What was your greatest holiday?

My working holiday in Shanghai was a real inspiration. It was there that I wrote Shanghai Sheba and The China Monologues, which I read for National Radio. It has such a rich history that stimulates the imagination.

And the worst?

Barcelona. But it's not about the place, it comes down to who you are with, and what experiences you have as a result. I just happened to be with the wrong people. That's why I usually travel alone.

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If we bump into you on holiday, what are you most likely to be doing?

Trying to pick up the local language. I always try and learn to at least say "thank you". It goes a long way.

If we could teleport you to one place in NZ for a week-long holiday, where would it be?

Paekakariki. I lived there and was so inspired by its character I wrote a song and made a music video with a story set in the 1920s. It's true that it's "where the girls are cheeky".

How about for a dream holiday internationally?

I heart New York. You get discovered 10 times a day, and you really believe it. You can totally reinvent yourself, and live 100 lifetimes in a single day, just walking down the street.

What's the dumbest thing you've ever done when travelling?

I met an Italian countess on the Mekong river, who invited me to Venice. I got her number and jumped on a plane spontaneously and called her when I arrived in Italy. The number didn't work. I decided to go to Venice anyway, and spent all day hunting for her among the swarms of tourists. Finally, I went to the train station to leave, when I bumped into her. We couldn't believe it. She said that kind of magic happens in Venice. She then proceeded to show me around Italy, New York and Turkey. Sometimes being dumb pays off.

Complete this sentence: I can't travel without ...

Overpacking. I'm always sweating when they put my suitcase on the scales.

What's the best travel tip you've ever been given?

Always arrive in a new city in broad daylight, so you can find your way safely to your lodgings with plenty of time.

What was the most memorable meal you've had while travelling?

The street food that the locals eat is always the best (make sure it is cooked). It is a tenth of the price and delicious. (Don't ask what animal it is, just enjoy it.)

What's the best thing you've brought back from a trip?

A tan in the middle of winter.

• Sheba Williams performs in Sheba's Tribute to Nina Simone as part of the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season m September 28-October 2.

Tickets from aucklandlive.co.nz