Evanne Schmarder and her husband, Ray, set out from Portland, Oregon, 11 years ago in an RV on a mission to find the perfect place to live. They didn’t find it.
“What we discovered,” says Evanne, “is that there wasn’t one perfect place to live; there are many perfect places.”
And so the couple abandoned the search for a place to settle down in favor of full-time travel in their RV, going from one intriguing place to another.
When they began their odyssey, Evanne was in her 30s and Ray was in his 40s. She’s now 45 and he’s 55, but they are still young to be living the kind of lifestyle many people achieve only in retirement. They travel the country in a 31-foot Jayco fifth wheel.
Evanne grew up in Florida; her husband is from upstate New York. They married and moved to Portland, where they lived on a houseboat. Evanne was a corporate travel manager, and Ray, who is a musician, was employed as stage manager for the Oregon Symphony.
One day after returning from a sunny vacation cruise, they decided they wanted to escape from the rain and overcast skies of Portland, so they quit their jobs with the intention of moving to a warmer and drier climate. With a travel trailer as their RV, they began looking for a great place to live, but soon fell in love with life on the road.
To support themselves they took Workamper jobs at first. Then, Evanne started Roadabode Productions, offering a line of RV-themed note and Christmas cards and providing writing, editing and public relations services for the RV industry. Three years ago, she began her “RV Cooking Show” online, featuring videos that combine information on interesting places with recipes and cooking demonstrations.
Ray is the cameraman and Evanne is the host, cook and narrator. In the typical 10-minute video, she describes or leads a tour of a place they have visited and then prepares a related dish, such as grilled salmon in Washington State, huevos rancheros in New Mexico or key lime pie in Florida.
Evanne does not pretend to be a trained chef, though her experience includes working as a cook on private yachts. Her recipes are for the sort of dishes you might make for yourself or serve to friends who stop by your campsite. Everything is done in her RV kitchen.
She said there isn’t much you can’t cook in an RV; she even manages a traditional Thanksgiving dinner every year, with the turkey cooking in a Crock-Pot.
Evanne uses recipes of her own as well as those that are sent to her. After they video a segment, she and Ray always eat the dish, Ray’s favorite part of the process.
Always on the Move
In 11 years of RVing, about the longest the Schmarders have stayed in one place is eight months. And while they have never tired of travel, Evanne says, “It’s not like we’re on vacation all the time.” She says they still have the usual household chores, laundry, and bills to pay.
They don’t have traditional jobs, a fixed address, a mortgage or children, and Evanne says she once thought that living the simple life also meant shedding most of your possessions. But, she says, the life she and her husband have carved out requires an abundance of technology so they can post their material to their website and You Tube and do public relations work.
Most people her age are busy with a career and families, Evanne says, but she has taken a different path that gives her more in common with the retired people she meets on the road than with typical members of her own age group. Conversations around the RV park campfire tend to focus on places and experiences, not work or raising children.
Envy and Compassion
Evanne says that when she tells people that she and her husband travel and live in a trailer full time, she gets one of two reactions. Some people marvel at how lucky they are; others express pity, assuming they are unemployed refugees from the Great Recession.
The truth, of course, is that they have found a lifestyle that may not be for everyone, but, as Evanne puts it, “works for us.”
Evanne will be at the Flying Flags RV Resort in Solvang, California, this month to video episodes for her show and take part in two events. On Friday, April 29, she will share recipes at “Dinner and a Movie,” an outdoor event that will include a food-related film shown on the resort’s big screen. On Saturday, April 30, she will present a cooking demonstration at a tri-tip barbecue billed as the “Party in Paradise.”
You can find Evanne’s videos and recipes, along with her advice for young people considering full-time RVing, at rvcookingshow.com.
Write to Mike Ward, editor at RV Life magazine, 18717 76th Avenue West, Suite B, Lynnwood, WA 98037 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Find First Glance online at rvlife.com.