Miss Massachusetts Gabriela “Gabby” Taveras would like to visit countries in Asia one day, but for the time being she is staying put in her native Lawrence, helping to raise money and purchase items for those who have been affected by the recent gas explosions in the area. “As Miss Massachusetts, I have an opportunity for greater outreach, so I am doing what I can for the people here,” said Taveras, 23, who was fourth runner-up in the Miss America competition in Atlantic City earlier this month. A graduate of Emmanuel College, from which she earned a degree in biology with a concentration in neuroscience, Taveras was raised with her two younger siblings by a single mother. Her father was incarcerated, then deported. She was also sexually abused as a child, and at 13, she lost a close friend to a gang-related shooting. Given the challenges she has faced, Taveras is working to help other young people facing obstacles by, in part, having access to counseling services. We caught up with Taveras, the first black Miss Massachusetts, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? I love going to Greece. I lived there for about a month and a half and it’s amazing to see all the different lifestyles people in the country live. There are more than 2,000 islands and I lived on the island Crete, which is filled with history and has a strong community feel. When I went to Rhodes, it reminded me a lot of the US and the cities here. Greece hands down has some of the best food, best culture, best people, and best history ever.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? I can’t say I can think of one specific thing since I try to find something native to the country to enjoy. I will say that Coca-Cola is always better overseas in comparison to the Coke we drink in the states.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I want to visit Asia. I found out recently that I’m part Chinese and while I haven’t been raised with the customs and traditions, I would love to learn more about the Chinese culture. Also, generally speaking, I love all types of Asian cuisine, so any chance to eat authentic dishes would be a dream come true.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? I can’t leave home without my Bible, my copy of “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, and my phone. I think my phone is pretty self-explanatory because if I’m traveling, I want to capture some of the moments while being present for the ones that mean the most. I always travel with my Bible because it allows me to have something to center myself with. I lean on my faith a lot — especially in times of need. Lastly, I have taken “The Alchemist” with me to every trip I have ever been on. I swear I’ve read it more than 100 times and each time I always get something new out of it that helps me determine what’s my next right move.
Aisle or window? Window without a doubt. I’m the person who always has to sleep on planes. Always.
Favorite childhood travel memory? I didn’t travel often as a child, but I recall spending a summer in the Dominican Republic with my extended family. I had never been out of the country — never mind a third world country — but I had the time of my life. We didn’t have hot water and we rarely had electricity, but I miss that lifestyle. I miss being present with my family and sitting around a domino table playing games as we reminisced on life and our memories. I had family members who didn’t even have doors or running water, but none of that mattered because we were happy to be together. Sadly, I think we are starting to see a major shift away from that in this day and age, but I’m so happy that I have those memories and remember them so vividly. I hope to bring that kind of lifestyle to my children one day so they can understand that it’s not the things you have which matter — instead it’s the people you’re surrounded by which matter the most.
Guilty pleasure when traveling? I love eating all types of sweets. It has become a major issue because I will eat the sweets until I’m practically sick to my stomach. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a guilty pleasure, but I love going out dancing by myself when I travel. I get to meet so many people who share my love of dance and make new friends all at once.
Best travel tip? Have an idea as to what you want to do, but don’t have a set itinerary. All of my greatest travel adventures come from never having a fully thought-out plan. This sounds crazy, I know, but life is meant to be spontaneous and fun. If you plan every last detail, then you could miss out on something you never even knew was possible. It sounds very “Eat Pray Love,” but I look back on all the amazing things I’ve done and I am amazed at all the fun I’ve had. I’m also excited for all the fun I will continue to have.