My personal style signifier is a pair of perfectly broken-in black Birkenstocks, worn without socks, all year round. I wear a shearling version of the Arizona [sandal] in winter, and the Mayari style in summer. I have a pair of Arizonas that are almost 20 years old. The cork footbeds have seen many miles; they are full of memories. I own 120 pairs of Birkenstocks, but these are the most special. I’m a former American football player, which requires a lot of body mass, so I like to keep my clothing – mostly jeans, T-shirts and sweaters – simple and comfortable.
The last things I bought and loved were two grey shearling leather jackets from Frauenschuh, in Kitzbühel. I collect shearling jackets and have different weights for every season. I usually can’t buy clothes off the rack because of my size, but in Austria they tend to stock things for bigger men. Whenever I find things that fit, I buy multiples.
My perfect soundtrack when I’m on the move would have to include Yo-Yo Ma and Ludovico Einaudi. The balance of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello and Einaudi’s piano help me tune out.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was an old-school, dark-green rain poncho from Holland & Holland. It’s very practical; I think it’s also one of the Queen’s favourites. £890
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Lindsay Castle in Knysna, South Africa. It’s set on the white-sand Noetzie Beach, and the rough Indian Ocean and the light are very dramatic. It’s very understated as castles go, but it was hand-built, stone by stone, and every beam was chosen by hand. It isn’t “luxury” in the traditional sense, but I think of it as an eagle’s nest – just a very relaxing and special place. noetziecastles.co.za
And the best souvenirs I’ve brought home are handmade model boats from a marine-antiques specialist in St Malo: shipbuilder or dockyard models from 1880s England and some made in Scotland in the 1930s. They sit in my home office, but I take them out on occasion and use them for pond sailing with my kids.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Joseph Beuys. He was one of the first people to mix art and commerce in an honest way. I’d particularly like his Continuum chalk-on-blackboard work, Capri Battery and the felt and steel Samurai Sword. He took ordinary products and branded them intelligently.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is The Film Club: No Work. No School… Just Three Films a Week by David Gilmour. It’s about a teenage boy whose parents have recently divorced and he asks to drop out of school. His father lets him, with the provision that they watch movies – of his choosing – together each week. They end up talking about everything from work to popular music, and it really touched me as a parent.
The site that inspires me is the land surrounding my home in Bavaria, about 60 miles north of Munich. This part of the world centres me – the forests, the grasslands, the lakes and the farms represent total freedom.
The place I’m yearning to visit again is Benirrás beach in the north of Ibiza. When I have free time I never want to travel for 10 hours. I find the crystal-clear water and the relaxed island vibe here to be perfect. It’s just easy, and with four kids from five to 11 years old, that’s what I’m looking for.
The place that keeps drawing me back is Africa. It’s the mother of the human being, and I’m continually entranced by the colours, the nature and the earth. Its biorhythms match my own. I worked as a correspondent here for several years, so I feel very tied to the land and the people.
The last music I downloaded was Homeland by the French-Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra. I first heard her soul mix on the then-underground Austrian radio station FM4, and I find the subtle guitar and the melody very relaxing.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the 1st arrondissement in Paris. You can’t beat it for the diversity and the density of excellent shops, from multi-brand stores to antiques shops and galleries – I am constantly surprised. One of the best is the concept store L’Eclaireur, which has a unique mix of clothing, furniture and ceramics. Our Birkenstock 1774 showroom dedicated to special collaborations and projects is also here, near the Hermès flagship.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a farmer focused on producing high-quality food on a large scale. I’d love to grow all kinds of vegetables and raise well-treated animals, like farmers did 150 years ago. I like going with the seasons and think this might be better than running a business in a big city.
An object I would never part with is my wedding ring as it’s the ultimate bond to my family. It’s a simple, thick gold band that’s oversized and proportional to me. It’s definitely unique.
I was pleasantly surprised by Venice Beach, California. The community, the shops, the restaurants and the light are all wonderful. Everyone seems to be relaxed and balanced there, and I felt as if I’d known the people I met for 20 years. For Europeans, the greenwashing might be a bit much, but I think the energy is outstanding.
I had a memorable meal at Elements Ibiza Beach Club. It draws a very international but low-key crowd and the setting is just perfect. It’s a simple spot, where the tables are on a wooden deck on the sand and the kitchen serves the freshest seafood – grilled calamari and prawns with salt and lime vinaigrette – all with delicious olive oil.
For a sense of escape, I like watching movies on aeroplanes – but I often spend that time looking at pictures of my family, which I find energising.
The last hotel that blew me away was Claridge’s – as always. I’ve been everywhere, but this place is the best. Every single person who works there has an emotional intelligence that’s rare these days; they’re just so professional and kind, whether I’m travelling for business or with my family. The Fumoir is the best hotel bar too: excellent cocktails, with an old-world atmosphere.
The travel philosophy I live by is less is more. Less time spent on the road, carry less baggage and take a streamlined approach to meetings. It’s important to separate “urgent” matters from what really counts.