Five Miles Up with … Amanda Palmer

Bekah Wright
five miles up

Back in February, Amanda Palmer, the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra, as well as The Dresden Dolls, took to a stage in Long Beach, Calif., without striking a note. Instead, she gave a TED Talk on The Art of Asking. Palmer spoke about making human connections during concert tours by tweeting requests for primal needs, including shelter. The wisdom she gained via crash pads and couch surfing prompted FMU to unplug our earphones to get to know our seatmates en transit. To kick things off properly, we got an introduction to Palmer’s travel style.

What’s something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
My memory foam pillow. It's my religion.

Carry-on or check-in?
Almost always both, but carry-on if I possibly can. Run, run, run away!!!

Window or aisle?

Do you bring food with you on plane?
I scour the airport for decent snacks and the only decent airport snack food seems to be in Australia. They have smoothies to die for.

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Going on a meditation or yoga retreat totally alone and completely unplugging the phone and computer.

Tell us about a vacation you’ve taken that’s come close thus far.
I've done a few. My favorite spot is in Barre, Mass., at the Insight Meditation Society’s Retreat Center. It's a gorgeous spot full of calm history.

In your TED Talk you mention making random connections during your travels. Will you share one that was particularly meaningful to you?
Oh my God, there have been so many. My favorite of all time was being on an Amtrak train from Boston to New York. The train was packed and I had to pick a seatmate, so I chose the tastiest-looking option ... an old Buddhist monk sitting by himself. He was probably about 70, in full robes and the whole deal, and he spoke no English. We had the most wonderful eye contact and handholding connection, as I explained to him with hand gestures that I am a Buddhist (more or less). He was just as sweet and profound as can be, and asked me to put my head in his lap. AND THEN HE TRIED TO MAKE OUT WITH ME. I was like: what the f*?k, monk? We ended up with a compromise ... I let him nibble my neck a little. It was surreal.

What’s the worst vacation you’ve taken?
Probably either the one to Mexico, or the one to Morocco, with Neil, my wonderful husband. We just don't vacation, we don't know how. So we drove each other crazy and decided never to vacation like normal people again.

Where’s your favorite destination for performing?
Melbourne, Australia.

What's the most decadent souvenir you ever come back with?
Does it count if I say my husband is British? He's pretty exotic. Score.

Ever try a food that you wished you hadn't?
Vegemite. Terrible. And Natto in Japan, the evil equivalent.

Favorite accommodations?
In Bonn, Germany, I once stayed in a child's bunk bed with a pink felt canopy. I was in heaven.

The one thing you're willing to splurge on above all else.

Three songs, or artists, on your travel playlist?
The best road-trip songs I know: “The Golden Age by Beck, anything by Elliott Smith and anything by Cathode. Brian (Viglione) and I used to play a song called “Destroy the Orcs by 3 Inches of Blood when pulling the van out of Boston for a tour.

Where would you take someone visiting your hometown for the first time?
I'd apologize for wherever we were, then take them to New York.

You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
To Cafe Pamplona in Cambridge, Mass.