Cyrus tells the February Harper's Bazaar, out Jan. 12, that on the flight to Tybee Island, Georgia, to film her new movie, The Last Song, she couldn't contain the waterworks.
"I got on the plane [to Georgia], and I was lying in my mom's lap and crying and saying, 'I'm so happy to be getting out of L.A.,' " the singer-actress says. When she got to the small town of Tybee in the Southern state, "I went out every night with my friends. I did karaoke. I danced."
She notes, "All this stuff would've been such a big deal in Los Angeles: Who's she with? Why is she dancing?"
Cyrus says she was thrilled for the chance to be away from the constant scrutiny that comes with being a pop star. "I felt so alive and real. It's so much easier to know who you are when there aren't a thousand people telling you who they think you are. I felt like I was really figuring myself out. Usually I have someone whispering in my ear, but I was on my own."
But a careful Cyrus also asserts that parents shouldn’t necessarily look to her as the decisive role model for their teen and 'tween children.
"My job isn't to tell your kids how to act or how not to act, because I'm still figuring that out for myself," she says. "So to take that away from me is a bit selfish. Your kids are going to make mistakes whether I do or not. That's just life."