By: Bryan Herb – Zoomvacations
When I started my gay vacation company 20 years ago, I did so because I realized that life is too short to not live out my passion. I wanted to see more of the world, and I wanted to give people life-changing experiences.
I never anticipated that there would be another benefit to starting my travel company. Actually, there were a few wonderful hidden surprises. For instance, I never really anticipated that some of my best friends in the world I would meet through taking my tours. Truly, I have met some wonderful people, people who delight and inspire.
But I think the biggest surprise of having my gay vacation company is that it ended up strengthening my own sense of gay pride.
Leading the LGBTQ+ community and our allies around the world has made me feel even more proud to be gay. I have been consistently impressed at how compassionate and kind my travelers are, especially to the local communities we are visiting.
I remember one time we had a tour in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and it was one of those rare occasions where several of my travelers arrived a day earlier than I did to the destination. So, when I arrived my early arrival guys were having dinner. As I approached the table, I saw that they were engaged in a very lively discussion with the waiter, and everyone including the waiter was laughing. I sat down to the table, and the waiter proceeded to another group.
Immediately my group began sharing with me all about their waiter, his wife, kids, etc. I was enamored at how much they knew about him. Like, they had clearly taken a genuine interest in his life, beyond the niceties. This is just a little anecdotal story that’s fresh in my mind, but this happens all the time on our tours. I feel like especially my gay travelers are just constantly really genuinely interested in local people and their culture, lives, and customs. It’s like they are constantly showing those around them, “you matter,” “your life has value,” you’re interesting“.
Our waiter came back to our table, and he just seemed really happy to be talking with my travelers and to feel appreciated. I realized what was going on: it was true connection. Especially in a age where people are living so cyberly, and where things like Covid made everyone retreat into themselves even more, I really value more than ever how much my LGBTQ+ travelers want to establish true connections with people, and make others feel excepted and like they matter.
It’s this kind of thing that has made me feel so much more pride about being gay. It makes me feel really proud to bring my travelers anywhere, because they are such positive ambassadors for the gay community.
In Paraty, Brazil, we have a very special dinner at the home of a private chef, and she and her husband have told me repeatedly how much they love our gay groups. “Isn’t it like this with everyone who dines at your house?” I asked. She replied “We love the people who visit us in our home, but there is always something wonderfully special about your travelers.”
Sometimes on our tours we also offer the opportunity for voluntourism, or other ways of giving back. I remember one time in Buenos Aires, Argentina my travelers brought items for an underprivileged school, and it was so special to see that everyone made such an effort to bring some thing in there already crowded bags. One of my travelers deflated three soccer balls, and brought a little pump to pump up the balls when we arrived in Buenos Aires. I imagined the thoughtfulness that went into this before his trip, and how much time and attention he put into that. Little things like this speak volumes about people.
Of course I am speaking in generalities, but generally speaking, I love that our travelers truly celebrate the differences of other people and what makes them unique. I love that on our trips, they are in-tune with the people they meet and conscientious about their comfort and happiness. And of course, I just love how willing and open they are. They want to connect with others, and they’re so good at it.
As gay people, a lot of us have had to overcome a lot. A lot of us had very real fears that people wouldn’t except us for who we are, and for some of us those those fears were reality. Maybe it is because of this that on our travels, gay people in general just want to truly connect with others, and to help others feel valued, respected, and appreciated. At the end of the day much of the joy in life is about our relationships, and this is something that LGBTQ+ travelers and our allies truly understand.
Bryan Herb is co-owner of Zoom Vacations®,
A U.S. company that creates stylish international private events and gay group vacations to the world’s hottest destinations. Learn more about them at www.zoomvacations.com or call 773.772.9666.