The elegantly homeless couple
Julianne Crane and Jimmy Smith are on a voyage of discovery—they're committed to the RVing lifestyle but also to examining their values and beliefs
Julianne Crane and Jimmy Smith plan on living full time in their RV for at least 18 months. — Photo courtesy Julianne Crane
In the 1950s, Julianne Crane's parents sold their home in New York and packed their belongings into a travel trailer. The move would eventually prove fatal for the family Plymouth hauling the overloaded trailer, but would breathe life into Crane's lifelong passion for travel and RVing. Get them while they're young, indeed.
"One of my most vivid memories is standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon as a youngster and feeling the breath caught in my throat as I looked at the stunning beauty and vastness of that incredible place," said Crane. "That sense of wonder has never left me."
If only all of us could be so lucky.
Home is where the RV is
Throughout her adult life, Crane has had extensive involvement with the RVing industry, not only through personal experience but from a professional standpoint as well. As a freelance writer, her travel-based articles have graced the pages of many publications. In 2008, she founded RV Wheel Life, a travel and RVing-centric website; her work has resulted in countless friendships and her RV trips often include stops to reconnect with the people she has met.
Thirty years after the Crane family's mammoth cross-country move, Crane took solo trips around the Pacific Northwest. Her travels provoked the usual inquiries about safety, but while the vehicles may have changed—during the 1980s, Crane drove a Class C Toyota Dolphin—the friendliness of the RVing crowd has remained constant over the decades.
"I feel so good when we're on the road because we meet so many amazing people," she said. "I'm delighted that every place we go, there are people who want to help you back up your rig or share their apple pie with you."
Crane has managed to cross many areas off her must-see list. Zion National Park in Utah remains a favourite destination, and places within the Canadian Rockies—such as Banff and Jasper national parks—haven't lost their allure. Once arriving in a destination, Crane is as likely to be found in an art gallery as cycling on local trails or trying regional grub in a mom-and-pop restaurant.
Two of a kind
More recently, Crane found a kindred spirit in Jimmy Smith, now her partner. Two years ago, Smith expressed interest in one day being "elegantly homeless"—living in a camper and travelling the country. Mutual friends recognized Smith's and Crane's common interests; when the pair met they found they shared not only a love of travel but many of the same life goals and outlooks. They soon planned their first trip together—a three-month sojourn in a 2.6-metre (8.5-foot) camper. By 2010, they upped the ante and set out on a six-month trip in the camper. Crane said that the time for a long trip was right, as they were both in good health and had minimal obligations.
Their six-month trip circumnavigated the United States and covered nearly 20,000 kilometres. Stops included visits with family in Pennsylvania and Virginia, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in Florida and listening to former president Jimmy Carter speak in Georgia. In March of 2011, the couple started back towards Washington, travelling through New Mexico, Arizona and Utah on the way.
Beyond four walls
"As I age, I do take a look at the bucket list," said Crane. "What is important to me? Where do I want to go? I don't have long-term plans anymore—for me, five years is way too long."
When Crane and Smith met, Crane was renting an apartment in Spokane, Washington, and Smith owned a cabin and property. Over the past few years, though, they have pared down their belongings—after all, there isn't room for extraneous gear in a camper. They're now set to head out on their next big journey and have opted for a larger vehicle this time, an 8.7-metre fifth wheel. They've relinquished their properties and put additional belongings into storage; the process of doing so has been an opportunity for internal examination and redefinition.
"I really feel like this is another jumping-off point for us, " said Smith. "I'm committed to us living for two years in this type of RV. It's a great invitation to hold everything that we own in our hand. Three years ago I left a piece of property I lived on for almost 30 years. It was a farm with barns and buildings—everything that a person could own, I owned. So, I've been in a refining process for the past three years of letting go."
So, while the couple's material possessions have come and gone, it's obvious that they have found value in the intangible. They may have let go of the stuff, but they're grabbing life with both hands.
Some RVers choose to head west, not south, to enjoy Canada's mildest winter climate.Fan keeps fresh air circulating, rain or shine
The MaxxFan pushes musty air and odors out and brings fresh air in.