After highschool and before study in Leiden, she left for the Isle of Jersey at the age of 18. Her passion for travelling was born and after her study she started working at the only travel agency for high-end adventures trips in Leiden. And travelled all over the world…
Marlies is married to Frans for over twenty years. He is 12 years older and was a real sportsman. At the time they met, during a skiing holiday, Frans was an active member of the Dutch championship sailing team. She left Amsterdam, her home for 10 years, and together they moved to a farmhouse in a small village, back to nature. Her enthusiasm for working in travel business grew further, she developed a great expertise both in leisure and business travel, sales & marketing.
When their son Thomas was born in ’97, Marlies worked less for a few years and that is when she started playing golf with Frans and friends.
Encouraged by her dear husband, who was in the lead as business unit manager at mechanical engineering firm Eriks, she started her own agency in 2001: Golf & Country Travel.
The conditions were in right place to start her own business; a great house with office space, expertise in travel ànd golf, booming economy and young Tiger Woods reigned the world of golf. Already for 17 years, Marlies is the leading lady in high-end golf travel.
Both their lifes changed dramatically when Frans was hit by a very big stroke in 2011. With help of family and friends, Frans and Marlies found ways to cope with this major life change and still experience the true meaning of resilience daily. Together they did overcome this great loss, their deep bond hasn’t changed since the first time they met.
How do you feel about being over fifty?
I like it, it feels more peaceful. I am less restless as in my forties. Also, I am more than fully aware of the good things in life. I feel blessed to be healthy and blessed with the people I have in my life. The strong bond with my two beautiful, caring sisters and my lovely friends. Some whom I’ve known over 30 years and who were there for me when times were rough. And last, but certainly not least, my great son and 2 stepdaughters with 3 little ones.
Our houseboat is a lovely place to live – and I am still able to travel which wasn’t that certain for a while.
Which age is your favourite time? Would you like to go back?
Although I don’t have any problems with being a fifty something, probably the time we used to live in our farmhouse in Grootschermer. From my 29th untill 46th. I wouldn’t mind to back to those 17 golden years, a carefree happy small family with both my parents always on sight and still healthy.
When we were little our parents taught us to enjoy simple things in life by taking us in the weekends to the beach or hiking the woods with our family dog. I still feel this every day when I walk our labradoodle Gentle.
From which experience did you learn, what made you stronger?
My life was completely upside down the split second Frans got his stroke. We just moved to our new build houseboat in Hoorn – more or less already anticipating a future of working less and spending more quality time together. More time for sailing, golf & travel.
After his 6 months revalidation at Heliomare clinic, he finally came home. Paralyzed on the right side and with difficulties to express himself. At the age of 58 years he was incapacitated, from a business man always on the move I had a husband at home which I had to help with almost everything.
Some say that bad things happen in threes. unfortunately, I experienced this. That same year I also lost my dear mother – she was struck by a hemorrhage.
The grief for both was immense – I have never felt so lonely in my life despite all the great people around me. Our son Thomas was 14 years old at the time and struggling with puberty. The impact of the loss of his (healthy) father and the death of his beloved grandmother was huge and made him hard to handle.
On top of that Thomas slowly lost feelings in his legs. The doctors couldn’t find the medical reason at first and it took 2 years of visiting many doctors before he finally was diagnosed with a cyst in his back nerves. He had a very dangerous operation and luckily got out very well. He then finished school and now I am an absolute proud mam of an international model.
When I saw him on the catwalk for the first time – for the princess of Thailand – I was in tears. Only years before it wasn’t even certain if he could ever walk again!
What a learnt from all this is that I do not panic easily anymore, it can always get worse. I decided to be happy despite the fact that life hasn’t been that kind to me the last years.
It doesn’t help to get grumpy or disappointed. We have a wonderful family & friends around us who care. Last summer we even went sailing with 9 friends all taking care of Frans. They made arrangements so that he was able to swim in the blue Mediterranean Sea!
What would your ideal day look like? No restrictions in time, money, people or whatever.
