This is our story.

ZI is an international travel company that specializes in creating purpose-driven trips through a responsible lens. Founded by Lauren Zelek, ZI was born out of her passion for Japan and her desire to help travelers understand and navigate cultural differences between the East and the West.

  • Lauren Zelek


    Lauren's love for travel began at a young age. Born in Upstate New York and raised in Tokyo as a teenager, Lauren spent much of her youth traveling back and forth between Japan and the U.S., as well as visiting various countries in Southeast Asia. This experience left a lasting impact and gave her a deep appreciation for different cultures. Moreso, a strong desire to help others learn from other cultures and meaningfully experience new places.

  • Lauren Hiking Guide


    While living and working in Washington D.C. (as well as channeling her entrepreneurial spirit into a few side hustles), Lauren decided to travel to Rio de Janeiro and attend the Summer Games with a good friend. While there, she was struck by the importance of cultural training for athletes and support staff. This eventually inspired her to move to Colorado Springs and launch ZI while working as a Hiking Guide at the Broadmoor Hotel. Over the next several months, Lauren began consulting and advising American athletes, Olympians, their families and private donors as they prepared for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

  • Covid Era Travel


    During the challenging Covid-19 pandemic, our team managed millions of dollars of travel revenue between the U.S. and Tokyo. Sadly, when the Tokyo Metropolitan government announced that spectators could not attend, we went to bat to negotiate terms and reverse payments with our partners and suppliers. This experience helped us pivot as a team and expand our services to support a broader range of travelers.

  • Lauren Zelek and Group


    With international travel now back on the rise, ZI is ready to help the world rediscover new destinations in Japan and Asia, well as introduce that side of the world to the West.

Creating memories of a lifetime.

Being a travel company and tour operators means that every trip we design, build or facilitate is an earnest and wholehearted process, one that we take with the utmost pride and dedication. Each trip, tour or experience is a unique chapter in the life story of travelers, and we are honored to be apart of that narrative. We vouch to create memories that last a lifetime and moments that withstand the passage of time.

Our mission is clear and unwavering: to transcend the conventional boundaries of travel and tourism and create authentic and personalized experiences.

Our vision: to become the leading travel company and impact the world through culturally-sensitive, sustainable and responsible travel.

How we do it matters, too.

We value:

  • US Japan Council
  • Japan America Society of Colorado

Our team.

With this intrinsic belief and North Star, we have formed a team of dedicated local experts who know the ins and outs and have the ability to translate any ideas into a feasible plan.

  • Lauren Zelek

    Founder & Chief Experience Officer

  • Gabrielle Benson

    Travel Advisor, France

  • Charles St John

    Travel Advisor, Japan

  • Casey Bales

    Guide, Tokyo

  • Shoko Kuroda

    Guide, Tokyo

  • Steve Parker

    Guide, Tokyo

  • Angus Schaefer

    Guide, Tokyo

  • Rory Dent

    Guide, Tokyo

Join our team.

We're always looking for talented people to join our team. Please reach out using our application form below and we will be in touch with you soon.

Join our team

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