'There's a harshness to Eastern Europe that I like'

First holiday memory?

The first really foreign place I went to was Costa Rica when I was about eight. It was before lots of people started going there, and, in true McGarrigle style, the trip was completely unplanned. It was a bank holiday weekend and my mother, Kate, saw cheap flights advertised on the Thursday and we were off the next day. When we saw the beach, my brother Rufus and I ran towards the water and bathed in joy and sunshine. A few hours later we were moaning in pain from terrible sunburn, but we bounced back and had the greatest time. I remember drinking coffee and driving through volcanic mountains with deadly drops to both sides and mysterious landscapes wherever we looked.

Best holiday?

A few years ago after a short tour in Japan, my husband Brad and I stayed for a week and travelled around a bit. We took the train to Kyoto and saw temples, which evoked a rarely felt calmness. We stayed at a ryokan at the base of Mount Fuji and bathed in a private onsen (hot springs) and were served what seemed to be a 20-course meal of delights in our tatami room. In Tokyo we did karaoke with the record company and drank a ridiculous amount of booze and laughed our heads off. It was fun to be together in such a dramatically different place. We also ordered raw chicken by mistake in one of the many incredible restaurants we went to.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Scotland is wonderful. I love walking up to Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh and having some good haggis. The Peak District is also truly spectacular, and sitting around a fire at dawn at a music festival can be truly freeing.

Ideal travelling companion?

My husband, Brad. We like to do some of the same things, but the trip is rewarding, mainly because we have different interests. Compromising as well as persuading each other to do things makes for different experiences; stealing a kiss every once in a while is nice, too. Whoever I travel with has to be prepared to walk a lot, because that's when great things happen – as I'm free to move around and discover things.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I am all three of those.

Greatest travel luxury?

Too much luxury sometimes makes me feel a bit odd, but other times it's truly needed. Having the money to enjoy great meals and stay in nice hotels can be fun, particularly after a period of not being able to do those things.

Where has seduced you?

Eastern Europe. There's a certain harshness to it, which I like; you can feel the struggle and the weight of history.

Better to travel or arrive?

We are often impatient to arrive. I like travelling in real time rather than flying. When you tour on a bus and drive for 20 hours through the middle of the United States you really get a sense of space and time. I have always dreamt of walking somewhere far away and it taking weeks or months to get there, or sailing a boat across the Atlantic to feel the weight of travel that people experienced in the past.

Worst travel experience?

I felt terrible when I almost didn't make it to Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! [brother Rufus's recent revue] at the London Palladium. I was supposed to arrive the morning before and rehearse with the orchestra but missed my flight because of a bad hangover. I booked a seat on a later flight, which was subsequently cancelled; it became clear that I would need something close to a miracle to get to the show on time. I spent 24 hours trying to secure flights with layovers as long as eight hours at various strange airports. Needless to say, I got there in time to run through the song once with the orchestra. I sang my ass off that night – all the pain to get there was put into that one song.

Best hotel?

The Grand Hotel in Oslo is nice if you get a room facing the square.

Best meal abroad?

I had a couple of great meals during my honeymoon in Italy. We were staying in Borgo a Mozzano, a small village in Tuscany where my aunt has a house. I discovered the fantastic flavour of fresh porcini mushrooms and house-cured meats at the only restaurant in town, Osteria i Macelli. Everything tasted so wonderful and the young waiters were so charming and full of life.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Create a complete mess in my hotel room.

Dream trip?

I'd like to take the Orient Express and check out places along the way.

Favourite city?

There was something about Budapest that captured my imagination. Perhaps it was just the time in my life, but I loved it.

Where next?

I'm pulling into Salt Lake City and then off to Reno and Aspen. I'm on tour.

Martha Wainwright's new single, 'Comin' Tonight', is released on 27 October and her album 'I Know You're Married but I've Got Feelings Too' is out now