Elisabeth Easther talks to the director of Heletranz
I'm from Stockholm and when I was growing up, I loved being out in nature. It is probably what shaped my travel attitude. My dad is very outdoorsy and he lives by the rule of there being no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
So we went outdoors in all types of weather and when we went on long drives — we always took our own food — we weren't allowed to eat in the car, even in snowstorms, and we always had to get out of the car to get some air, stretch our legs and eat our sandwiches. I was so jealous of my friends who were allowed McDonald's.
My first holiday without my parents — looking back I was quite young, just 16 — I went to Cyprus with 10 girls and most of us got burnt because it was that time when people just lay in the sunshine covered in oil.
When I was 17, I went to Italy for a year as an exchange student. I was sent to Sardinia where no one spoke English so I needed to learn the language rapidly. We were at the beach and I couldn't understand why everyone was freaking out. People were trying to make me understand something and I interpreted their sign language as being about jellyfish. But I thought, they can't be that dangerous, and the beaches are stunning so to sit on the sand and not have a swim was out of the question. It was only later I realised they were trying to tell me there was a shark in the water.
When I was an exchange student, my best friend was from America and when we were 18 we did a road trip from Niagara Falls in Canada all along the coast to Florida. Crossing over to Texas we drove up again through the night, listening to books on audiotapes, stopping at truck stops. If my children were doing that today at 18, or any age, I'd be, 'oh my God that's asking for trouble'.
In New Orleans, there was one road you could walk on while on the others you'd get shot, but we were sitting between the two streets because we didn't think it could be that bad. But the second night we heard gunshots. We were so naive, but possibly I wouldn't have experienced so much so young if I was more like I am now. And that trip was awesome.
I ended up working for Swedish television on the coverage of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong and it was there I met my Kiwi husband, John, a captain with Cathay Pacific. Two years later, I moved to Hong Kong and we lived there for 12 years and had three daughters there. Our daughters have travelled a lot so I have lots of experience travelling with babies, but it has not always been successful.
The worst flight — I was coming back from Hong Kong with the two oldest, one was 6 weeks old the other must have been nearly 2, and she focused on running around and crawling under seats. Because I was breastfeeding, I could only sit there while she ran around the cabin flicking people's eyemasks off. It's easier now they're older.
When it was time to move to New Zealand, an opportunity to buy Heletranz came up, but I thought that would be John's thing and I'd work in private banking, the sector I'd always been in. But when we arrived, it was clear we needed more investment to expand the business, so John returned to Hong Kong, working for Cathay for another three years while trying to commute, and I ended up running something I knew little about, a helicopter company.
Our clients are a mix of international visitors and locals, and with lots of gifting and group bookings. Heli-fishing has been super-popular and we have products for all ranges, from scenic flights around the Sky Tower to proposals, to two-week itineraries for overseas visitors who require helicopters and private jets during their stay.
Travel, flying and holiday planning has always been my number one interest even when I was in banking, but when I grew up, I never envisaged myself tailoring other people's holidays in such a stunning "bucket list" country on the other side of the world.
Further information: See heletranz.co.nz