'I was body searched when I went through customs with Jimi Hendrix'

First holiday memory?

My first vacation with my whole family when I was about eight years old; we went rafting on the rapids down Ausable Chasm. I felt it brought us together. My parents later divorced and I just lost my dad, so I guess it makes me think of us being together as a family.

Best holiday?

I had travelled so much with my career that holidaying was just staying at home. However my husband and I took a holiday to Jamaica, Tobago and Barbados. It was really nice – what you picture people do on holiday: drinks with umbrellas in them and that sort of thing. It was fun and we had some adventures.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The Isle of Wight, where I performed in 1970, following The Who! They did their most extravagant production ever. After that, it was just about daybreak and everybody had gone to sleep. And when I got on stage I remember seeing heads popping up, they were blooming again, it was OK.

What have you learnt from your travels?

How encapsulated people are in their own lives. Travelling helps people to gather a bigger idea of who we are, it gives us more of a connectedness, that we are all part of one humanity.

Where are the world's most beautiful people?

Places where there is less media and fewer behavioural modification tools being used. Like the Caribbean islands; the more remote the better.

Your ideal travelling companion?

I love being able to take my family with me. You feel like you're educating, because you can expose them to things they can only read about, and reading is just not going to do it. So you have to get out there and go.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Not a beach bum, although I really love beaches and water and I don't feel comfortable unless I'm close to water. I would say, Culture Vulture: I want to know all about it, I want to know why. That's my goal: to find out.

Greatest travel luxury?

My luxury is space, being able to carry things like perfume or an alkalizer – a machine that alkalizes water. That's a luxury for me, because that's taking up space and it seems that the older I get, the more things that I want to have with me.

Holiday reading?

Graham Greene is one of my favourite writers; he takes you into a whole world. Right now I'm reading Jews, God and History by Max I Dimont. I just found it in a trash bin, and now I'm reading it.

Where has seduced you?

Places where I can find beautiful rocks – such as Eureka Springs in Arkansas.

Better to travel or to arrive?

Oh to arrive, definitely. I would prefer to just be popped into a place, because of difficulty in flights, the whole rigmarole you go through now.

Worst travel experience?

I once went through customs with Jimi Hendrix. He had warned me: "Don't come through with me, keep your distance," and sure enough they searched me. They did a body search. Then they found this container; I was a vegetarian and I brought my own nuts and seeds. I remember the customs official looked at the other guy and said: "What's this?" and he said: "That's what they eat."

Worst holiday?

I don't take a lot of vacations. This is how my vacations tend to run: I end up in a place I'm touring, and I think, this will be a beautiful spot, the show went well.

Worst hotel?

So many times I've gone to hotels where they say: "We're very sorry we're doing this reconstruction, and if it causes you any inconvenience we do apologise." Of course it wakes you up at 3am, whenever they start hammering and banging, and you've gotten in at 2am. That's my advice to travellers, always check if they're going to be doing construction or renovating, and if it's on your floor, make sure you get a different room.

Best hotel?

The Pierre Hotel in New York; even though there are much more luxurious ones, it just has an atmosphere, it's my hotel. If I were going to live in a hotel, it would be the Pierre (tajhotels.com/Pierre).

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

One of the most beautiful drives was going through a pass in Colorado, going from Aspen back to Denver. It was just about sunset and this brilliant sky just opened us before us as we were making the climb. And then as we reached the peak it just happened to be the most perfect, beautiful fire-red sunset, and I thought: "I want to live here!"

Best meal abroad?

I've had brilliant food in Italy, even at gas stations, where you'll get a crusty piece of bread and mozzarella and a tomato and it still tastes unbelievable.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I usually fall asleep. I find the bed, I find the pillow. I organise my space, I might throw a shawl of mine over a television screen, and then I go to sleep.

Dream trip?

I would really love to go on a cruise, maybe see the fjords.

Favourite city?

Amsterdam. It's just got a kind of warmth and craziness; it's a little like New York in funny ways but again it's charming and old world. It seems like a place where ideas come together. I write a lot in Amsterdam. It's inspirational.

Where next?

England, which is good because I love beaches – cold and hot, both. I love walking on beaches and finding things.

Melanie is the founder of the International Singer Songwriters Hall Of Fame. She plays three nights at London's Jazz Cafe on 29-30 May and 1 June. For tickets, call 08700 603 777 or visit seetickets.com. Melanie's podcast is available on melanies music.com