We booked for the first time last year. We made 2 trips. First trip to CN, second trip to CSS. We were determined to try AN for the first time at CN, but it didn't happen. After booking CSS we decided we had to try SSB (the AN area at CSS) and we went knowing that we were just going to hate it. We were in our heads pretty good about it as we have struggled with body image issues pretty much our entire adult lives. We decided to try anyways.

We made our way over after stopping at main beach bar and slamming a few shots (you know, for nerves). We entered through the bamboo gate (insert ominous music in head here) looked around for a moment. We saw a palapa with 2 empty loungers. We didn't want to be too far away because we didn't want the first walk to the bathroom or bar to be too far for obvious naked parade reasons. The palapa in our sights was about half way down the beach. Made our way over, put our stuff down and proceeded to drop em. We couldn't believe we were doing it. We stripped down and quickly laid on the lounger on our bellies. We looked around for a few minutes, no one was pointing, no one was laughing, the world didn't end.

We stayed there for a bit, still very uncomfortable being in a foreign environment, and being VERY self conscious. After a while, we decided to get in the ocean to cool down. That first walk was tough cause we had to pass by others (gasp). No one pointed, no one laughed, the world didn't end. We walked through the shin deep chilly water for about 10-15 feet then the warm caribbean we knew and loved hit our bodies. It was rather comfortable and oh so welcome so we could hide our naked selves in the water! We stayed out there for a while, becoming more comfortable. A few minutes later Aleshea said shit, I got to pee (the shots had worked there way down to bladder). So she said, if I gotta walk over to the bathroom where everyone is, we may as well grab our stuff cause she wasn't going by herself. I agreed. We made our way back to the palapa/loungers, but had to face everyone walking out of the ocean, and that was a little daunting and scary as hell cause we were still very self conscious. The few couples we passed simply greeted us with warm smiles and hellos and hows the water? We grabbed our stuff, and made our way over to the pool, never looking anyone in the eye (hiding behind sunglasses).

We found a couple of loungers, set our stuff down, and got in the pool. No one laughed, no one pointed, the world didn't end. We slowly made our way over to the pool bar where there were lots of AN people! GASP! We were quickly greeted with just smiles, hey guys, welcome! Whatcha drinking? A few folks recognized us from the FB groups, so we got a couple of drinks and slowly started conversation with a few friendly folks. Aleshea decided she was about to pop so she got out of pool and made her way to the bathroom. She said that was VERY hard the first time, again, we have struggled with body image and self consciousness for a few decades (most of our adult life).

A short while later, the drinks were still flowing, the world still hadn't ended, and everyone was so friendly. But not overly friendly like in a weird way. We quickly realized that really, no one cares (except you). The only people that cared were us and we needed to let that go. Awkwardness and anxiety soon gave way to acceptance. Acceptance then yielded to comfortableness. The world still hadn't ended, no one was pointing, no one was laughing. A short while later, I found myself playing pool volleyball with other AN goers. That was a new experience. Aleshea was having conversation with folks at the pool bar while I played the first round of volleyball. Long story short, we spent the whole first full day there, and then every single other day there the rest of the trip. Second day didn't require shots before going. We couldn't wait to get over there!

We decided to leave our anxiety, our hangups, and our fears at the bamboo gate to SSB. Stepping out into that was one of the best things we could have done for ourselves. It really opened up our minds a little as we saw every shape, size and color there. We quickly realized that 99% of us are perfectly average, and all bodies are beautiful. We really enjoyed spending time with some of the most non judgmental and friendly down to earth people we have ever met and enjoyed being there, being a part of creation with the warm sun and the salty ocean air blanketing our bodies all over. It felt, well....natural! Was very freeing. We realized that we were way too far in our heads about it. CSS/SSB was the perfect first experience.

Sorry this is so long, but I felt compelled to share our experience with you in the hopes it motivates you to let go of artificial hangups forced on us all by the world and just go experience it with your S/O and seriously, it is NOT worth stressing over. Once you are there you will see. Once you go you know!

After being at SSB and experiencing this, here are our personal follow up thoughts. Many people struggle with self image, self confidence and angst at the notion of AN. Let me just tell you that ALL bodies are beautiful. It is our natural state, the way we were made and there is no reason to stress. Just go and see. All bodies are welcome, all are not judged. The world judges enough. Let it go for a while. Our personalities are what make us unique, all are celebrated, all are welcome. Some bodies have battle wounds, scars, stretch marks and have been fighting gravity. Some have reared children and brought life into this world and those bodies are special and should be (and are) celebrated. You will see all shapes and sizes and colors. Big, small, tall, short, wide, narrow, all kinds. All are beautiful. You will see that most of us are perfectly average and that we are all beautiful. Some women have mastectomies, some have scars, some have tattoos, some don't, some have large breasts, some don't, most are not symmetrical. Some men are growers, some men are showers. Most men are growers. Some bodies have lots of hair, some have very short hair, some have none. Everyone is perfect the way they were made and how they are. AN is about celebrating the body you have by shedding barriers, labels and things of the world that divide and categorize us. AN is about enjoying the warm sun, the cooling water, etc without man made barriers (Eden). AN is about stepping out of the world and connecting with your significant other on a deeper level. AN is about meeting people who are also struggling with the same things you do in the world and being in the moment and getting to know people for their personalities and who they truly are as a person and not what they wear, where they work, what they drive, or how much money they do or don't have. It simply doesn't matter. Just go and see. All you have to do is just let it go and be there. Oddly enough, many people who struggle with body image say AN is the best thing they have ever done for their self confidence and it helped them realize we are more than appearances, more than what the world defines us as and more than what we label ourselves as. Just go. It truly is an all accepting, and all in environment. Just go. Will you be nervous? Of course, for a few minutes. Let it go. Will it feel odd? Yes at first.....but then you start to realize no one is looking, no one is pointing, and no one is judging and that all are pretty much perfectly average and all of a sudden you realize you are becoming more and more comfortable and acclimated. I urge you to jump in, to embrace it and to talk with others. It truly helps and you will quickly find a sense of that most haven't experienced before. Just go.