A GoPride Interview

Bryan Herb

Boston bombings inspire a personal challenge to make a difference

Sun. April 21, 2013  by Matt Inawat

I have been taught what it really means to give when you have nothing from a six year old in Varanasi, India... and how to find the joy of stillness and silence in Bhutan
Bryan Herb
Making a difference around the world has always been one of Bryan Herb's life's passions. This past Monday, on the day of the Boston bombings, rather than feeling helpless, Herb wanted to prove that something positive could come out of any situation. Without any prior training, he signed up for his first marathon and set a goal to raise over $5,000 for the American Cancer Association.

ChicagoPride.com took a moment to talk to a good friend who has begun to inspire many other local heroes with his story.

RMI: (Matt Inawat) This is your first marathon ever. What led you to make this choice to push yourself on behalf of the American Cancer Association?

BH: (Bryan Herb) Last fall I ran a half marathon, and honestly, it was pretty tough. I didn't have a big desire to run a full one right after that. But in the months that followed that kind of started to change.

Then, the bombings at the Boston Marathon happened, and I wanted to do something to express love, support, and solidarity - something to show that we don't have to be afraid. I wanted to make something positive out if this situation, and the idea of running the Chicago Marathon to raise money for the American Cancer Association just struck me so intensely. Like, it felt like I had to do it, like it was a no brainer.

RMI: Are there any stories of cancer or of hope that have touched you personally?

BH: Countless. Seriously, countless.

My business partner's sister, who I consider my own sister too is a breast cancer survivor, and has always been an inspiration to me. Family members of mine have had big melanoma scares. Another good friend had prostate cancer. Another lost his mother to lung cancer. Another incredible friend from DC has undergone several chemotherapy treatments, and is such a fighter, that I am doing this largely with him in mind too. And so many of my Zoom Travelers, who have really become my friends more than anything, have faced cancer head-on. I can't tell you how many times I have been inspired.

RMI: How has your work and travel with Zoom Vacations impacted your view of the world and its people?

BH: I didn't realize when starting Zoom Vacations, the positive effect it would have on me.

In so many countries, I have seen true humanity triumph over challenges. I have seen extreme conditions and extreme love.

I have been taught what it really means to give when you have nothing from a six year old in Varanasi, India; how to endure against all odds by water buffalo in South Africa; how to find beauty and spirituality in everything, from an Incan Shaman in Machu Picchu; and how to find the joy of stillness and silence in Bhutan.

I know I am fortunate to have experiences like these, I really do know that and I endeavor to daily appreciate it, along with all the other incredible things about life here in America, and especially, right here in Chicago.

RMI: What kind of support have you been getting so far from friends here in Chicago and in the LGBT community?

BH: Oh my gosh, my LGBT friends and LGBT allies have been incredibly supportive. So many instantly donated to my fund-raising efforts. Others placed my link on their own Facebook, Twitter and fan pages. Some have offered to help me train and so many have promised to come watch me! I am telling you right now, that I plan to wear sunglasses the day of the race, because I predict I will be a blubbering idiot when I cross the finish line. (Laughs) I don't know, the whole thing just feels really emotional.

RMI: Speaking of that finish line, most people take months or years to prepare for their first run. What's your preparation strategy between now and October?

BH: I am fortunate that since I am running for the American Cancer Society, they offer training support, and I know I am in good hands. After all, this is an organization that is all about caring for people. I also have a few friends who have run marathons, and I have been picking their brains.

RMI: You're inspiring countless individuals with your story. What are some ways our readers can help you and Team Zoom achieve your goals?

BH: What I would love most is if as many people as possible join me to run. I know it sounds challenging and for some, insurmountable, but I have to tell you that after the bombings in Boston, clicking on the marathon site to 100 percent commit was so empowering, I honestly couldn't believe how good and right it felt. In addition, people can donate whatever they can (http://main.acsevents.org/goto/bryanherb) to help reach and SURPASS our goal of $5,000. Friends who have donated already have told me how good it made them feel to do it and to feel part of the event even if they can't run themselves. Simply put, the feeling you get from knowing you are helping others is unmatched. Plus, people can help us spread the word: place posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc., or come watch the race!

RMI: Bryan, thanks for taking the time to chat. I'll be cheering you on at the finish line!

Bryan Herb is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Zoom Vacations. He has been a high school English teacher, personal trainer, model, freelance writer, and a hotel marketing and events sales manager. He grew up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, known today as Oregon's premier wine country, and his childhood was filled with outdoor adventures. His roots in the outdoors, coupled with his inquisitive teacher's mind and his appreciation for health and fitness (as well as for fabulous hotels and resorts) have led him to adventures in every continent but Antarctica. He has toured the ancient catacombs of Rome, swam with horses where Australia's rainforest meets the reef, haggled with Hong Kong merchants, danced the Samba in Brazil, and has even studied ecology and group dynamics in a Scottish commune. In addition to his duties at Zoom Vacations®, Bryan also served on the Board of the Directors of the IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) for four years, and as Board Chair for two. He was one of nine travel experts featured on the Travel Chanel's hit show, "Vacation Challenge" and was the South America Gay Travel Expert for four episodes on Logo's Gay Travel show, Bump. In addition, Bryan has hosted gay travel shorts for Comcast, and he is the gay travel expert for several gay online and print publications.

Interviewed by Matt Inawat. Ron Matthew Inawat is president of the GoPride Network and contributes to ChicagoPride.com, PrideLA.com and other sites within the GoPride Network.