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Cover Photo by Mike Ruiz

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Copyright 2009| Ambiente.   Do not reproduce without prior authorization.
“We love to give our guests
bragging rights, so that when
they return home, they have a
lot to talk about that goes
beyond [what you would usually]
expect at any given destination,
” Cabrera told Ambiente.   “For
instance, we recently surprised
guests with a French
champagne set-up on the
Great Wall of China.  In Madrid,
we took all our guests to see
Kiley Minogue perform at the
Madrid Bull Ring in the VIP
section, with open bar and food
at no cost to them.  In Peru, we arranged an Inca Shaman blessing in one of the temples
of Machu Pichu, with a real, modern-day Inca Shaman.  It was the real thing, and our
guests were blown away by it – physically and emotionally.”

And for those looking for style as well as substance, Zoom has something in store as
well.  “In Rio for New Years and Carnaval, our Oasis Beach Party just takes your breath
away with its beauty,” Cabrera adds.  

Vacations also often include a rejuvenation massage to soothe achy muscles after a
long flight, and “thoughtful surprises, big and small,” he said.

“We give our travelers more than they expect, and in turn, they are
more amazing, classy and loyal than we could ever hope”

In fact, the couple attribute their success to the travelers who have become part of Zoom’
s extended family.  After putting together so many trips – with so much attention to
personal details – the two have become fast friends with many of  AUGUST | AGOSTO 2009

Making a Big World Small |Joel & Bryan of  Zoom Vacations
and the Art of Inspiration
by Steve Ralls.  Cover photo by Mike Ruiz

Walt Disney might have coined the phrase “It’s a small world after all,” but Bryan Herb
and Joel Cabrera have made it a way of life.  The partners – in both business and life –
have set out to prove that no matter which corner of the globe you set your sights on, it
can be welcoming and luxurious.

Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Bryan and Joel founded Zoom
vacations, a boutique travel firm that creates elaborate, one-of-a-kind travel
experiences for the lesbian and gay community.  The tragedy was “a wake-up call,”
Herb says, that has blossomed into a thriving business.  

After the attacks, Herb told Ambiente, he and Cabrera realized that “life is too
short,” and the two left their old careers – Herb’s as an English teacher and Cabrera’s
as an attorney – to pursuer their passion.  “That was, and still is, travel,”
Herb said.

Unlike other LGBT-focused tour groups, such as RSVP Vacations or Atlantis Events,
Zoom specializes in custom-made outings that are immaculately
tailored to the specific travels participating.  Herb and Caberra refer to their excursions as
“special events” that emphasize luxury, surprise and personalization.

“Zoom Vacations creates land-based trips, geared toward giving our travelers a cultural,
sophisticated, meaning and sometimes even spiritual vacation,” Herb said.  “We create
our own special events in every destination to provide our travelers with unique,
memorable experiences they couldn’t’ do on their own and won’t find anyplace else.”

Those destinations have included Costa Rica, South Africa and Mykonos, as well as
upcoming adventures to China (May 2010), India (October 2009) and the Great Barrier
Reef (March 2010).  Yet when organizing trips to parts of the world where the lesbian and
gay community may not be as visible – or as welcome – as in other places, Herb and
Cabrera say they’ve actually found a surprisingly warm reception.

“Our obstacles haven’t actually had anything to do with LGBT issues, which is
interesting,” Herb says when asked about the upcoming trips to China and India.  “China
has a more active gay scene than India, and more gay venues in general.  Gay travelers
should come to China and India expecting to have a culturally rich, exotic, luxurious
vacation, while not the biggest gay party scene the world has to offer.”

Zoom, in fact, is about much more than a “party scene.”  The company creates vacation
packages for couples celebrating anniversaries, embarking on honeymoons or seeking
an adventure that larger, group travel companies cannot provide.  
their customers.

“We have amazing travelers, who are very dedicated to us, and confident that their
vacation is in good hands,” Herb says.  “We recently planned a honeymoon for a
wonderful lesbian couple to Costa Rica, and we became good friends.  I remember
calling a few times to talk about the trip, and we stayed on the phone for an hour, talking
about our coincidental home renovations and who knows what else.”

Those friendships, he says, are “perhaps my favorite thing about what we do.”

Friends and relationships with travelers aren't reserved just for Herb and Cabrera,

“We have had several romances spring up,” Herb says, “and several people have
become romantically involved with local residents. On our first trip to Rio, six years ago,
one traveler met a local Brazilian and fell in love, and they are still together.”
“Most commonly, however, true friendships develop on each trip that last,” Cabrera adds,
“and its not uncommon for guests to visit each other back home and to book their next
Zoom vacation together, so that they can see each other again.”

As they travel, the founders say, they see not only changing
attitudes toward American travelers, but toward LGBT travelers in
particular.  By bringing lesbian and gay tourists to destinations
where other such groups have feared to tread, Herb and Cabrera
say they believe, too, that their customers are ambassadors for

Their travelers are “such incredible people and incredible representatives of the gay
community,” Herb says.  “In our recent trip to China, local people got such a kick out of
our group, and several who never knew gay people suddenly had a big gay group of
friends.  I think this is really powerful.”  
The duo – who hail from Chicago – also cite one
other influence in helping change attitudes.

“We went to Argentina for our Zoom Vacations
tour the day after [Obama’s] election, and local
residents were so excited for us,” Herb recalls.  
“People around the world, gay and straight,
are excited for America, and to be honest,
many seem really relieved as well.”

“The world’s acceptance has grown
exponentially in the past ten years,” he says
when asked about how Zoom travelers are
received around the world.  “I was surprised at how
accepting China has become. . . . I was just in Madrid
for gay pride with a group, and gay people can get
married in Spain, and enjoy the same benefits as our
straight counterparts.  The gay pride parade was
tremendous, and
was celebrated by
as manystraight
people as gay.”

It’s bringing people
together, in fact,
that's what Zoom
does best.  And
that,in turn, brings
its own, unique
challenges for a
couples whose
personal and
business lives are
both spent together.

“So often when we spend time together, we end up talking about Zoom,” Herb says. “We
have to really focus to make our relationship more of a priority.”

In that regard, the two are committed to making time for their own special excursions.
When he notes that he is “dying to go to Egypt,” Herb is interrupted by Cabrera, who says,
“Bryan’s waiting won’t be long, because I am working on a trip to Egypt right now!”

That, however, doesn’t mean that Zoom travelers won’t continue to feel as if they are the
company’s only priority.  

“With Zoom, I always want to give our travelers more than just a good time,” Herb says. “A
good trip should teach us about the local culture and history, and it should even teach us
about ourselves.  I want our travelers to feel inspired.”

Inspiration, it seems, is a very big part of what Zoom is all about.

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