Frans and I wake up at one of my favourite hotels, Hotel Predi Son Jaumell on Mallorca. I will start the day with a small yoga session on our terrace facing the blue Mediterranean sea. When I’m finished the outside table is set out with a private breakfast with fresh seasonal fruits & local yoghurt.
Our sweet dog Gentle gets impatient – of course he joins us – and we go for a long morning stroll along the beach.
Lunch will be served at Le Magellan at Théoule-sur-mer in the South of France, where my dear family and friends will join us. After lunch they all go for some rest, not me. I sneak out to play a round of golf, of course! From all the courses I have been, I choose to play at Kingsbarns Golf Links at the East Coast of Scotland. One of the most beautiful courses I have ever played. Did I mention that I will be accompanied by Justin Timberlake? He is a very good golfer and while playing he can sing a song for me…
Happy Hour will be at Bidi Bondi in Dubai for a touch of glamour & glitter. Frans is in great health and we will have dinner at Jimbaran Beach on Bali. Although I haven’t been there for a while, I assume that nothing has changed. We talk and laugh and kiss and eat freshest fish while sitting with our bare feet in the sand.
What is your golden beauty trick or favourite product?
No better way to start my day than with a early morning walk of at least one hour with our dog Gentle. Furthermore I drink at least 1,5 liter water daily and I visit the gym twice a week. To stay relaxed and healthy, yoga is my favourite thing for body & soul!
Almost all my skin care products are by Dermalogica, fair products and affordable. For make-up I love Dior, these colours they are so beautiful.
Which book (and/or film and/or music) shaped/changed you and why should we read it?
Well, to be honest I didn’t read that much the last years, I was unable to concentrate. Just recently refound the tranquility again to read. At the moment I am into Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari about the history of humanity. Wow, it really is fascinating to read about where we come from and how we evolved.
The film The Intouchables, a hit in 2011 the year Frans had his stroke. We saw it, we laughed and were in tears at the same time. It told us no matter what, you can still make something out of your life! Both actors Omar Sy & Francois Cluzet are amazing, and the music in this film still gives me goosebumps.
Speaking of music, my very best friend in music is George Michael. Since the 90’s we have been through a lot together. Every occasion, every time capsule is filled with music of George, such a great tragedy he lost his life much too early!
Who should we follow on Instagram?
- @thomasnelissen our son who is international model based at Dream New York Management
- @golfandcountrytravel of course! My very own agency for the most beautiful golf destinations & luxury hotels
- @mandalastencils diy homestyling & decorations with mandala stencils
- @beautfuldestinations incredible places & people around the world
- @NRCinbeeld great photos selected by Dutch NRC newspaper’s photo editors
What’s your favourite destination/hotel/museum/restaurant in the world?
- Destination : New York
- Hotel : Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in Zuid-Afrika
- Museum : close to home, Westfries Museum. At this moment there is a great exposition about the stolen Old Masters in 2005, now restored so beautifully
- Restaurant : Madame Cheung in Hoorn – delicious Asian food!
What’s your signature dish? The one that makes your friends demand a seat at your dinner table.
Oops. I am not great cook, but my pasta’s & salads always do! My father loves anything as long as he has his three daugthers around. My favorite childhood dish was rhubarb, ‘Rabarber’. And my mothers cauliflower dish has been famous till the day she passed away, I have tried several times to make it the way she did. But it’s never the same!
Trivia time, make a choice and share your favourite brand
- Nailpolish or Lipstick? Nailpolish Opi blanc. (and my favourite lipstick is Intense Red by Dior)
- Heels or Flats? Definelty Flats, no life without sneakers & boots
- Dress or Trousers
Dresses, I have several from Vanilla & Marlene Birger very easy to travel in. And Closed Trousers in all colours
- Coffee or Tea? Coffee made by my hubby and while working ginger tea trough the day
- Swimsuit or Bikini? Used to be bikinis, still do but I also have a beautiful swimsuit from Nicole Olivier
For more interviews of inspiring fifty somethings, see our Portraits series.
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