RED WING -- When Shelley Orr was in high school in Bemidji, she took a German class and then went to Germany with a tour group from the school. The experience launched her on a lifetime of travel and 36 years of teaching German at Red Wing High School.
“I had never been on a plane,” Orr said, “and I went to Germany and fell so deeply in love with the German culture. Then it grew to European culture. I went over there, and it lit a fire.”
Orr studied French at the University of Minnesota for a year. She spent another year studying Swedish, and she recently finished a class in Italian.
“I am a language freak,” she said. “I want to know how things work. I want the experiences.”
She especially likes southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland which she attributes to seeing the movie “The Sound of Music,” and reading the book “Heidi” as a young girl.
“I wanted to be Heidi and live in the mountains,” Orr said. “The book and the movie really shaped me when I was growing up.”
She wanted to share that love of travel, so throughout the more than three decades of her teaching career, she took students on trips to Europe and other destinations. Now, after retiring from teaching in May 2019, she has pulled her teaching and travel experiences together and opened an agency she calls Amazing Adventures.
In addition to teaching at Red Wing High School, Orr has been an adjunct professor teaching academic research and writing at the graduate school at Hamline University for 21 years.
“I know about passports and money, and I know a lot about airports and getting through and how to pack," she said.
Orr, who will be teaching a travel tips class through Red Wing Community Education this fall, said a lot of people tell her that they just go online and book their hotels and flights, thinking that they can’t afford to use a travel agent. She said that in many cases, that is backwards.
“Some people think that it is a fancy thing to use a travel agent,” she said. “Really, it is a budget-conscious thing, because we know what is out there. We know the deals.”
Orr said that travelers should understand that when they book with online companies “there is a commission built into every sale.” She added that in these times when many people are talking about supporting local businesses, booking with online service means the commission goes to the website, instead of to a local travel agent.
Travel agents often have information about special deals or can arrange for customers to get upgrades or other perks. She added that if someone gets sick, has flights canceled or experiences other situations, agents can help solve the problems.
“If you get stuck, you know somebody who has your back,” Orr said. “When I call Delta, I’m on hold for about three minutes. I have a direct line. I can take care of all those things.”
She said her goal with Amazing Adventures is to help people “have some of these life experiences that I have had. I’ve been to so many places. I have this massive amount of travel knowledge.”