THOMAS TUCKER: @TOMTUCKERTRAVELS
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orca’s – 11/26/18
For the ninety fifth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orca’s, we are very pleased to speak with Thomas Tucker. You may know him as @tomtuckertravels.
I only became aware of Tom recently, but I am very impressed. He is a UK based overlander who co-founded a UK based overland event called Tents and Treads. A few of our past interview subjects, @JKoverland and @CollectingBliss, attended the most recent event and I learned about Tom and his very capable Jeep Wrangler overland build. Check out the video recap below from @JKoverland or follow along here @tentsandtread.
You can also follow Tom’s personal adventures and photography through his social media on Instagram at @tomtuckertravels or here on Facebook. I highly recommend doing so. He is knowledgeable and insightful.
I found this interview with Tom to be a great reminder that there are many people who truly love and embrace the overland lifestyle in addition to their careers. It was a refreshing reminder to see someone who has an appreciation for their job that is equal to their passions for their hobby. It is so easy to get caught up in the many different classifications and small divisions in the overall overland family.
We can all learn a lot from Tom.
He is legit and truly enthusiastic. He uses that enthusiasm to create adventures and events that bring people together as well.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
Well full time and what actually allows me to pay the bills and survive is my position as a Security Forces member with the United States Air Force.
I have been serving since 2012 and joined right out of high school, we are the biggest career field in the Air Force and are responsible for missile security,
defending air bases around the globe, law enforcement on those bases, combat arms and handling military working dogs.
It is an interesting job to say the least because of all the ground we cover and how vast our job title is, anything
the Air Force needs guarded, we handle, sort of a jack of all trades kinda deal. From Air Force One and the President to small jumper planes deploying Special Forces out of areas, to the security of America’s nuclear arsenal. It has allowed me to spend time living on 3 continents and four countries in just the few years I have served.
That said I also am a freelance photographer on my downtime from post and it is more of a passion turned side gig. I really love working with a camera and sharing the places and experiences I have been so lucky to enjoy and one day the goal is to find a way to do this full time.
Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?
I drive a 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Technically it came as their “Big Bear” package (basically a topographic graphic on the hood, KO2s from factory and some other special cosmetic bits).
I picked it up in August of 17′ straight from the factory and had it shipped over to where I am stationed in the United Kingdom. It had just five miles on it when it arrived and immediately the goal was to turn it into an adventure rig. It is called Eliza like Eliza Thornberry from the children’s show, The Wild Thornberrys on Nickelodeon. I figured when it had already been on two continents with less than 100 miles on it, the throwback was appropriate.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
O wow, I mean dang near every other vehicle I have always wanted a Jeep since I was a child but being in the United Kingdom the draw to get a Land Rover Defender was really strong I love the look of them and
my buddy has an incredible example of a Defender 130 done pretty close to how I would build one. I am also a big Toyota fan and loading 42’s on a Tundra or picking up and building a 79 Series or really any
of the older classic Land Cruisers would be incredible as well. A big issue is that eventually I will end up back in the states so a vehicle that I am going to build up needs to be able to be imported stateside.
This on top of riding in a Defender kinda sold me back to my roots of the Jeep Wrangler. They are one of the most customizable vehicles on the planet with parts available into the tens of thousands! Although I do
not use the feature enough being able to drop the top and doors and roll safari style is a real sell for me as well. I still with all the stuff loaded find myself dropping the doors in the summer time to enjoy the fresh air and open nature.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
Since purchasing it I have loaded on an Alu-Cab Expedition III tent and Front Runner Slimeline II roof rack, a 270* Rhino-Rack Awning, a 4.5 lift from AEV and BFG 35″ KM2s, some interior bars for mounting a tablet and my phone to help with navigation, an ARB full width front bumper and AEVs rear bumper with a swing out tire carrier and 12 US Gallon fuel caddy, as well as a tailgate table some new diff covers and an assortment of other smaller bits like the QD Sway bars from JKS. Very near in the future I am loading on 35′ Cooper STT Pros to give them a try and will be upgrading the Hutchinson Beadlock wheels, This will be my first time outside the BFG family of tires and with the KM3s knocking on the door Cooper will have to really impress to keep me but I wanna try out a few things. I am also in the process of testing a whole new drawer and sleeping platform for the Jeep so the rear seats in my Jeep are no longer present. I will have a drawer in the rear and two drawers out the sides through the rear doors here by the end of the year! Also going to be wrapping it a satin tan/coyote here soon so that will be different.
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?
Well unfortunately being still full time active duty I am not able to do it full time just yet but the freedom of being able to drive out for a month and be sustained in my vehicle is amazing. The freedom and connection to the
surroundings you get by traveling like that is unmatched. I always describe it as the perfect compromise of time and experience. Hiking you get to take in so much more but it takes so much more time and your able to take less with you flying in to a country is quick but you miss all the local bits and really only get the slim snapshot of a location.
