Monday, 24 August 2015

Swim to an island

Earlier this month I spent 10 days exploring Croatia, including spending 7 amazing days on the magical island of Vis. A relatively small island - around 7 miles long and maybe 4 or 5 miles wide - and is very quiet and not too touristy. In fact the place is like a little piece of heaven on earth. Here are a couple of photographs to help me try and prove my point:

Point proved right? 

While I'm here I'm mostly interested in relaxing, swimming and writing. But I also want to explore the island as much as I can and seeing how small it is and that I am here for a week, with the help of my borrowed bike: 

I should be able to see a good percentage of it. 

There is plenty to see and do on Vis. Fort George. The green cave. Blue cave. Disused submarine base ( the island as a long military history) etc etc. For somewhere that isn't particularly very touristy there really is a lot to do here. You can read all about my time on Vis in more detail HERE.

While I was there I also wanted to do a couple of things for the Year31Project. The first of which, my visit to a nudist beach for the first time, you can read all about HERE.

Now if you know me, you will most probably know that it was my dream, still is my dream and for as long as I haven't achieved it, it will always be my dream to swim the English Channel. By which I mean to swim the 21 miles of open sea that separates England and France. I have always wanted to do it, ever since I was six years of age and first realised that it was possible. I came fairly close to attempting it last year and the plan is to do it next year or the year after (depending how long it takes to save/raise the money required). 

So upon booking my holiday this year there was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to complete a swimming challenge. I wanted to swim to an island. Originally that was going to be in France but here I am in Croatia which has lots of islands - big and small - off it's coast.

Now as I write this I am currently on this amazing island. (As I edit it I am on a gruelling 15hr journey by ferry and then coach and as I post it I am in grey London wishing I was back on that magical island). However, I did not swim to it. In fact it took some 2.5 hours to travel here by ferry, so no I didn't swim here haha. However, having googled the island before flying out to Croatia, I already knew beforehand, that very close to Vis there are several much smaller islands. Including this one:

This is the island of Otocic Host, which is a tiny little island with a single house on it. A house that sleeps five people, which I know because you can actually rent it. I know where I'm staying next time I'm here (I will most definitely be back at some point). 

As you can probably tell from the above picture, the island is incredibly close to Vis. I'm not very good at estimating distances but upon seeing it for the first time, I'd have to say that it was probably no more more than around 200m away. 

So I find the island on the first day - at least I can see it, even if I'm not so sure how to get to it - but it's late and so I leave it until the second day before I go in search of how to get down to a good place to make my swim from. Sadly I fail miserably, getting stuck up a hill in the middle of nowhere, where I sit, watch the water, write poetry, eat strawberries - that I bought in a shop unfortunately - and decide to give up on the idea of swimming to an island for the day.

The next day I go off in search of a Nudsit Beach (which again you can and should read about HERE). And as I find the beach I'm looking for, I also realised that I am just around the corner from the island. So once I've done the whole strip down to my birthday suit thing, I popped my swimming shorts back on and followed the path around to where I find the perfect vantage point:

When I get there, there's no one around and no boats seem to be in the area either. So I prop up my camera - otherwise known as my iPhone 5c - using a rock, set it to time lapse and off I go. I don't worry too much about about my phone being taken. There doesn't seem to be much crime on Vis - I didn't have a lock for the bike I was using, I just left it wherever and nothing ever happened. Also the owner of the apartment I rented just told me to simply leave the key in the back of the door when I left - and I was right next to the nudist beach and so if there were any thieves around, they wouldn't have any pockets anyway haha. So I leave my phone on record, put my snorkel mask on and off I go. Now the swim goes... well swimmingly. There is a problem however, but it's not with the swim itself. The only problem is with my camera; at some point during the swim it decide to stop recording. Initially I thought it was due to lack of memory but that wasn't the problem. Instead I think that because my phone was "inactive" - surely it shouldn't happen when it's recording something? - the phone closed just a minute or so into my swim.

Which was really annoying because I did it! I made it to the island. It was really quite easy. It must have only been around 200m as I thought and so it took just 8mins 40secs to go there, do a little victory dance, jumping up and down, wave my hands above my head etc in the hope of being picked up on the camera and swim back again:

Of course it had stopped filming way before any of that.

But I did it. I swam to an island. Mission accomplished!


Sunday, 9 August 2015

Nudist beach

I've never put sun cream on my bits before. Funnily enough I've never known the need to. That was until a few days ago and once I'd done it, I knew there was no backing out of my plan now. Otherwise it would have been a completely pointless exercise and one I would only have to do all over again tomorrow - which I'd rather not do, it's a bit too sticky and sweaty to want to do again - because I had made my mind up that I was definitely going to do this.

