Who Are The Coolest People You Know?

February 8, 2012 in Inspiration, North America, Travelogue, United States

** Warning: This post contains a lot of pictures & a little profanity**

Before I write this post, let me say one thing: I have led a privileged life.

I know this.

Not financially, necessarily. Especially not as a child. I’m pretty sure my parents never had more than two cents to rub together at any given time.

But I’ve been privileged in the things that matter: Time, love, experiences, education, family.

So who are the coolest people you know?

Don’t think. Answer quickly.

Who comes to mind first?


Wanna know mine?

It’s easy.

Hands down: My Parents

Let me explain.

Have you ever had that moment when you meet someone where you think, “Holy Shit, these people are the coolest people I’ve EVER met?”

I’ve been having that moment lately. A lot. With my parents.


My Dad gave himself a Christmas gift. This is not unusual, he always gives himself gifts, he marks them from “Santa-fox” and always acts all surprised, “How did Santa-fox know?!! This is JUST what I wanted! Excellent!!”

This year, it was a slide scanner.

Slides, you know, those old fashioned photo negatives in cardboard frames that went into slide projectors and could be shown on the wall, or a sheet, or if you were lucky, a screen? This thing takes those and digitizes them. My parents have THOUSANDS of slides. Thousands. Not an exaggeration.

So, now, every day my Dad scans in a few pictures and sends them to me. Most of them are travel photos.

I’m meeting my parents again, for the first time, for the thousandth time, and I’m thinking, “These people are the coolest (insert profanity here) people I’ve ever met!” It’s happening daily. And I’m loving it. I’m actually hounding my Dad a bit relentlessly to scan more, scan faster.

For any of you who have wondered how our little family got so weird, this post might help you understand. It will certainly help you see why our kids don’t even notice that they’re doing anything off center with their childhoods.

Case in point:

This is my parents, in Palermo, Italy, getting ready to board a ferry to Africa.


Oh wait. We did… Civitaveccia, not Palermo…whatever.

Don’t they look cool? Capital C COOL?!

Boarding a train somewhere in Europe… backpacking, circa 1970

My Mom, crossing into Guatemala via the Iron Gate in the Chiapas Mountains

Camped on Lago de Atitlan in 1974… I was there, you just can’t see me!

Camped in an Italian WW2 Bunker somewhere with their Australian friends, Robert & Jess (they met in Africa)

My Mom, on a camel, El Jem, Tunisia

Dad & Robert, Algeria

This is Dad and Robert now… they still adventure together, almost every year in either Australia or Canada.

Dad, cooking

Mom, washing clothes in Lake Peten, Flores, Guatemala


This is my Dad:

Maybe 25 years old


This is my Mom:

Pregnant with me, on the road back to Tikal, Ezra recognized the location immediately.


This was all before I was born.

Their adventures included backpacking in Central and South America and taking a freighter from Panama to Morocco. Next, they walked across North Africa and part of Europe. Then, they bought that crappy old van and drove down into Central America. Mom got pregnant with me somewhere in northern Mexico, I was gestated on the shores of Lago de Atitlan. I think that’s why I feel so at home there.

You’d think they might settle down after that.

They did. Kind of. In their own way.

Dad, framing the 11×22 ft cabin they built in Canada the spring before I was born… no rush.

With both my grandfathers and his friend, the walls of the cabin are up!

Home sweet home… 2011… the cabin still stands, with the additions Dad put on before Josh was born


This was my first five or so years, and summers until I was 13:

My childhood… I’m in the basket

Helping my Mom… she made the kids, the aprons & the cookies… not to mention the house, by hand

We caught a lot of our own food… the fishy variety

…and the furry variety.

“Helping” my Dad… who is shoveling the roof of my Pip’s cottage

Our cabin in winter… can you imagine my Mom trapped in there with two toddlers, not another person for miles? She’s my hero.

Me, on the dock in my rabbit skin bunting, made by Aunt Gypsy… yes, that’s my Mom, in a canoe, in the ice, with my baby swing on board. Crazy people, I tell you. But Cool.

Laundry day. Wringer washer. Cloth diapers. Hand crank at first. Later, a generator to run it. This was an upgrade from hand washing. I cannot tell you the number of times I was yelled at to keep my hand out of the way of that wringer.


As if having two babies in the bush, trapping turtles, canning porcupine and running black bear meat through a baby food grinder and washing cloth diapers by hand isn’t enough.

I turned 5 and had to go to school. Hiking the miles around the lake to get to the road… to get to a bus (probably no bus, actually) to get to school didn’t seem like a good idea to anyone. Homeschooling wasn’t legal in Canada yet, or even a reasonable consideration… so they moved to Wolfe Island. With $6000 in the bank my Dad says. And we built another house.

Out of logs we cut from a dead beaver pond the year I was four. I rode on the back of the snow machine and “helped” my Dad bring them out. No. I am not kidding. True story.

