Armand Bloem – Umfolozi, South Africa

Armand Bloem is father to two sons and has built a career at Microsoft in management roles. He loves sports challenges and as an avid athlete has completed marathons, the half triathlon and physically demanding multi-day MTB races among others. 

Curiosity was one of the driving forces for Armand to participate in the program. “I have often participated in more traditional personal development programs, such as business schools and coaching programs. It was all very nice, but somehow it didn’t stick. I was really looking for something permanent, and I also wanted to have more insight into what is happening to me inside. I also felt a desire to connect more with nature.”

When Armand set out on his journey, there was a lot going on, both at a business and a personal level. “My career was at a crossing. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. My energy level was low at the time and I didn’t really understand why. In addition, I had been in a long relationship and also had a kind of feeling of guilt that it hadn’t worked out in the end.”

After an introduction in nature and at a Foundation Workshop in an inspiring place in the Netherlands, the trail went to Umfolozi, the oldest game reserve in South Africa. That trip has made a deep impression on Armand to this day.

“There were so many magical moments during the trail, but the impact was actually in the combination of experiences. Space, silence, the overwhelming African nature and beautiful vulnerable conversations around the campfire made this experience unforgettable for me. Space was created in my mind because there were no distractions from phones or time pressure. The facilitators of the FNL and the South African local guides participated in all the conversations, which for me created an equality in the group.”

“At first, I still felt uncomfortable knowing that there were wild animals around me, but the local guides from the WLS know the laws of nature and made me feel safe. It helped me feel comfortable in a situation that is not natural.”

Armand realises that over time he felt more and more at one with nature. “I remember later in the trail we were walking in silence and came across a group of zebras. We could feel their curiosity. I am convinced that this was possible because our energy level had now dropped, allowing us to get much closer to the animals. Nature was opening up more and more to us, as it were.”

The effect of the trip came to Armand over time. “It’s not like I came back with a one-size-fits-all answer to all my questions. But it’s been a turning point in the themes that were going on with me. For example, I made a career switch after the trail. I recently got married, and a deeper love for nature with its abundance of peace and space has developed in me. I realise more than ever that we as humans are one with nature, and that we need to live much closer to nature. I am integrating this more and more into my daily life. My biggest wish for now is a small house in nature.”

“So many magical moments during the trail. Space, silence, the overwhelming African nature and beautiful vulnerable conversations around the campfire.”

Armand about the Wilderness Trail in Umfolozi, South Africa