joined me for an afternoon at the Turkish Hamam. The Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı in Istanbul was recommended to me by my niece Danielle. The Hamam is in a breathtaking bathhouse built in the 1500’s. As you lie on the massive round slab of heated marble and stare up at the glimmering sunlight streaming down in starlike shapes from the domed ceiling you think you’ve gone to heaven. And then it gets better. They move you and seat you next to a warm fountain of water and you’re scrubbed and exfoliated, shampooed and rinsed, and lathered with so many bubbles that all of us bathers looked like a flock of billowy sheep. 


As I was laying topless on that glorious slab of marble in a steamy room next to Karen, I looked over at her and said, “this is where all friendships should start,” and I think she agreed. 


Get your naked bucket list going and put a Turkish bath at the top of the list. It’ll change your life.

Here’s a few bathing traditions that should be on your Naked Bucket List:

  • Turkish Hamam
  • Icelandic Geothermal Spa
  • Thai Massage
  • Temazcal sauna
  • Balinese Flower Bath
  • Finnish Sauna
  • Japanese Onsen 
  • Korean Jjimjilbang
  • Native American Sweat Lodge
  • Sudanese Dukhan
  • A dip in the forty foot on Christmas Day–or an Irish Sweat bath or Seaweed bath
  • Watsu!

The Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı in Istanbul

A wee travel snafu getting home...

Karen and I went local and took the tram five stops from the center of Istanbul, across the bridge to the hamam. We were feeling pretty stoked to take the local way over until we attempted to return home.  What should have been an easy ride turned into a little fiasco after our husbands tried to use our cards.

Our original tram pass was bought at the station near the Hagia Sophia with the help of the attendant who spoke great english. We had him help us buy a card for four fares so Karen and I could go and come back. But they boys decided to scan our passes and come along–only they scanned them but couldn’t make the turn-stalls work. We were more than happy to leave them there at the station with their goofball antics and head to the hamam without them.  But just one problem. They used up our last two rides home.


Not a problem really, until Karen and I were so beguiled by our baths, that we used up the remains of our Turkish lira to leisurely sip hot tea and peruse their menu of snacks on their irresistibly cozy lounges afterwards. And we may have bought some soaps and beautiful handwoven keses as well.


So when we arrived at the tram station for our return and discovered we had no more rides left on our card, we were in a bit of a pickle. Very relaxed pickels mind you, having just had the best baths of our lives, but a pickle nonetheless.


We also realized we were lira less. And to our aforementioned calm horror, we discovered the machines did not take cards of any sort.


Meet our new friend and epic hero–man with the cool British cap on who’s name I never learned. who helped two penniless girls buy a new tram pass.


We found him at the kiosk buying himself a card and he was the only english speaker we came across.  When we asked where we could buy a pass with our debit card he simply threw his own lira in the machine and bought us two tram cards.


We tried to thank him in Turkish, which isn’t an easy thing to do because, quite frankly, it’s impossible to pronounce “Teşekkür ederim” the right way without sounding like you’ve choked on something and need medical attention.


He laughed as we said this, and then admitted that he didn’t speak Turkish either and only spoke Metro Machine. Which we were very thankful for.


Luckily for the boys, the relaxing effects of our bath outlasted any ill will towards them for mucking up our flawless public transit plans.

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