Alanis Morissette has been visiting the Monterey Bay area for a decade, so she oughta know where to go to get away from (most of) it all.

When she was 20 years old, Alanis Morissette did one of the bravest things of her young career: She released Jagged Little Pill. Revealing the singer-songwriter's most vulnerable feelings, fears, and doubts with unabashed honesty and more than a little anger, Jagged's 12 tracks struck a chord with a lot of people, selling 30 million copies worldwide. The record went on to win four Grammys, including Album of the Year 1995 and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "You Oughta Know," her generation's version of "You're So Vain." (She has never revealed the name of the person who inspired her to write the song.)

Eleven years later, it's hard to believe that the friendly woman with the warm smile sitting next to me on a love seat backstage at her Orlando concert could have penned the brazen songs that took her from struggling artist to superstardom. She probably wouldn't pen those same songs now. At this moment in her life, Morissette, 31, says she's the happiest she's ever been. And why shouldn't she be? Her Jagged Little Pill Acoustic sold more than 61,000 copies in its first week on sale at Starbucks locations; she's engaged to actor Ryan Reynolds (Blade: Trinity); she just finished a successful tour of North America; and she's planning to release a collection of past works. Yeah, Morissette is busy, but that doesn't mean she doesn't take some time to get away from it all.

It was during the release of the original Jagged Little Pill album that Morissette first discovered the Monterey Bay area, the California coastal paradise she now says is her preferred place to escape to. Home to Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, and her favorite spot of all, Big Sur, it's just a short flight to Monterey from her L.A. home. As she puts it, "When I know I have time off, it's where my head goes to first."

What attracted you to Monterey Bay?
I'd been going to different hot springs all over California. I'm from Ottawa, Canada, originally, so anything that's Pacific Ocean-oriented was amazing to me. California as a state is just my fantasy state. It's warm and it's dry and it's on the ocean. I really love it. And I love that what California is made fun of for is also one of its greatest charms, which is an openness to the esoteric and an openness to metaphysical understandings. Northern California, in particular. I just consider that part of the state - if I'm to generalize - really open-minded. And that's a really great quality, in my opinion.

What was your first visit to the Monterey Bay area like?
The first visit was a trip with some friends to Esalen, in Big Sur. It's a very famous kind of communal place with natural hot springs. They're world-famous for the Esalen massage - it's really intense. The hot springs area is clothing-optional, kind of old-school. They are open to having people come in just for room and board, but typically people go there to do workshops, for everything from health to eating disorders. It's very wellness-based. It's incredible to see the locale itself - the land is all right on the cliffs. It's gorgeous. Esalen has a meditation room. You can take hikes. Huxley is the main big room; I did a Five Rhythms Dance Workshop there. There are different yurts - you know, tents - where they do yoga, and there's an art barn where they have paint and stuff you can make. They have gardens everywhere and grow much of the food that they cook. You walk down this hill and all of the baths are literally right on the cliffs. There's a big house where you can rent rooms if you want to bring a whole gang of people. It's about a 60-minute drive from Monterey, and it's where I go when I need to get away from the height of intensity of the pop-culture world that I'm in, that I love - but sometimes I need to get away.