“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” 
~ Helen Keller

“Tara Shines”, photo by Sara Janssen

Every now and again, you run into somebody that who truly epitomizes the human spirit. I initially wanted to describe that as the American spirit, but I gotta say this person goes a little bit beyond that. This isn’t so much about national pride as it is about simply a good and responsible human being. I like Tara on 4 different levels. First, I was attracted to her head. She a pretty girl and all, but she’s got dreads that make for a good picture. So, yeah, I’m thinking like a photographer first. She used to be a member of a photo society I belong to and I could never lock down a commitment to shoot her. Now she’s not here. Everything else I learned about her came after she left. So secondly, I gotta say I admire her boldness to go forth on the road and experience life as she and her family saw fit. Screw normality. She’s making her own rules. Third, she’s someone who sincerely cares about our planet. I dig that. And fourthly, (if that’s really a word), she’s a damn good photographer. You can read about her journey and adventures on her blog, The Organic Sister.

So please help me welcome TARA WAGNER to the show…..**APLAUSE**

“The Open Road”, © Tara Wagner

Hello Tara. Give me a little bit on who you are and why you’re on the road.
     My name is Tara Wagner. I’m married to Justin and mama to an 11 year old son, Zeb. We currently travel full-time in a “vintage” (my alternative to the word “old”) Winnebago […that would be Benny] converted to run on waste veggie oil and solar power. We made the transition to full-time travel after Justin found out he was facing a layoff last year in Las Vegas. Our goal is to eventually find a new home to “settle back down” and just enjoy the hell out of life while we can. 

As it pertains to your 2 goals, how will you know when you find home and what have you absorbed on the road so far? 
     We have a list of criteria in finding a new home, most of it pertaining to our dream of building an off-grid home. So things like rainfall minimums, flexible building requirements and fertile soil are high on the list. We also care deeply about great homeschool laws, local communities and resources, low taxes, etc. But ultimately, I think we’ll just “know”.

“Good Morning Anne” © Tara Wagner

As for what we’ve absorbed, it’s impossible to describe. We’ve learned so much about ourselves and each other, things you just can’t learn without ample free time and new scenarios and subcultures pushing you outside your comfort zone. A big part for me has been the understanding that my sense of security has nothing to do with my surroundings; it’s an inner sense of comfort and home that I think we’ve all begun to tap into. 

“Red Barn Windows” © Tara Wagner

How long have you been on the road now and how long do you think you’ll continue to do this? 
     We left Las Vegas March 5th of this year with the understanding that we’d give this one year before making any permanent decisions. The last 6 months have been amazing and although we still plan to reevaluate this lifestyle next March, I think we’re all gravitating toward continuing some form of travel to some extent long-term. Whether that means staying on the road full-time for several years, or being “snow-birds”, we’re not yet sure. Mostly we’re just really enjoying living in this moment. 

Where exactly do you think you’ll be in 5 years? 15? 
     You know, we used to have a 5 year plan, determined down to the month! We’re now really enjoying being unplanned; it’s a pretty new thing for us. I’d like to see us continue traveling for as long as that feels right and then settling down into an off-grid home or eco-community of some sort when the timing works out. 

“Sunset” © Tara Wagner

What’s been your most memorable moment so far? And one you’d like to forget? 
     So. Many. Moments. I think some of my favorite moments have been just driving down the road. There is something magical about having your feet on the dash, listening to Free Bird and watching the world flash by the window. It’s liberating to feel the sense of timelessness and endless possibilities.
As for the ones we’d like to forget, we have a few Events Which Shall Not Be Named. Most of them involve rain, a fairly new phenomenon to those of us from Vegas. 

I remember when you were in our photo group in Vegas, you had the Un-rules thing. Explain Un-schoolers.

“Sunset Cruiser” © Tara Wagner

     Unschooling is based on a philosophy of trust, respect, unconditional love and a passionate pursuit of one’s interest. It tends to explain an educational philosophy that says coerced learning isn’t real learning and that true education happens through self-teaching or “autodidactism”. As unschoolers, we trust the natural curiosity of children and their interests to lead them to every “subject” they will need to thrive in their life. We haven’t found a need for things like textbooks and test scores; we’ve seen that learning happens naturally as a by-product of living an interesting life.

We consider ourselves Whole Life Unschoolers, mainly for lack of a better term. This means everything we do is filtered through those principles of trust, respect, love and passion and is applied to every aspect of our life, from “work”, to our health and relationships. 



  [aw-toh-dahy-dakt, -dahy-dakt] –noun  a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of teacher or formal education; a self-taught person. 

– Dictionary.com]

So what have you been doing lately with photography? Do you have any fave artists? 
     Having fun. 🙂 I always kinda felt in order to make money as a photographer I had to a) shoot portraits and b) be professional. But neither of those appeal to me. So instead I’m goofing off. I’m climbing on trains or shooting from the hip. I’m learning and stumbling and surprising myself. It feels pretty damn amazing to be a self-taught photographer with my photographs hanging internationally.

As for my favorite artists, I tend to enjoy the everyday people the most. It’s the mamas and papas and kids just doing their thing, capturing the common and the absolute and the magical bits of life. 

