When I went to Big Sur this past summer, I stayed in an Airbnb that had an outdoor bathtub—a vintage clawfoot number, simply plumbed with a drain that, it turns out, emptied into the forest floor below the wooden deck.
I was skeptical. First of all, there were leaves scattered inside. I know, the bathtub is in the woods—leaves are to be expected. But then there was the spider. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not terribly afraid of spiders. But she did require careful removal before I ventured in, and I felt a little bad about disturbing her carefully constructed home.
But once I was submerged in piping hot water, my skepticism went right down the drain. The air was cool on my bare skin, I got goosebumps and felt a little, well, naked. It turns out there’s something subversive—almost naughty—about taking a bath outdoors.
This is a full sensory experience. I could feel the breeze on the back of my neck, smell the oak trees, hear the birds and see the sky. At night, because of course I also had to try the tub at night, I could look at the stars while watching the steam rise. The convenient ledge where I placed something to drink was a bonus, as was the rubber ducky. (He now knows more about me than most.) The combined sensations—nudity, which led to a sense of hyper-awareness, along with the relaxing mindfulness one gets when taking a quiet soak in nature left me more relaxed than an indoor bath ever has.
A vintage iron clawfoot tub can be found on Craigslist for around $100. (Instructions on how to repaint an old cast iron can be found here.)
Ceder Japanese Ofuro tubs do the job nicely, while an acrylic freestanding tub will give your private oasis a resort-like feel.
If you want to up the ante, try infusing your own bath oil with flowers or rosemary—it’s easy as can be.
Did I mention that during my last bath before I had to check out, non-rubber wildlife showed up as well? Not one, but two California Condors stood on a branch nearby to watch the proceedings, their wings spread wide to catch the morning sun. What would have been a quotidian indoor bath inside was now officially magical. My mind was cleared, my body was clean, and my mind was blown. Clearly, I’ve become a convert.