By Juliet Pennington GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  MARCH 28, 2015

At 23, Lauren Kuhn has already seen more of the world than most people. But the 2014 Miss Massachusetts, who placed in the top 5 in the Miss America pageant, still has places she wants to go — namely Iceland. A graduate of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., (her native state) and now a student at Harvard’s School of Dental Medicine, as well as an accomplished pianist, Kuhn advocates for empowering women through education. We caught up with her to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation spot? One of my personal favorites in Massachusetts is Wachusett Mountain because I have a season pass to ski there. I also love visiting my uncle in Maine, and spending time near Kennebunkport during all four seasons. My uncle is a former professor, so I get a history lesson on the gorgeous homes in the area. Thankfully, there are no tests afterward.

Favorite food or drink while vacationing? When I was young, I learned that nachos were the perfect combination of everything I could want in a guilty pleasure food for vacation. I remember at the age of 11 traveling to Mexico and vowing to my parents that I intended to eat nachos once per day for our entire week of vacation. Not surprisingly, it only took a few days before I started to think that was a bad idea. . . . But first loves and old habits die hard, and you’ll rarely see me turn down a plate of nachos — especially if guacamole is involved — while on vacation. A girl needs to indulge, right?

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? Iceland. I have noticed a few airlines offering affordable tickets — which are perfect for debt-burdened graduate students like myself — if you don’t bring a carry-on or checked piece of luggage. I have definitely contemplated traveling to Iceland for a day or two without any luggage to soak in the sites and experience the northern lights with 100 percent of my energy before returning home, completely exhausted. If I can scrounge up enough money after paying tuition and fees, I might do it soon.


One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? SPF facial lotion. Regardless of where I travel or the amount of water I consume, I find that I feel dehydrated and tired. Lotion helps me feel much more comfortable in my own skin, literally.


Aisle or window? Window. I love sleeping on airplanes. I am the person armed with multiple sets of earplugs, Bose noise-canceling headphones, an eye shade, neck pillow, and a blanket. While I don’t necessarily travel light, I do travel prepared. Why be awake on the plane when I can save my energy for the attractions of my destination?


Favorite childhood travel memory? When I was 14 years old, I was outside an ice cream shop on vacation eating my chocolate chip mint ice cream while my family was inside ordering their treats. In typical teenage fashion, I was wearing a shirt inspired by one of my then-favorite movies, “Legally Blonde.” . . . The shirt said “I [heart] Law Students” and, at the time, I wanted to be a lawyer. A 50-year-old man came up to me and inquired about my shirt, and I told him that I thought I was clever since I actually wanted to go to law school. But my casual teenage self never saw what [was coming]. . . . He proceeded to tell me that women cannot be strong attorneys due to their genetic inability to be anything but gentle and soft-spoken. I was appalled. This is my favorite childhood travel memory because it woke me up to the fact that my dreams — although they have changed since my early teen years — might seem far-fetched to some people, but that I don’t need their permission to succeed. This man, whoever he was, propelled me forward with his inability to believe in me. I am stubborn, and I’m still out to prove him wrong, although I intend to do it as a doctor of dental medicine rather than as a juris doctor.


Guilty pleasure when traveling? Heat. It doesn’t matter where I travel, I will find a way to become warm quickly. Hot tub, sauna, pool, or beach with sunshine, you name it and I probably love it.


Best travel tip? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. . . . By this I mean that you should ask residents their favorite restaurants, attempt to speak the native language — like when I traveled to Zambia and tried to speak Bemba with varying degrees of success — and understand the local culture.