In Croatia - continental Europe in general - people seem to be a lot more comfortable with their bodies and with showing them off (at least that's how it seems?). Let me give you an example of what I mean. I went on a boat trip to see some caves and the female tourists painted an interesting image. Firstly, I saw a group of young (what I believed to be) Croatian girls who were all dressed in and only in what were best described as (nearly) thong bikinis. Then there was a group of (what I believed to be) Japanese tourists, who were all in long sleeves. Some wore cardigans, some wind breakers and one woman wore just the sleeves which were elasticated at the top where they met her t-shirt, like a pair of long socks meeting a knee length skirt. Now I'm now sure why they wore long sleeves - in 30+ heat - and I think it probably had more to do with protection from the sun and wind than modesty? But either way, I think it helps to explain what I'm trying to say. Croatian people in general don't seem shy to show off their bodies.

In principle I totally agree! Why should they be? I mean, lots of them have very nice bodies - they seem to be quite a fit and active nation as a whole - and all the girls seem to have impossibly long, slim, flawless legs. But even if they didn't. It's only a body right! We all have one. Some more aesthetically pleasing than others but we all have the same parts in pretty much the same places. So what's there to be embarrassed about?

But that's only how I feel in theory. In practice I feel completely different. Like most of the people I know, I don't like my body. I won't go into the ins and outs of what I do and don't like about it but let's just say that I like my eyebrows and I have a fondness for the mole at the back of my left calf haha. But seriously, I'm not very comfortable with being naked in front of people, at least anyone who isn't my girlfriend. It's also ok in the changing room where I work as a swimming teacher because that's everyday and so somehow seems normal.

I don't know why being naked in front of other people naked makes me feel so uncomfortable. Maybe it's because I'm British, or something to do with my family, my upbringing, my personality or... I've run out of options, I think it must be one of those haha. So I'm not sure why it is but I've always been shy about stripping down. As a child and even now as an adult, I feel awkward about taking my top off. Part of that is because I don't exactly have pecks and a six pack, but even if I did, I highly doubt I'd be one of those guys walking round without a shirt on a hot day. Not least because I'm fair skinned and therefore burn very easily haha. But mostly because I just wouldn't feel comfortable.

Therefore going to a nudist beach:

definitely represents something of a challenge for me. It was definitely going to be something that would take me out of my comfort zone.

So much so, even though I knew that there were a number of nudist beaches on Vis - some very close to the apartment I was staying at - it took me until day 4 of my week long stay on Vis, for me to build up the nerve required for this simple, yet very daunting challenge.

For those of you who are worried that you're about to see naked pictures of me, don't panic the liberation wasn't that drastic haha. Instead here's a picture of my clothes, which doesn't really prove anything but I promise those were the ones that I was wearing haha. I even went as far as taking off my sunglasses, watch and the bracket thing I wear - I seem to be having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I wear jewellery haha - in order to be completely at one with nature:

And for those few of you who might have been hoping to see naked pictures of me, thank you, (arrogantly assuming that there might be one or two) I'm flattered but I'm afraid that's not going to happen. However, here's a (rather awful) no filter, no makeup selfie taken on the nudist beach which hints at me at least being shirtless haha:

So no photographic evidence but I did it! I got naked on a beach. It was really weird. Luckily there weren't many people around. I don't know how well I would have coped if it had been a big busy beach. Instead it was basically a group of rocks by the waters edge. You could practically pick your own secluded little spot. I only saw two other people while I was there. Or maybe that should be, only two other people saw me while I was there.

To sum up my experience, I would simply use the word: awkward! I've no doubt that a lot of people find the experience liberating and freeing. I can understand that but that's not how I felt! The actual act of being naked outdoors, of feeling the breeze on my balls haha was a nice feeling. And I think that the world would probably be a lot nicer place if we were all a bit more at ease with our bodies and with being naked in front of each other. But we're not - at least the majority of us don't seem to be? - and I'm certainly not. Therefore the thought that people would see me naked - even if they were strangers who I would never see again and who were also naked - made me feel very uncomfortable.

So I only stayed at the nudist beach for all of about fifteen minutes before putting my shorts back on and heading off to complete another challenge for the Year31project. Swim to an Island. Which I will be posting about soon. But I did it! I visited a nudist beach and got naked in front of other people. OK so the place was basically deserted and I didn't stay very long. But it was quite difficult for me and I did it. I got naked on a beach. Yay for me... I think?