Featured Traveler: Garret, from Chicagoland

Embracing diversity and embodying acceptance are two of the hallmarks of Zoom Vacations.  So, when someone asks if straight travelers are welcome on Zoom Vacations tours, our answer is always a resounding YES (as long as our gay travelers on the tour can be themselves 100%). Garret has been part of the extended Zoom family for years, and we always knew that he would love our tours, and that our travelers would love him right back. Finally the timing was right, and Garret was able to join our tour to Peru last June.  As we suspected, it was a great experience for all.

Zoom:  What made you decide to take this particular trip with Zoom Vacations?

Garret: I love drinking on a beach more than most, but I was really looking for adventure, narrative, and depth with my ‘next’ trip.  After consulting with friends and fellow travelers, reading the reviews, and through my relationship with Zoom—it was an absolute no-brainer to jump onboard for the Peru trip.

Zoom:  Machu Picchu is one of the 7 New Wonders of the World.  After being there, do you feel it deserves this distinction?

Garret: I was aware of the distinction before the trip, had googled some images, etc.  But after reading a few books on Peru (specifically Hiram Bingham and his journeys) I couldn’t wait to explore in-person.  Machu Picchu was incredible—even more incredible knowing its history.  Climbing on the original Incan Trail—relying on rocks laid 600 years ago to hold steady—was exhilarating in itself.  Being surrounded by the Andes, in the middle of the clouds, and view Machu Picchu from summit was a spiritual experience for me.

Zoom:  What was your favorite moment from the trip?

Garret: My favorite moment of the trip was the dinner hosted at Casa Aliaga.  A home passed down from the time of Pizarro himself was, for me, the most enriching experience of the entire trip.  To hear Maria Aliaga unpack her ancestry so candidly, surrounded by priceless paintings and artifacts (each telling a different story), and enjoying a 5-star meal with good people was outstanding.

Zoom:  Did you make new friends on the trip?

Garret: Quite a few new friends—the group chemistry was outstanding. I would imagine this is typical, I feel like I have 12 new friends scattered throughout the country.  With Facebook the world has become much smaller and it has been a lot of fun to see all of the posts from everyone on the trip.

Zoom:  How did you feel, being a straight man on a gay trip?

Garret: Oddly, I didn’t really think about it until my mom brought it up before the trip—not in a negative way, but in the same tone you are asking now.  My only concern was that I wanted everyone in the group to feel comfortable with a straight jock-looking dude in the group.  I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to act any differently.  From the minute we met as a group on the first night the group chemistry was carefree and I haven’t laughed as much in a long time as I did on this trip.  For me it was completely refreshing to get out with a great group and I never really thought about until now.

Zoom:  How was the food throughout?

Garret: Peruvian cuisine did not disappoint.  From ceviche to guinea pig—everything was top-notch and we never went thirsty either.

Zoom:  What surprised you about Peru?

Garret: The biggest surprise for me was how little the architecture has changed in 600 years (once you left Lima).  The original Incan stone was still the foundation of most buildings in Cusco & Ollantaytambo.  For a country on two fault lines—these structures had not budged.  It was amazing.

Zoom:  Was June a good time to be in Peru?

Garret: I thought it was really special to go during the Winter Solstice and experience Inti Raymi.  On a personal level, June is the most convenient month for me to get away, so the timing was perfect.

Zoom:  How were the hotels?

Garret: Without listing all of them, they were both luxurious, unique, and very comfortable.  From an Oasis in the middle of a rainforest, to a 16th century monastery (still owned by the Catholic Church), to a luxury high rise with oceanfront view, on and on.  The accommodations and how well we were treated is something I will never forget.

Zoom:  What were your take-aways from the experience?

Garret: My number one takeaway from the trip is experiencing the interaction between the Peruvian history and its present.  While it is physically obvious with the architecture and landscape–the cultural connection was still palpable.  Our guide did an incredible job of bringing this to life every step of the way.  When you experience a culture so effected and conscious of its past, you cannot help but explore your own and wonder: how would my life change if I really took the time to deeply study where I come from. We shall see!

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