Marlies Friederich – Macizo de Ayllón, Spain

Marlies Friederich is Head Operations of Stichting Het Vergeten Kind, an organization dedicated to helping children who grow up in an environment with problems, such as neglect or abuse. She is married to Thijs, and together they have a daughter of 11 and son of 9. Marlies built a career in the corporate world, but decided to make the step into the non-profit sector to make a positive impact on society. The move to a small, less structured environment proved to be not so easy.

“I couldn’t meet the sky-high expectations that were placed on me,’ says Marlies. I started to work harder and harder, but at my own expense. One of her colleagues had been on a trail to Norway and immediately made her enthusiastic about doing one herself. ‘I love nature and hiking, so I immediately felt it could be something for me.” 

The trip went to Macizo de Ayllón in Spain, a rugged inhospitable area with many different views. “It is a fantastically beautiful area, I remember walking through pine forests with the sound of crunching needles. We went to the most beautiful places and we slept under the stars. An unforgettable experience.”

“The question I took with me on the trip was about how I can experience more space myself, and give more space to others as well. I tend to jump straight into action and take care of things.”

The five days in nature, cut off from the outside world, had a positive impact on Marlies. “I found it wonderful to take a break anyway. It is nice to have attention for yourself and others.”

For Marlies it was also about letting go of the delusion of the day. “My feelings became physical; at times I literally felt stabbings in my heart, but I could also become completely absorbed in nature and experience total relaxation.’ During the trail there was also a part when the participants were completely on their own. That had a great impact on Marlies. ‘It was wonderful to be completely on my own.”

During the solo, the vultures swarmed over me, mighty beasts that have to make an effort when taking off and then let themselves be carried away by the air current. “For me, there was a lot of symbolism in that.” After the trail Marlies took several insights back to her daily life. “If you always think that you are responsible to provide the solution yourself then you are also to blame if it doesn’t work. I try more and more not to come up with solutions right away but also to give the other person space to do so.”

Three days after the trail she started in her new role at a non-profit organisation that really matters to her. “I liked being able to experiment immediately in a different environment. It felt like a new start.”

The effects of the trail are still felt by Marlies. “I may have changed a bit as a person. I started to give a lot more undivided attention to people, and towards myself I don’t put so much pressure on myself anymore.”

“Pine forests with the sound of crunching needles. Sleeping under the stars. An unforgettable experience.”

Marlies about the Wilderness Trail in Macizo de Ayllón, Spain