“Tara Toes – Railway Edition”
© Tara Wagner

How does Zeb like it on the road? 
     Zeb loves the new things we’ve discovered like Jr Ranger Badges and meeting new friends. He likes visiting family we rarely get to see and visiting zoos and museums. He likes chilling out with a game or book too. And he’s met some amazing people who have inspired him to do some amazing things. But sometimes it’s hard to find kids to connect with and he misses his friends in Vegas, as we all do. Some days he’s ready to settle back down and some days he can’t imagine ever stopping. We’ll see what next March brings. 🙂 

What was your childhood like socially and academically? 
     I was a pretty quirky, independent kid. Mismatched socks and a serious sense of that I could rule the country if they’d only vote for a 10 year old. Academically, I loved to learned (and still do) but got bored easily. Thankfully my mom supported my decision to leave school and learn on my own, although we hadn’t heard about unschooling and didn’t have much support. It was a very empowering decision, however, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity . 

Do your and Justin’s folks like what you guys are doing? 
     I hope so! 🙂 All of our family has been incredibly supportive. They all brought up legitimate concerns for us to consider but overall have been very supportive and encouraging. 

I have a Pontiac Grand Am. Could Justin convert it to WVO? How’s Benny? 

“My Version of a Turkey Shoot” © Tara Wagner

     Justin can convert almost any diesel engine to run on waste veggie oil (WVO); some diesel engines don’t take well to the conversion. Benny loves his conversion! He actually runs better on veg than diesel. Overall, for such an old engine and for how long it sat unused, we’ve been amazingly blessed. He is a bit leaky, but then so are many 28 year olds. 😉 

What is “beyond green”? 
     I tend to see “green” as the trendy stuff, the stuff that should be an obvious, like recycled paper or organic foods. It’s the stuff that’s easy to greenwash. Beyond green is not just what is “environmentally-friendly”, it’s also what is sustainable; what can last generations to come without worrying about dwindling resources or environmental impact. Things like permaculture instead of agriculture, solar and wind instead of nuclear or so-called “clean coal,” relocalizing communities instead of globalization. 

Helen Keller. What does her quote you use mean to you and how does she inspire you? 
     I love quotes. And I love Helen Keller’s story of beating the odds, doing more than people expected of her, living an amazing life against what other people would call “the odds”. Her quote, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing,” is a reminder to myself to beat my own odds, to live brave and to do the things I will later regret not doing. I don’t think I’m here to sit quietly, to work a job I hate, to live a life without purpose. Like Emile Zola said, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: “I am here to live out loud” 

Who else are your present day people you admire and are inspired by? 
     I’m inspired by the people who push their own boundaries; the people who question and rethink the norm and consciously choose their own answers (whether they choose the norm or not). I’m inspired by people who inspire themselves, who live their dreams and don’t settle. I’ve met so many amazing people on the road, people who deserve to have their stories told, and do what they do regardless of a lack of recognition simply because it’s what they love. I’m inspired by the people who give with conditions, both to others and themselves; people who are doing amazing things just because they know they can; people who genuinely want others to do the same. That’s the kind of person I want to be. 

“One Side of Benny” © Tara Wagner

You sure have a lot of followers. What do you think they expect from you? 
     I hope they expect me to be authentic, because that’s what I am regardless. My blog is my creative outlet, my personal journey and my way of connecting to some really amazing people. I love that! And I love that it inspires those people just as much as I’ve been inspired by other bloggers. I love blogging; it’s a truly amazing form of connection. 

What other links do we need to know about? 
     You can find me on my Facebook Fan Page 
My Twitter Page
Follow my blog, The Organic Sister
And check out my photography site: http://www.redbubble.com/people/tarawagner/art
By the end of this month or next I’ll have a brand new site up and running devoted completely to green living and sustainability! [Check back often. Be sure to see her blog for Unschooling Coaching and Mentorship as well as some of the other Mobile Services they provide.]

What’s next for you and your family? 
     Life! It’s pretty exciting. 🙂 

How can we help? 
     Subscribe to my blog! Buy my photography! Send me love notes! Tell us about some cool place we should visit! Invite us to dinner! We’d never turn down foot rubs and gluten-free cookies either. 😉

“Benny on the Road Getting Towed” © Tara Wagner

So that’s Tara, folks. Although she might not say it, I’m going to let you know how else you can also help.  DONATIONS!  As you can see from her latest blog post, old Benny broke down (and in the pic above) there was no calling a regular tow truck to come help. That’s the more expensive kind. So maybe you can help with repairs for Benny. She’s got a Paypal button on the sidebar of her blog. You may have to scroll a bit, or you can just click *HERE*. So help a Sista out. This is a hippie-chick with purpose and she’s on a mission that benefits you too! At the very least, send her a note and let her know you support her. Show yo’ love folks.

Thanks Tara for the interview. Say hi to Justin, Zeb, and Benny!

All photos related to his post are copyrighted by Tara Wagoner or Sara Janssen (Tara’s Portrait), so please respect their copyrights.