My life in travel: KT Tunstall, singer-songwriter

'In Byron Bay, I walked through lush vegetation straight down to the beach'

First holiday memory?

My dad got a sabbatical from UCLA in California when I was four, so I went to live in Los Angeles with him for a year. I remember the sunshine, the orange trees and swimming in perfect blue pools. My dad has since passed away, but he and my mum did a lot of travelling throughout their lives and lived in a few different places, so it was normal for them to take us away.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The West Coast of Scotland. I like the fact that, from a temperature point of view, it's fairly unfriendly, which keeps the area pristine. If it were really warm, it wouldn't look the way that it does.

Best holiday?

The Maldives. I remember feeling like I had died and woken up in this ridiculous vision of paradise. It's amazing to realise there is a place on Earth like that: where you can put on a snorkelling mask and it's like being in a tropical fish tank.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That there is much to learn from other countries. I went to India for the first time in 2009 and remember flying home over London, and being utterly amazed that every house had running water and electricity.

Ideal travelling companion?

A good friend, who is as comfortable with silence as they are with chatting. When I am travelling, I don't have a need to gab the whole time. I really want to absorb the surroundings and be present.

Greatest travel luxury?

Business-class flights, by a long stretch. I would scrimp on many other things, but if it's a long-haul flight, it's an entirely different experience arriving when you feel fresh.

Holiday reading?

I like to read something that relates to where I'm going. In India, for example, I read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, which definitely made the whole experience more colourful.

I've got an iPad loaded with books, but when I'm travelling I like to have a physical copy. I like using train tickets as bookmarks and having dog-eared pages where the dirt tells a story.

Where has seduced you?

South America. I was completely overwhelmed by the character of the people. They were the loveliest, warmest locals I have ever met. The energy and the vibe there are so positive. I did a really hardcore itinerary to Ecuador, Chile and Argentina, playing gigs in Rio, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires, horse-riding with the gauchos in Patagonia and seeing wildlife in the Galapagos.

Worst travel experience?

Low-costs airlines. I've been on some really bad buses in different parts of the world, but those planes are horrendous.

Best hotel?

One that stands out is The Byron at Byron Bay Resort and Spa in Australia. I got to stay there after I played a gig in Sydney. It's connected by all these walkways through tropical forest. You walk through lush vegetation, full of wildlife and birds, right down to the beach. Being there at sunset was pretty special.

Best meal abroad?

Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. They've got a raw restaurant headed by a brilliant chef called Derek. He made a raw lasagne out of vegetables with walnut pesto that was the nicest thing I've ever eaten.

Favourite city?

Seattle. I've got a soft spot for the city because I went on a family holiday there when I was 22 and stayed just outside in Port Townsend. We went whale-watching and ate amazing food. We also went to the Olympic Mountains and to the Hoh Rainforest, the only rainforest in the Northern Hemisphere. It was like something out of Star Wars, with hundreds of trees dripping with lichen. It was a holiday with great food, great people and amazing scenery.

Where next?

I'd like to see the Nazca Lines, which are ancient geoglyphs in southern Peru. I didn't get to go when I was in South America and it's something I'd really like to see.

Singer-songwriter KT Tunstall performs at The Big Feastival (31 August to 1 September; Her new single, "Invisible Empire", is out this week (