Bryan Herb is a co-founder and co-owner of Zoom Vacations, a tour company founded to meet the evolving social, emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the gay and lesbian leisure traveler, as well as their families and friends. We asked him to provide photos for the Parting Shots section of this month’s issue of the magazine. Here are more photos of Zoom trips and a Q&A with the peripatetic Herb.
1. Why do you love luxury gay travel?
Like anyone who has been bitten by the travel bug, I love seeing new places and learning about different cultures. I notice that a lot of us in the LGBT community tend to be over-achievers and workaholics, so I especially appreciate seeing incredible destinations with like-minded people while staying in wonderful accommodations and enjoying once-in-a-lifetime activities. Luxury gay vacations are comfortable, enriching, and pampering, giving ample opportunity to recharge our batteries, and this is exactly what a vacation should do.
2. How far in advance do you plan the trip?
We start planning most of our tours at least two years in advance, but sometimes longer. We always want to have time to visit the destination first before offering it to our travelers. On location, we interview to find the best guides, inspect a wide number of hotels, and spend a lot of time finding unique activities and things we can create to make our tour truly experiential and unforgettable–stuff the average tourist wouldn’t do on their own, or that you need a group to do in order for it to be affordable, such as dining in a private mansion, or creating a cocktail party in a scenic locale.
3. Who do you travel with?
Sometimes I love traveling with close friends, and sometimes I love traveling all by myself. Honestly, I also really love traveling with people I do not know because it is such a cool way to get to know others. I believe that traveling unites people, and some of my best friends are people who I met as part of a tour group. I also think it is interesting to travel with “strangers” because they introduce you to things that you may not have known about or thought about if you stay too much in your familiar circles.
4. What surprised you about luxury gay travel?
I have been doing this for quite a while, but I think when I started many years ago, I was concerned that luxury gay travel would seem snobbish. To the contrary, I have met some of the most gracious, down-to-earth and kind-hearted people through organizing these tours. And, I have also made great friendships with our partners around the world.
5. What do you know now that you wish you knew before your first luxury gay trip?
I wish I would have seen the importance of a good work-life balance. When we started Zoom Vacations, I was averaging about 5 hours of sleep a night, and I was spending so much time on little things that I now realize I didn’t need to. Today, I am working a lot smarter.
6. Favorite moment was …
Our group was in Varanasi India, and there were street merchants everywhere selling various things. One of our travelers, Mike finally succumbed to a young, adorable boy in ragged clothes selling the silver paint to anoint our foreheads and agreed to a sale which comes to about 2 dollars. The boy didn’t have change so Mike told him he could keep it. “No, sir” the boy says, “I will bring to you”.
We proceeded through the city streets and just when we had completely forgotten about the boy, he miraculously found us and presented Mike with his change, some of which was coins. Mike told him he could keep the coins, and the boy responded, “no, please, sir, give them to the poor people.” We were humbled to our core.
7. What could hotels do better to address your needs as a gay traveler (whether leisure, business or group traveler)?
Concierges at various hotels all over the world often know a lot about straight venues but sometimes will not know anything about gay venues. Of course there are exceptions and a lot of concierges are gay themselves and know quite a bit about gay nightlife. One thing that has improved markedly over the years is that most hotel personnel no longer assume that two men or two women in a hotel room need two beds.
8. Describe the most hilarious travel moment you ever had.
There have been many and probably many more funny than this one but the one that is coming to mind, is the time I was on a left on the flight and these flight attendant kept trying to offer me oysters, and as I looked at the plate it was this big hunk of meat. I kept saying, “that is not an oyster”. Other passengers started paying attention and other flight attendants got involved. Finally a flight attendant corrected her and said, “no that is not oyster that is ostrich.” Mystery solved. Of course there are countless funny things when one word takes on a totally different meaning in a different country. Even words like “fag” and “fanny” mean something totally different in the UK than they do in the States.
Editor’s note: Bryan Herb is an inspiring traveler, who’s shared his love for this planet with thousands of fellow travelers. One of his favorite places in the world is Machu Picchu, Peru. In his own words, this is
“Me and Machu Picchu: A Love Affair. Perhaps no other place on Earth has captivated me quite like Machu Picchu in Peru. It is as if someone took everything I love and put it in one place. Continue reading here.