Elisabeth Easther talks to Paul Shale of Roadtrippers and Campermate.
Growing up in Auckland, we spent most holidays at Piha Beach. My grandparents on my mum's side built a bach there. They hand-built it themselves during the Depression so it was a really old-school fibrolite bach. It always smelt of summer and no matter what time of year you stepped through the door, you'd relax. It's changed a lot since then. Back then, Piha was pretty removed: the road was mud and gravel and very windy, getting there was a bit of a mission. My grandfather used to cycle out there in the 1930s.
I got into skiing at varsity, egged on by friends who'd skied all their lives. On my first trip to Whakapapa, they took me up the top and we traversed down the chutes. Because I couldn't ski like them, I just bombed down the chute, flew through all of them standing waiting for me, and straight off a cliff. I remember looking down, thinking, don't hit those rocks. Next thing I woke up in hospital — I'd been concussed — and everyone's asking me questions and laughing because I'd lost my short-term memory. But it was all good, I took a day off and got back up the mountain the next day.
I studied law and commerce at university and in my final year I went to the States on a SWAP programme so I had a working visa. I worked skiing in Colorado, then Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I had no plans after Mardi Gras so I went to the airport and picked New York off the airport Solari board. Some people on the bus in Colorado had given me the number of a friend of theirs, and I ended up staying with them for three months. When I was leaving New York — looking like a tourist with my backpack on — I'm walking along and this guy jumped out from behind a door with a fairly large knife. He said, "give me your money" or something equally direct. I'd had such an amazing trip that bizarrely this seemed like a new experience so I blurted out, "Cool, I haven't been mugged in New York yet!" I took my backpack off, saying, "I haven't really got anything, but have a look and see what you want". He just stopped and stared, then said "whatever dude" and walked off.
These days we head to Kaiwaka, in Northland, as my wife and daughter are really into horses. We have a small patch there, about 16 acres, but it takes a bit of work. We pop over to Mangawhai to surf as our daughter's in Nippers or we go eventing around the place, but mostly our holidays are spent on the property. With my role at Roadtrippers, I'm travelling more. Roadtrippers.com helps people have epic adventures. It's a joint venture with THL and the American company Roadtrippers, who've created technology to help users build self-drive itineraries. Instead of doing research across multiple websites and booking services, it gives you one dropbox where you put all the things you want to do, then it creates the route for you.
I've always liked meeting new people. Since I was a little kid I've never had a problem walking up to people and starting a conversation. And travel gives you a lot of opportunities to do that. When I was in New York, I met Dwight Owsley, the concierge of the Carlyle Hotel. He's looked after some of the world's most famous people, and he said to me in his big southern drawl, 'you know what I found, when you're travelling? You find what you're meant to be looking for.' And what he was saying, what I heard, the attitude you take with you when you travel determines the kind of travel experience you'll have.