I was born

way down in Invercargill and moved to Dunedin when I was 1 or 2. Mum and Dad loved travelling and were really keen on us seeing the country. We had this 1970s pop-up camper and we'd go away with other families to Central Otago, South Canterbury, Twizel, Naseby, Ruataniwha. Mum would have these Mobil Travel books and wherever we were she'd find the blurb about the place and read it out to us and we'd say "Oh God, Mum, that's so boring". And years later, that was me with the Lonely Planets.

When I was 13, we visited an uncle who lived in Bahrain and I remember going across the causeway to Saudi Arabia, from where I have vivid memories of mosques and morning prayers. As a Kiwi girl I found it a very different culture — all the women being covered and how male-dominated it was. At the time, rather than question it, I found it quite fascinating. But as a Western woman, I'd think harder about it now.

I didn't head out on my OE till I was about 28. On the way we stopped in Thailand for about three weeks. I wore Teva sandals, probably those shorts you zipped off at the knees and a money belt, so to get to my money I had to pull my top up. Carrying a guidebook and a camera, I would've looked so like a tourist while trying not to look one.

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Once we found jobs in England we moved to Clapham South and a house with 10 people in it and it was a real comedown, from living in Wellington with a nice flat and good job. It was hard to get the right job in London but once I did I never looked back.

I was very lucky. I could do a lot of travel and keep my job, and I used every moment of my holidays. I'd come back from New Zealand, arrive at Heathrow at 7.30am and be at my desk by nine. I didn't waste time on jetlag.

One time, I took six weeks to go to South America, I did a lot of Italy, a road trip in Mexico. We drove a support campervan for some friends doing the Transalpine Mountain Bike Race. I think we started in Germany and finished in Italy. I loved India too. We did the Golden Triangle, Delhi, Agra to Jaipur. I love observing cultures and seeing how differently people do things.

But don't ever get in a taxi with me. I had a taxi once in Turkey, we were driving to the airport and ran out of petrol so the driver had to coast all the way there. Then there was the guy in New York who put all our stuff in the boot, then my girlfriend wanted something from her bag and he couldn't get into the boot so he opened it with a crowbar and ruined it in the process. Then there was the water taxi off the coast off Rio. It broke down, we were drifting and the guy's trying to fix it with a lit cigarette hanging on his lip — at least I think it was a cigarette.

One day our friends Bridge and Anton called and said this hotel had come up for sale. We wanted to get out of London, so we cashed up, came home and bought the Duke of Marlborough, moving from London to Russell.

We bought this broken-down, old thing with Bridge and Anton and turned it around, now we're committed to Northland. We live in Russell now; it's such an authentic place, one of New Zealand's first settlements with spectacular views and a really good feeling. The people here are amazing.

Half an hour away there's a spectacular beach at Bland Bay. There are so many places to discover and the weather helps. We don't have the bright lights of the big city but with a bit of imagination and planning you can have all sorts of amazing experiences here.

Further information: See theduke.co.nz.