Blue & Bold: Around the World with Laura Lutz

Lutz+at+Grand+Teton+National+Park

Lutz at Grand Teton National Park

The Bleu Print is proud to present Blue & Bold, which features a Chelsea School District employee each week with a unique story to tell. If you have an idea of a CSD employee who would make a great feature, email us at chelseahsbleuprint@gmail.com.

“I’ve made friends by randomly being on a train where the window is broken. You start talking about the broken window, and you end up getting invited to dinner at their house that evening.”

Anyone who knows high school social studies teacher Ms. Laura Lutz would not be surprised to hear that she’s made friends with strangers on a train. Her love of travel has taken her far, but it’s her kindness and willingness to learn that has taken her the farthest. And sharing the journey with others brings her joy.

“Over the years I’ve traveled with probably half the staff at Chelsea Schools to various places,” Lutz said.

Photo of Singapore taken by Lutz

Having visited nearly twenty countries and six continents, Lutz is honored and humbled to have experienced so many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities abroad. She hopes to pass the lessons she learned to her students and encourage new generations of travelers.

“I think some of the places that have been the most powerful are either places that nature is overwhelming or the city is overwhelming,” Lutz explained. “Those are the two that I find myself wanting to explore more. I’ve had the opportunity to see some crazy natural wonders. There are some commonalities in the cities, but there’s something that makes each one completely different from every other city that you’ve been in.”

Lutz’s travels have taken her from city to forest, from mountains to sea. Lutz credits the invaluable lessons and opportunities she has picked up abroad for making her the person and teacher she is today.

“Having those experiences shows me that it doesn’t matter who shows up in my classroom,” she said. “In general, they’re going to be good, they’re going to care about their family and friends and there’s going to be something in life that they find beautiful.”

As a teacher, these are the types of lessons she wants her students to learn — ones of recognizing the good in the world and finding your place in it. The biggest takeaway Lutz has found from her adventures is the significance of listening.

“I think there’s a big value in listening and watching before speaking and acting,” Lutz said. “I’ve been in a number of situations where I show up in a place and I don’t speak a language. By just stopping and watching, listening to what’s going on around me and watching what people are doing, I can really start to see what’s going on.”

Hoping to inspire her students to explore the world outside Michigan, Lutz points out that there are many opportunities to travel right here in the United States. If you’ve been in any of her classes, you know about Lutz’s love for the national park system. She describes the parks as amazing places all over the country that you have access to with a single pass.

“There are ways to travel inexpensively,” Lutz said. “I love traveling in the U.S. because it’s a way lots of people can see amazing things, and it’s way less expensive. Our country has so much natural beauty and amazing cities, museums, arts and culture.” 

For students interested in finding opportunities to travel, Lutz offered some advice.

“Build in space to have experiences,” she said. “If you build an itinerary where you have to move from thing to thing, there’s no space to meet the random person to have a coffee with and find out about their family.”

She went on to emphasize the importance of living in the moment while traveling.

“There’s something really nice about grabbing your cup of coffee, sitting out in the square and just watching the people in that place,” she said. “Make space just to be somewhere. Try not to focus always on checking things off the top ten list. Just try to be where you are.”

Of course, COVID-19 has put a hold on Lutz’s travel for the year, but that doesn’t stop her from dreaming of her next trip: an opportunity to spend time and celebrate with her family when it’s safe to do so.

“It was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, so we had a trip planned to go to Ireland and Scotland as a family,” Lutz said. “That’s on hold until things are different, though. More than anything I’d like to go with my mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law and my two nephews, and for all of us to have that experience together. We had a 50th wedding party over Zoom, but experiencing [Ireland] with them is my number one goal.”

Photo of Iceland taken by Lutz

Until she’s able to make new friends and learn more lessons abroad, Lutz hopes to continue using her experiences to better teach those close to home. Recognizing the perfect situation she’s in to travel, Lutz understands that she is lucky.

“I have the freedom to travel because I have summers off and I don’t have any children,” she said. “I have opportunities that other people don’t necessarily have, and I don’t take them for granted.”

Lutz wants every person to have the opportunity to experience what she’s seen, but if they aren’t able, she is more than willing to share the stories and lessons she’s learned.

“There are so many different types of people in the world that have so many unique characteristics, things to appreciate about them, and things you can learn from them.”

If a traveler to Michigan were to come across Laura Lutz, it’s easy to imagine what that visitor would learn from her: the power of a listening ear, a warm heart, and a simple conversation over coffee.