What is your least favorite part about it?
I daily my rig, and like most who live out of it there is a certain limit put on you when you need your rig to make it home or it is home. I like to think it is a good thing because it keeps me from trying the more stupid and dangerous bits but there are times that having a vehicle dedicated to the trails a proper rock monster kinda rig would offer a lot of fun as well. Also folks forget how mentally healthy you need to be to spend weeks or months living out of a vehicle.
The time on the road is a lot of time in your own head and for some folks who are still in the process of learning who they really are deep down that can put a damper at times on the adventure, anyone who says they have never found themselves down and a bit lonely on the road at the more boring parts of a trip is a liar. That all said doing something like this can be a really good thing for those folks who need some time to self-reflect and find themselves so like everything in life it is all a matter of perspective and finding happiness whatever it may be to you.
How many miles have you put on your vehicle?
Between trips around all the parks in the United Kingdom, to running the North Coast 500 in Scotland, to my recent month long trip in July across the Alps and Spain in just a year of owning the rig I have put on nearly 30,000 miles! I have quickly
learned that buying new was a good decision as I am on the road more than some folks I know living full time out of their vehicles. Any chance, any bit of free time I have is usually spent either upgrading my rig for future trips, going over old trips, planning for new ones, or actually embarking on one.
What is the best place you have taken it?
This is a real toss up, I loved running tracks in the French and Italian Alps but I think the Spanish Pyrenees has to take the cake. The terrain changed sometimes more than daily and it was incredible to cross an entire country almost totally offroad.
From the wide open spaces of the Spanish Badlands to the mountain passes of Andorra running the Pyrenees really surprised me and that was with it needing to really blow me away as I did it immediately following running tracks in route through the Alps.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
Currently my favorite bit of pavement has to go to the A82 in Scotland. The trek up into the Scottish Highlands on this route through Glencoe is nothing short of stunning and I can’t recommend another road this side of the globe.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
Endeavor? One word for a man’s view of how to approach life is a hard one to nail. I live life as if it ends tomorrow and I plan on dying happy always. Maximum effort toward your passions and what matters at the time and push the rest to the side. At least how I see it we only get one life so you better spend it doing what you believe in and are passionate about. Maybe looking back you wasted some time on the wrong things along the way but as long as at the time it was what mattered then hey you did your best and you
were happy right?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?
Take some time to really consider the options. Take smaller trips and progress to the larger ones, work your way up to it. Think about everything you’re giving up to do it and make sure it is what you want because it really is not for everyone. If it is for you however
it will be one of the most rewarding and exciting things you likely ever decide to do. Sure it makes some things harder and closes some doors on some opportunities but it also enables a whole new lifestyle and opens up just as many doors as it closes.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were those kind of people?
I spent a good year and a half flying around Europe getting the surface value travel in when I first moved to Europe. I loved seeing new things and learning new cultures but I always craved more, and I always noticed those around me did not share that same desire
except for the rare occasion I found another person with the same passions. Realizing that those people were often total nomads, travel writers, retired folks on huge adventures, YouTube personalities etc. really helped me see that my desire to go deeper and see more
was not the norm but more of an exception. After the big month long trip wild camping the entire month and putting over 5,000 miles on the truck in a single month I realized I loved it and even after all that the only thing I would have changed on the trip was to make it a yearlong instead of a month. I think that was the last bit of clarification I needed. Since then my time in the Air Force has become more and more about getting the truck ready and sorting out how I am going to do it full time and take the plunge. I am already planning another month in Morocco
come October and trying to find a way to get up to Iceland for a month in April when the ferry is cheap.
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
A decent set of morals and being sociable really helps and growing up surrounded by offroading and long weekends out on the trails for sure had a hand. I think growing up in a very small town and then being thrust into the unknown when joining the service and being stationed overseas to Japan really helped a huge amount as well. It was kinda my awakening, the realization that there was so much more out there than my little small town and I wanted to take it all in.
Do you see yourself as someone who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
I don’t see me as the type of it just happening. I am actively trying to find a way to do it, using my time in with a steady paycheck to make sure debt is not something holding me back or tying me to the usual system, setting up and outfitting my vehicle to prepare it to fully support me.
Nothing happened to thrust me into this lifestyle I am actively choosing to pursue it I guess is a way of putting it.
Where do you want to go next?
Iceland and Morocco are next on the hit list, I wanna go out east as well soon but we will see if I stay stationed in Europe. My time here is done come 2020 and I don’t really know where I am off to next so if I stay in Europe then Far East is for sure the plan as well as a trip to North Cape.
If I end up stateside Alaska, Central and South America and out west are at the top of the list with the Canadian Rockies being well up there also!
Thomas, I find your approach to life to be excellent advice. Easier said than done, it cuts right to the chase. Focus on whats important, make decisions accordingly.