MARTHE VAN ZIJL
It’s a human connection thing

Marthe Van Zijl is an English Teacher passionate about human connectivity. A passion Marthe only discovered at the age of 25.

This is Marthe’s story

As part of her Social and Cultural Development University degree, Marthe went to Sydney, Australia, for a year, to work with aborigines and create awareness for Aboriginal culture. One of Marthe’s tasks was to organise cultural diversity evenings to share Aboriginal art and the richness of Aboriginal cultures. The Aboriginal people presented their work so white Australians had the opportunity to learn about them. Marthe was alien to both cultures, she was challenged to connect them.

During her time in Australia, Marthe explored the country and had fun meeting many people, natives and other travellers. Among the many people, Marthe met there was a woman who stood out at the cultural centre. She was an aboriginal woman in her 60’s who wrote a book about the Aboriginal culture, a book Marthe still keeps in a box of memories in her cellar. Marthe had many discussions about life and spent lots of time listening to the writer’s stories. She felt grateful for the writer’s time and the writer felt happy to share her stories. They connected, as Marthe did with many others. When the time came to leave, Marthe didn’t want to go back home, but she had to.

“You do not have to know people for a long time, at all, you can feel love and compassion.”

When she returned to Holland, Marthe felt stuck in her old life. She had changed, but the life around her felt the same. Marthe tried different things to get her out of a routine and getting unstuck. It was hard, so Marthe did Vipassana, a 10-day silent meditation, which helped and went for long walks as often as she could to get closer to nature and away from the city.

People in the city felt like they were so busy with themselves, that at some point she found herself wondering, “Do I really want to meet more people? Is it fun? Is it good to connect with others?” Despite her efforts, life was not the same and eventually it got worse. A bad romance broke her heart.  What she was most passionate about was connecting with others.

Disillusioned and hoping to be proved wrong, at the age of 40, Marthe decided to walk the 800km of the Camino de Santiago. She’d heard it was a very spiritual route, where people connect with each other, so she decided to walk it and find out if she could trust others again.  As Marthe walked across Spain, she met beautiful people from all walks of life and backgrounds, people from different cultures who were all connected by doing the very same thing, walking.

As a real eye opener, the Camino had reminded her of many things. Suddenly the world was her oyster and there are amazing people out there waiting to be met. Marthe realised that she did not have to go back to her old routine in the capital of Holland, she could take her time watch her plane take off and stay right there where she was teaching English to foreigners in Spain. 

Marthe felt happy, connected with herself and others. Nearly a decade before, at the age of 31, she had decided to work with children with behavioural and learning problems because she enjoyed connecting and helping people. She remembered how it felt like she was empowering them, perhaps to start a new career or to expand their future possibilities. 

After some research, hours sending CVs and a few interviews, Marthe ended up staying in the south of Spain for a year, where she stayed until it was time again to go back home again. Now she is living once more in her home city, Amsterdam, striving to keep all the lessons she learned on her journey and carry them home every day.

What does Marthe say to those who love connecting with others?

First reconnect with yourself, then… walk, stay open. Know that you are not the only one in the world that suffers, even people who harm you have their own problems. Do not take it personally. Trust your instincts and trust yourself as a human being.”

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Name: Marthe Van Zijl

Nationality: Dutch

Age: 40

Passion: To connect with others