We’re back with a second helping of questions and curiosity for Justin Tucker, another co-creator of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Affinity Group rafting trip through Westwater Canyon. I’m Holiday’s Trip Director and the person facilitating this inaugural trip with a team of other amazing folks. Holiday River Expeditions is a white-owned outfitter. Because of this, I wanted to ground this inaugural trip offering in some meaningful values. Values like accountability, integrity, transparency, and perhaps more than a little fun. To that end, I asked a few BIPOC-identified artists, organizers, facilitators, and friends to join in the fun. And also, to help shape what this trip will look like. We have been meeting this “off-season” to ask the important question -how will this trip feel different from any other Holiday Expedition?
In this second interview, you’ll get to know the one and only Justin Tucker. He is an outdoor adventurer and social media influencer. He is also currently at the beginning stages of his solo attempt to complete the entirety of the Appalachian Trail! Read on to learn more about Justin, his love of wilderness, and the “why” behind his choice to co-create this BIPOC river trip experience with us.
LW: Tell us about yourself!
I know you’re a wilderness lover and someone committed to spending significant chunks of your life in the wild. I also know you’ve spent significant times of your life in urban spaces. How does who you are impact your interest and intentions around this whitewater river trip?
JT: My name is Justin Tucker, and I would absolutely consider myself to be an avid outdoor and adventure enthusiast, though I sort of view myself as a “late bloomer.” Growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Baltimore, I didn’t have that desire to be out in nature at an early age.
In fact, I often heard folks around me saying how much safer it was to hang within the urban communities we were all familiar with. So, needless to say, I wasn’t bitten by the “get out and explore” bug until I reached my mid-20s. But I’m so thankful that I eventually was bitten. In the last 4 years, I’ve developed interests in everything from hiking and backpacking to bikepacking, climbing, kayaking and rafting. The list goes on, and none of it scares me like it did in my youth!
All of the adventures I’ve taken on, whether large or small, have contributed to changing my view of the world profoundly. So when it comes to something like a whitewater river trip, I think back to those I grew up around who thought it was a safer idea to stay within the boundaries of the neighborhood. I think about how I’m no longer afraid of what might lie beyond the bend. I just show up as myself, give thanks to the land, and I allow myself to be open to whatever the experience may bring.
LW: What is it you love about wilderness?
JT: I think the thing I love the most is that I don’t have to force myself to fit into any constructs. The land doesn’t care about what I look like, what I smell like, how much money I have or how well I form a sentence. It doesn’t care that I’m black or queer. It grants me permission to be whomever I choose to be in the moment, and it accepts me regardless. It gives to me just as much or as little as it will give to anyone else. Wilderness is very fair in that regard. On the same side of the coin, by actively removing myself from all of the influences of everyday life, it allows for a freedom of motion which allows me to just be. There’s no feeling like it.
LW: You joined us for our inaugural LGBTQ trip series last year down this same stretch of river. What about that experience drew you to joining Holiday again?
JT: The LGBTQ trip was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I felt as though the Holiday crew was very intentional about letting us participants get what we feel we wanted out of the trip, rather than attempting to control the narrative. I found that to be very beneficial to the overall atmosphere that we were able to create, which made me that much more willing to step out of my comfort zone and try things that I might have opted out of otherwise. It was also just plain fun. Being out on the river for 3 days with a group of people who shared some of my lived experiences and associated feelings was life-changing.
“The land doesn’t care about what I look like, what I smell like, how much money I have or how well I form a sentence. It doesn’t care that I’m black or queer. It grants me permission to be whomever I choose to be in the moment, and it accepts me regardless.”
LW: This BIPOC trip series is in its inaugural year; why this trip instead of another LGBTQ trip or instead of a regular trip?
JT: As I alluded to in my last response, there’s something to be said about sharing an intimate encounter with those who know and understand your lived experience. While I would love to do another LGBTQ trip in the future, I’m certain a BIPOC trip will lend itself to its own unique and magical experience that I wouldn’t find on a trip of any other kind. I really want to be a part of that.
LW: What are your hopes and desires for this trip?
JT: My only hope for this trip is to have fun, and to see fellow black and brown folks doing the same. I can say from experience that Westwater Canyon is mind-blowing, and I’m excited to look around as everyone relishes in its beauty. Three days on the river provides an opportune time to let go of whatever you may be holding onto, to find healing, and to try something new. We all deserve that. And the same way I’m coming back, I think there may be a demand for more intentionally-crafted trips going forward.
If you’re interested in following Justin on his own inaugural through hike, check out his Instagram at: @trailheadjustin.
Also, if you missed our first BIPOC Rafting Trip interview with the amazing Leah Richardson, you can check it out here!