World Traveler | Miss Magic Valley

“I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself”. James Baldwin, an American author, once said that; he summed up my journey in one sentence. On January 2nd, I flew to Europe for two amazing and literally life-changing months. I fulfilled a crazy dream that is on most people bucket lists, but doesn’t usually come true. I spent two months backpacking through Europe, and went to 11 different countries: Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Denmark, Sweden, England, Ireland and Scotland. I met lots of people and learned lots of things, but, just like Baldwin, I encountered myself and learned a lot about who I am and what I believe.

Kaley Sparling, the current Mrs. World, spoke at our Miss Idaho orientation and said something I think all of us pageant girls can relate to. Often in life, we can sometimes lose sight of who we are. Kaley told us how she was so focused on being the best mother and wife possible, that she had begun to lose herself. We can relate to it as well. The responsibilities of being a student or having a job, while important (just like being a mom and wife), can tend to take up a lot of our time, energy and thoughts. We forget to take time for ourselves, grow as an individual, learn, make a habit of improving ourselves, and figure out what we believe. Making time for ourselves a priority is not only important for remembering who you are and what your passions are, but also to help us best students, employees, or in Kaley’s case, wives and moms that we can be! For Kaley, entering the Mrs. Idaho (and eventually the Mrs. America and Mrs. World pageants) was how she accomplished this.

Traveling through Europe was a learning experience in so many different ways. It was one big history lesson, and made me realize how far we have come in the past few hundred years. We take so many things for granted, whether they are our rights as Americans, or inventions that have made our lives easier, that we wouldn’t have had if we were born at certain points in the past. I also learned about the people that brought about these changes, which inspired me to stand up for what I believe in, because without people who stand up for what’s right and are firm in their convictions, we would live in a very different world than we do today.

I met many different people, from all backgrounds and from all over the world. I heard many different opinions and worldviews that I had never considered before. Even more importantly, I realized that even though I was drastically different from a lot of the people I met, they were still amazing and there was so much I could learn from them. A lot of times, we find ourselves naturally being drawn towards and connecting with people who are similar to us. In Europe, I realized that even though differences may be a little scary at first, once you get past them and embrace the diversity that exists between you and someone else, valuable friendships can be gained and important lessons will be learned.

Finally, taking two months to travel around Europe gave me a little break from some of those responsibilities that make me lose sight of who I am. My traveling experience gave me time to read lots of books, write in my journal, and reflect on what I believe, who I am and who I want to become. Meeting new people with differing worldviews challenged me to know why I believe what I believe, and develop a more well-rounded worldview myself. Most importantly, having the time to do those things reminded me how important they are to fit into “real life”. Now that I am back home, I remember to learn something new everyday, strive to become the best version of myself I can be, and live life to the fullest.

The way Kaley Sparling rediscovered herself was not through traveling, but through pageants—an experience I am also familiar with. I am so grateful for the Miss Idaho and Miss America Organizations. Everyday that I have been involved with them for the past two years, I have been pushed to make myself a better person. Competing gives me a reason to have fitness and health goals. It pushes me to stay involved in my community, and actively strive to make a difference. It reminds me to be aware of the issues facing my community and my country, and be opinionated and passionate about those things in order to fight for change. It reminds me to make learning and reading a habit. It teaches me to carry myself with confidence. It helps me become the best version of myself possible.

Europe was a life-changing experience, and I recommend you all to make a trip like mine at some point in your life. However, in the meantime, do not lose track of who you are and what you believe. Backpacking through Europe is not the only way to find oneself. There are opportunities, books to read, and people to meet, right in front of you! For my fellow pageant sisters, remind yourself how lucky and fortunate you are to be involved in this organization. Just like Kaley Sparling, we can use pageants to become the best we can be and improve ourselves in order to better fulfill the responsibilities we have. 

Use everyday leading up to state to learn as much as you can, and touch as many peoples’ lives as possible. But once state has passed, or you age out of the Miss America Organization forever, remember what it taught you. Don’t just strive to be healthy for those few seconds you will be on stage in a swimsuit—make exercising and eating healthy a lifestyle. Don’t just know what’s going on in the world so you can impress the judges—know the issues facing our world and generation so we can fix them. Don’t stop making a difference in your community, exercising, eating healthy, reading, and striving to be your best just because the Miss Idaho has come and gone—take all these values the organization instills in us and make them life habits! This organization is about empowering us to become the best we can be and lead lives that inspire and impact others, so take advantage of this amazing opportunity and allow it to change you forever. You may not be able to travel the world, but don’t let that stop you from learning, living and loving!

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