Hi there! 😀 Welcome back to another edition of the Traveler’s Chair! Gracing our chair today is Rakesh Young, the man behind the genius idea: Baiskeli Adventures!
I hope you came with your heart open & ready to get a healthy dose of inspiration…
I first heard of Rakesh Young from my brother, who is a huge cycling fanatic, gushing about their adventures riding in the wild…
Then, in our previous Traveler’s Chair posts, I asked you to share suggestions of who you’d like to see featured next… Rakesh Young’s name came up more than once, so you know I had to look him up…
And so here we go! Happy reading! 😀
Tell us about yourself…
I am Rakesh Young Okuku, the last born of 13 children born and raised in Nyakach, Kisumu County.
I consider myself an always-smiling, simple, open-minded and free-spirited lover of life! 😀
What would surprise us about you?
Though most people regard me as a loud extroverted guy, in reality, I am an introvert who enjoys his own company a lot.
I like poetry and photography, and I’ve actually performed twice at the Kwani Open Mic sessions… I dream of becoming a Writer someday.
Tell us about your life before Baiskeli Adventures…
I learnt how to cycle at only 10 out of necessity, to run errands faster… And of course it was one of those old school, steel-framed ‘black mamba’ bicycles, which initially belonged to my late father.
Life in Primary school was quite tough especially after my parents died… I ran away from home three times and even contemplated becoming a street kid. Fortunately, my uncle came to my rescue, helping to put me through high school.
I think my pursuit of adventure started back then, whenever I’d run away from home. And when I later moved to Nairobi, I remember constantly begging my uncle for a bike on my birthdays…
In 2012 I interned at Wheels of Africa, a non-profit that champions cycling in Kenya and Africa. There, they gave us bicycles instead of a transport allowance… Needless to say, my love for cycling was rekindled! 😀
The Birth of Baiskeli Adventures…
While pursuing Tourism Management at Moi University, I knew that I wanted to venture into something different from the typical game drives.
But at the time, I had no idea what… Then during my W.O.A internship, my cycling tourism dream was born, when my love for travel & cycling merged.
Baiskeli Adventures became viable in 2014 after cycling for 600km, from Nairobi to Mombasa over Christmas. The 4 days’ solo-cycling trip remains one of my most thrilling experiences!
I realized that I needed to share my story & inspire others to pursue what feels impossible! So I visited Child of Mercy Orphanage Centre in Mombasa… Having grown up as an orphan from the age of 6, I could relate with the children.
Unfortunately I’d depleted my funds on the road, so I had little to share with them besides my story. I vowed to myself that I would return…
In Nairobi, I reached out to my Facebook friends to help me raise some money. A week later, I went back with shopping worth Kes. 26,000! This time, the children’s home came alive with laughter, song & dance. 😀
That experience proved to me that with cycling, I could achieve much more.
So I started Baiskeli Adventures in January of 2015… We now create & share cycling experiences with the world. And for the past 5 years, we’ve cycled annually, from Nairobi to Mombasa to support the children’s home, raising over 3 million Shillings!
What are the essential items for a cycling adventure?
-A well-serviced bike that’s appropriate for the terrain
-Comfortable & well-fitting cycling gear
-Water bottle or hydration pack
-Repair kit and multi-tool.
What challenges have you faced in turning your passion into business?
Initially, I would set high standards for myself and expected to operate consistently at 100%. However, this was unrealistic because even passion needs recharging sometimes…
And being the only one who could visualize my dream, I struggled to work with others at first… So I spread myself thin & would spend sleepless nights doing everything from tour planning to making sandwiches in my house!
Furthermore, when I quit my job to start Baiskeli Adventures, I didn’t have much money in the bank. I remember telling my landlord that I’d have challenges paying rent for the next 3 months… Thankfully he was understanding, allowing me to pay rent whenever I got the cash.
How have you overcome these challenges?
With time I’ve built a trustworthy team and learnt the art of delegating… Furthermore, I now make time for occasional solo trips to unwind & recharge.
And with the more Baiskeli Adventures trips we’ve done, our service delivery has improved hence we have more clients on our rota. I can confess that rent hasn’t been a problem for some time now! 😀
Tell us about your 2 favourite cycling destinations
First is the Swara Plains Conservancy in Athi River, because cycling with giraffes, wildebeest and zebras, & other wild animals running beside the trails, is the wildest experience I’ve had yet! 😀
Then Mfangano Island because I love water bodies; lakes especially! A bike ride around the beautiful, remote Mfangano Island is pretty awesome!
How many countries have you visited so far?
I have been to Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Though I’ve only cycled in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.
I had an amazing time cycling along the lower slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Kalangala Island in Uganda is a favourite… Also, the steep hills along Lake Kivu, in Rwanda really kicked my behind! 😀
I once went on a 3weeks’ backpacking trip to Malawi to see the beautiful Lake of the stars: Lake Malawi. On arriving in Karonga, Malawi, I went looking for a room at a low budget hotel… However, the receptionist neither spoke English nor Kiswahili, and I couldn’t understand their Chichewa. In the midst of the confusion, we both couldn’t help but laugh at each other! 😀
Have you ever had to give up something for a trip?
This is actually partly funny and partly stupid… I had taken up a loan for a business project but at the last minute I chose to spend it on a backpacking trip. It was worth it though! 😀
Share some of your best experiences on the cycling trails…
I once rode solo from Eldoret to Kisumu, via Nandi Hills. Then a total stranger I’d randomly met invited me to sleep on their couch for the night and I accepted! It turned out to be the best decision I made on my trip…
The next day, my host drew a map for me, to a stunning waterfall called Ngabunat Falls tucked deep in the vast tea farms… Navigating to the waterfall via the map took me all day, but it was well worth it! I showered beneath the waterfalls and pitched my tent in a deserted camping site…
And as I watched the sun set that evening, I knew it had been a great day!
Share some of your best travel tips…
>>Travel like a local and you’ll have the best time! I usually use local public transport, eat street food and sleep in the not-so-touristy hotels. This way, I feel like I connect with the destination and its people.
>>Pack as light as possible, then make it work. My theory is: if I didn’t pack it then I don’t need it!
Give us a sneak peek into your bucket-list…
I dream of going on a year-long cycling tour around the world or at least 30 countries when I turn 30 next year.
Any advice for hopefuls who want to follow their dreams?
Go forth and do it! There is no better feeling than the satisfaction that comes from doing something you truly connect with. >>Remember the: who, what, where and how aspects of your business but most importantly, never forget the WHY!
What does the future look like for you?
I never truly know how to answer this… All I want and can hope for is more adventures, new places and new interactions with different people. I live for the experiences and memories! 🙂
My sincere gratitude to Rakesh Young for sharing his story with us! Wishing you all the best in your future travels!
Thank you for reading my friends! I hope you feel inspired by Rakesh Young’s Baiskeli Adventures story, to go after your own dreams passionately!
I’d love to hear your take-home from his story… Leave a comment down below with your inputs/question or feedback!
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