ZAYA: The Adventurist

PHOTOS | HELEANA GENAUS

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When somebody walks into your life, seemingly unassuming and shows you what courage actually looks like, that’s a person who’s story needs to be shared. 

By courage I mean someone who lets themselves be 100% themselves, says “yes” to life and almost by default give permission to those around them to do the same. Zaya is this person and more. Riding is simply a means to a life of opportunity, possibility and ultimately adventure. When so many of us use our machines and gear to express ourselves, she does it through her attitude and character… which transcends the bikes she rides. She is no more cafe racer than she is dirt bike rider and yet when on all the motorcycles I’ve seen her ride, she is a natural. Comfortable in her own skin, all smiles and can see the possibility in everyone she meets and anything life throws at her. 

Originally from Mongolia, Zaya was living in Washington D.C when she made the decision to kick life in the butt. The eternal student, she was looking at yet another degree to remain in the country legally when she finally questioned what it was she really wanted from life. Keen on film making, Zaya needed to do something drastic to kick start her life into a new trajectory. Rather than take another class she decided to save up, load up her credit cards, filled a bag full of cameras and booked herself to do all five adventure trails on offer from The Adventurists, aimed to complete them in one year and film the whole experience.

The first four included; the Mototaxi Junket in Peru - where participants scale the Andes, jungle and river crossings in a three wheeled motorcycle taxi; Indonesia on a Tuk-Tuk - island hopping in the country's version of a mototaxi;  The Ice Run - on a Ural (motorcycle with side car) through sub zero, snow covered Siberia; and The Rickshaw run - starting from the Southern tip of India to the north east end, in a rickshaw. While all of these where completed in moto taxis or three wheeled cycles, they where really the “practice” run in the lead up to her final and most arduous of the adventures, The Mongol Rally. 

Selection of images provided by Zaya of her five consecutive adventure trails. 

For the uninitiated, The Mongol Rally is popular among adventurists across the globe. The route starts in London and ends in Mongolia and can take anywhere from two weeks to two years to complete. Arranged by The Adventurists, they insist the rally must be completed the hard way, with barely adequate vehicles. Zaya committed herself to wanting to complete the rally on a motorcycle, having never ridden outside a car park before. With her limited experience she was to embark on an adventure that would take about eight weeks, through Europe, the middle east, Russia and Mongolia all on a 125cc motorcycle.

When she recounted the first hours of the Rally, the experience was pure fear. Riding through a crowd at the starting line, she was taking corners wide, scared of leaning, relying on a few lessons from her travel partner who was based in London. Her family and friends all advised her against this, her mother in particular really worried for her safety. While she remained positive in the face of those telling her to reconsider, her determination was challenged in those first few hours on the trip. She recounted loading up on a ferry from London to France and started trying to call everyone to tell them she loved them, convinced she was going to die. Luckily she couldn’t connect with anyone because it was a few days later, in Turkey where she had the “moment”. That moment where she just “got it”, the fear started lifting and all of sudden she could feel the wind and rain on her face, the smells in the air, the freedom of riding and the amazing adventure she was on. She was so moved she had to stop the convoy, dismount the bike and again called everyone she could to tell them how incredible it all was in that moment… this time they answered. 

This story is one I recount regularly to myself whenever I’m challenged by fear, it’s always worth pushing through.

Zaya currently lives in Sydney and is working with Stories of Bike to bring her story and footage to life. While her year of travel is over the adventure continues as she follows through on her film making dreams. What is truly incredible about Zaya is her boldness, cheeky sense of humour and honesty. Following through on the challenge she set herself Zaya came out the other side believing anything is possible with the right attitude... and a motorcycle. 


Heleana is a force of nature. Our Editor in Chief, the founder of In Venus Veritas and The Petrolette, and a co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop. Heleana shares her love of vintage cars, riding motorcycles, and (not-so-secretly) dreams of flying planes and piloting a riva aquariva (a la Sophia Loren) very fast through the canals of Venice. Supportive and connected, community is her lifeblood, and she is as real as they come.