WORTHINGTON - For a couple who loves traveling, what could be better than spending their 50th wedding anniversary in Ireland?
And why not bring the whole family and a few friends along? There’s even room for a few more people if anyone wants to join the fun!
For Le and Larry Lucht, such plans are not extravagant, nor are they unusual. In fact, their upcoming Ireland trip is just one of many the couple - either together or separately - have taken over the years and it won’t be their last trip, either.
It wasn’t always this way for the couple. In fact, Larry took a few years to come around to Le’s way of thinking about travel. He would stay home with the kids while Le led school groups to various countries - often Spanish-speaking ones, as Le taught Spanish for years in District 518 and at Minnesota West.
But when Larry finally did decide to go on a trip with his wife, he never looked back.
“Once you do it then you see how worthwhile it is,” Larry explained.
Le was always interested in different languages and cultures. Then, about 25 years ago, the entire Lucht family’s interests expanded regarding such things when it hosted some students from Costa Rica for four weeks. That began a relationship with a Costa Rican family that continues to this day; they even attended the wedding of a sister of one of those students in Costa Rica. Ultimately, their entire family was able to travel there together.
“Le was planning to retire in 2012, and we decided that we’d take a family trip to celebrate. She’s still working, but we took the trip anyway,” said Larry, laughing.
“We decided to take our entire family - our kids and our grandchildren, and even some cousins and friends came - and we went down to Costa Rica,” explained Le. “We gave them two years’ warning so they could get everything scheduled and planned.”
They rented a villa near a rain forest, with enough room for everyone to be comfortable. They had a set itinerary for a few days, but the rest of the time was flexible. Even though their grandchildren were quite young at the time, they still remember a lot about the trip.
“When you’re traveling with young kids you’ve got to come up with something that everyone can enjoy,” said Le. “When you go with a tour group, many don’t allow children. So we created our own tour, which is what we’ll do in Ireland as well.”
One of Le and Larry’s philosophies about traveling is to never go to the regular tourist places. They make a point of connecting with the people and the culture everywhere they go.
“It’s hard to get to know the people if you stay at an all-inclusive resort,” Larry elaborated. “You’ve got to be willing to experience a different culture, make connections with the people. It’s inexcusable how some people behave when in foreign countries.”
“We travel with the idea of blending in to the culture and not standing out like a sore thumb,” said Le. “You have to be comfortable in your own skin, to be willing to bare your soul. You won’t be treated badly if you’re respectful of people and their cultures.”
“You can’t have a narrow comfort zone when you travel,” Larry agreed.
Le, as a fluent Spanish speaker, has that added bonus when traveling in Spanish-speaking lands, but the Luchts have gone to plenty of other places where Spanish was no help at all.
“Yes, it helps a lot if you can speak the language,” Larry admitted. “But people try to communicate with you and you can always get along. Food is a great connector!”
In all their expeditions, they’ve found that travel does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
“You don’t have to go first class,” said Larry. “We walk a lot. We’re willing to try new things. We’ve been on some trips where some people are always looking for American food, but you can always find good food within the culture. We’re not picky. You can always find beans and rice.”
In all the traveling they’ve done - even with their policy of staying away from the tourist traps - they’ve always felt pretty safe. That was still the case when Larry and their son were in China and Thailand.
“We’ve never felt threatened in any way,” Le said. “Even in the Middle East. You just need to be wise. Don’t go where you shouldn’t go.”
The Middle East was not a region that the Luchts had ever given much thought about visiting until they saw mention of a tour heading that way and decided to join the group. And so, last March found them in Istanbul and Ephesus.
“Historically, we were amazed on that trip,” marveled Le. “Ten thousand years of history surrounded us. The Biblical connections and everything - it was just amazing.”
That was not their last overseas trip of 2014, however - not even close. July found them in Crailsheim, Germany, for the 60th anniversary of the Worthington-Crailsheim connection, and November found them in Guatemala and Honduras hiking in the rain forest and visiting Mayan ruins.
“I thought that if you’ve seen one Mayan ruin you’ve seen them all,” Larry said, “but I was wrong. The history and architecture of each place is so different.”
Le echoed that sentiment when she spoke of visiting Peru, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands several years ago.
“The indigenous groups were all very distinct, yet they had their connections, too,” she explained. “The Incan culture is fascinating.”
It is those cultures - whether ancient or modern - that make travel so thrilling and wonderful for Le and Larry.
“Part of learning and teaching a language is cultural understanding - making connections with someone in another country,” Le said. “Connect with the people and with education. The schools have so many opportunities to travel. There are lots of tours and things out there that are not so expensive.”
“We are passionate about traveling” Le smiled. “It helps keep us moving. It keeps us young.”