What you need to know:
- Alex’s luck ran out pretty quickly. A few months into the job, the magazine he was working for went under and he was rendered jobless.
- The experience he had gathered while working in the magazines, and the crisis he was in as a young adult, prompted him to start his own magazine, Quarterlife, together with his friend Dan.
Surprisingly, even though the coronavirus pandemic forced many to stay indoors, businesses offering outdoor activities thrived during the pandemic. Staying indoors for a few days may be manageable, but being unable to go outside for months on end can be agonising. That is where Let’s Drift comes in.
Alex Kamau, an art and design graduate from Kenyatta University, is the co-founder and head of Lets Drift, a company that offers outdoor experiences such as yoga in the wild, city tours, road trips, cycling escapades, skating classes, and hiking in scenic locations around the country.
“Getting into the world of design seemed like the obvious choice for me since that’s what I studied in college, and I was lucky to get a job as a junior designer in a business magazine. As much as I had secured a job immediately after graduating, I was in a crisis. I was very cognisant of the fact that my life as an adult had finally set sail and I was the captain. I couldn’t help but wonder who I was, what I believed in and even what I wanted to do with my life. Four years in college had not answered those questions for me,” he says.
Alex’s luck ran out pretty quickly. A few months into the job, the magazine he was working for went under and he was rendered jobless. The experience he had gathered while working in the magazines, and the crisis he was in as a young adult, prompted him to start his own magazine, Quarterlife, together with his friend Dan. The title was borrowed from the “quarter life crisis”, which according Nathan Gehlert, a psychologist based in Washington DC, is a period of uncertainty and questioning that typically occurs in the mid 20’s to early 30’s, where even though people are highly driven and smart, they feel trapped, uninspired, and disillusioned.
Alex figured that since he was experiencing the crisis, there were high chances that his peers were also going through the same. Quarterlife magazine, therefore, was fashioned to voice and address the unique challenges facing millennials. Despite the nobility of the idea, sustaining the magazine became impossible and Alex shut it down after just two months.
“During the magazine’s last days, as I was coming to accept that the idea was a flop, my friend Dan and I would have brainstorming sessions where we would ask ourselves what we wanted to do with our lives now that we were ‘failures’. During those brainstorming sessions, we told ourselves that rather than trying to change the world, we could try seeing the world first, then find better ways of changing it,” he says.
“Dan and I began hiking every Sunday. At the time, we had no intention of building a business. We kept at it for six months without anyone ever being interested in hiking with us. We then opened a Facebook page by the name Drift Diaries where we would share our outdoor adventures. We later changed it to Lets Drift. I then started messaging strangers on Instagram and offered them a chance to hike with us, or as we called it, drift with us for free. A handful of friends and also strangers joined us and later brought their friends along. That was in 2018, and it marked the start of Lets Drift community. However, we experienced tremendous growth after last year’s partial lockdown when many were working from home and most recreational facilities were closed.”
In a country with so many places to visit and so much to explore, Lets Drift takes away the struggle of planning for outdoor adventures from their clients, which can sometimes be expensive and time consuming. Members of Lets Drift community pay a monthly subscription of Sh1,000, which allows them to go for as many hikes as they can for a whole month. They also offer services such as private drifts where a group picks a location they’d want to hike in and Lets Drift organises a package for them, including providing guides.
“Although I failed in the first two ventures I got into, I picked important lessons that have catalysed the success of Lets Drift. Working as a junior designer taught me the importance of never falling in love with your ideas as a creator. Secondly it showed me the value of accepting failure without letting it affect your self-esteem. However, the biggest lessons came from Quarterlife magazine. I learnt so much about creating something.
The biggest mistake Dan and I made while starting the magazine was underestimating the importance of business models. We had nothing to show for the many months we worked on the idea except a fancy logo and slogan. We spent a lot of time obsessing over solutions and not understanding the problems we were trying to solve. I have never thought of reviving Quarterlife, but I am glad it became the beginning of something great – Lets Drift.”
Since its inception in 2018, Lets Drift has experienced tremendous growth and now organises over 30 experiences every month. Alex and Dan have even started selling merchandise such as badges, shirts, hoodies and healthy snacks to hikers. Although the Lets Drift community is mostly comprised of young people looking to establish a healthy lifestyle and to connect with others, membership is open to all generations. They now have a website letsdrift.co.ke and Instagram handle @letsdrift where anyone can see what they offer and join in on their adventures.
“Honestly, I don’t know what the future holds. We have always believed in bringing people together to experience adventure and also creating responsible travel experiences for our clients. We are very committed to discovering and creating affordable and accessible outdoor experiences for an ever growing and dynamic community,” Alex says.