Zay Harding has a fear of heights – but he is not afraid to try new things, and he loves to travel. His daring and outgoing personality lands him the gigs that no other hosts are willing to do. This is fine for Zay, because he loves exploring new cultures and finds his most challenging journeys to be the most rewarding ones.
With the enviable background of growing up on the beaches of Hawaii, Zay is an outdoors man through and through. His childhood was spent in the Boy Scouts where he achieved the highest level in scouting – an early preparation for his trekking adventures.
Treks in a Wild World, another Pilot Productions show, was Zay’s first taste of adventure travel. During the series he hiked Mexico’s Copper Canyon with Tarahumara Indian guides on steep, slippery trails (not the best situation for an acrophobe!); whitewater rafted and raced canoes in Mexico’s Veracruz; canoed Texas’s Rio Grande; climbed Seattle’s snow-capped Mount Whitley; lived with the Korowai ‘Tree People’ in the extremely remote West Papuan region of Irian Jaya; and visited the Dani and Lani tribes in Indonesia’s Wamena Valley.
This led onto a pilot show called Tribal Challenge, where Zay and a co-host lived with Ethiopia’s Surma tribe for ten days. They shared huts with livestock and drank cow blood between sessions of herding, fishing, farming, and stick fighting.
Zay has motorcycled through Vietnam; explored the hidden underground caves of Laos; gone snow-trekking and bungee jumping in Switzerland; kayaked and skied in Austria; tried biking down ski-slopes, sailing, canoeing, rafting, and riding with cowboys in Canada; and retraced the communist Red Trail in Southeast China. He was crowned “Champion of Wrestling” in Buea, Cameroon, where he entered a traditional wrestling match and won – beating the defending champion of ten years!
Zay hikes, swims, surfs, bikes, plays golf, acts, and sings. He loves engaging in group sports, cultural activities, and new experiences – but he always makes sure he has fun along the way. You could call being a Globe Trekker host a dream job for Zay, but not without arguing that Zay is obviously a perfect candidate!
“Being in true wilderness is a rare experience for most people, and I never tire of it. Living in Los Angeles can be quite stressful, and I find an incredible balance to my life whenever I’m out into the middle of nowhere – away from the cars, away from the noise, away from the people. The tranquility and beauty of the wild sets me free and is refreshing for my soul.”
“I love travelling and exploring new countries, as well as talking with people and learning about how the similar job of surviving is approached by so many different cultures.”
“Even in the most boring or lonely places, I will entertain, and that is just part of my nature. So have fun as you watch me.”
Good and bad food
“The most foul thing I had to do was eat saga worms that were fermenting for a few weeks. It was part of a festival in West Papua. I tried it because everyone there seemed to love these worms, but then again, they eat ground up tree bark for a staple food.”
“When I was in the depths of the Kuruwaipeople in West Papua, I got pricked by a thorn from a poisonous plant. Luckily we had already finished shooting the trek and we were onourway out. But I was passing out for two days and waiting for the private plane to come pick us up, so we would ride for two hours to the nearest little health centre. My infection was in my finger, and it spread up my left arm into my armpit, which got really swollen and I got scared it would go into my heart. Luckily, there was one island in Indonesia that has a gold mine in it, like a Beverly Hills in the middle of a third world country, which had the top doctors from Australia working there. They gave meshots to bring the swelling down and antibiotics that actually worked, though I still got dizzy spells for a few months after that at home. I’m all better now, but sometimes I think an interesting show would be behind-the-scenes or ‘the making of Globe Trekker’.”
“There is nothing more valuable than local knowledge. It is the secret to getting great deals and to learning the ins and outs of each place, while staying safe at all times.”
“The Boy Scout motto is ‘be prepared’. I try to picture my worst fears and counter them with a remedy that I need to bring along with me. Common sense also plays a huge part in my journeys.”
Keep in touch – @zayharding1