That van in the background of the below photo? Same one they drove to Central America the year I was born. We lived in it while we built our house. I got my braids stuck in fly paper hanging from the ceiling of it at least once a week. I cried.

Me and my Pip, camped on our property on Wolfe Island, building house #2. That’s Josh in the chair, and Kimmy… the dog.

My brother, aged 4, helped lay the sub flooring with a ball-peen hammer. I made a lot of PBJ sandwiches for the workers. I also chased cows out of the work site with my hot pink skipping rope. That was my job. Keep the house a cow-free zone.

Instead of finishing the second story of the new house, my Dad built a sailboat in it. A flat bottomed dory with a junk rigged sail (which my Mom sewed, of course… navy blue with a big red sun.)

So, the winter I was eight we dragged it behind our van (the same one in the picture above with Mom at Tikal, only painted brown with house paint and a roller brush by my Dad and with a plexi-glass window installed so Josh and I could look out the back) to Indiana for Christmas.

My parents turned left instead of right upon exiting Indiana and we ended up in Mexico for the winter. True story.

Who needs third grade anyway?

They did it again when I was 13… only without a boat.

Who needs eighth grade anyway?

This is how I will always remember my Dad: Doing dishes in the ocean with sand instead of soap.

We still caught our own food, regardless of which end of the continent we were on

An alter in Villahermosa… where the Olmec Heads are. We took this picture of Hannah two years ago.

Perhaps my favourite picture of all time. Yes, Josh used that spear gun. He was 11.


My childhood wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damned close.

Anything they messed up wasn’t for lack of trying and if I do half as well with my kids it will have been a raging success.

These pictures are just the tip of the iceberg. They also:

  • Let me drive a snowmobile across cracking ice at seven (okay, that was Dad, not so much Mom)
  • Let me live in a chicken coop for a summer whilst building the third house (let is kind… made might be more correct, but the boys were in a tent, and there were no chickens, so it was kind of like my own cabin-let)
  • Provided a steady stream of boats to sail/canoe/row around with minimal supervision
  • Grew acres of veggies, grapes, apples and stuff I don’t even remember
  • Made their own wine (granted, it was nicknamed Bear Claw for it’s gripping effect on the palate, but I never drank it)
  • Mom made a whole church full of stained glass windows, more than one, actually.
  • Dad made boats, and other weird stuff
  • They read aloud to us, showed slides of their adventures and invited loads of crazy people home for dinner.
  • They took us out of school before it was cool, and never acted like it was a big deal.
  • They didn’t have real jobs. Thank goodness for that! It would have been hard to go adventuring if they had.

They’re kind of old now (not really old, just a little bit.)

This is my Dad:

In Tunisia, winter 2008


This is my Mom:

Yes, she is wearing a blue Tuareg head wrap, my Dad bought it for her and made her wear it.


 If they were cool as parents, they have perfected COOL as grandparents:

Making wooden boats

Dad built the kids this boat when they were small. They named it White Swan. He purposely picked a design that was damned near impossible to flip over, even with two kids standing up to fish.


Mom taught them to canoe… see that string around Ezra’s 3 year old wrist? Yep. She ties them to their paddles. That’s my Mom in a nutshell.

Dad doesn’t spray this apple tree, just so they can climb up in it and throw the apples like grenades without poisoning. That’s my Dad in a nutshell.


They still travel… mostly to see us…

Gramps on a “racing camel” in Douz, Tunisia

My Mom, with her hand in the “Hand of Fatima,” Matmata, Tunisia

With the Tunisian Dude Dad bought his Bernouce from. He made me translate for an hour, wheedled the guy down to dirt on the price, then paid him the original asking price. Classic Dad move. Drives me CRAZY when I’m the translator. Don’t even get me started on the freakin’ Hookah he had to have (that he HAS NOT SMOKED, for the record!)

Mom and I, Christmas Day, Tunisia. Does it GET any COOLER than that?!

Me & my Dad, at the tip top of the colosseum at El Jem, Tunisia. He’s telling me stories of “last time.”


Here’s something else Cool about my parents:

They’ve been everywhere (except Asia.)

And they tell stories.

Can I just say that there is nothing (and I do mean nothing) cooler than overhearing the following:

“Okay boys, pay attention and look around, the ghost of young Gramps is here… last time I was here it was just Grammy and me, your Mom wasn’t a thought yet… this colosseum was still here, but the town wasn’t… Grammy rode a camel for the first time right out there…”

It’s so cool it brings tears to your eyes.

So does your littlest kid asking why YOU have a yellow bikini he’s never seen in the pictures of Guatemala Gramps is showing (slides, of course) and then realizing it’s NOT you, but Grammy 37 years ago. THAT is cool.

Gramps & Grammy huddling in the cold at El Jem, watching their grandkids play on the arena floor… must be a surreal moment for people who’d been there years ago, childless.

My Dad drove ACROSS THE CONTINENT this fall to go FISHING with the kids. True story. They caught some.


These are my parents.

Who gets that as the luck of the draw? Josh and me. We did. I still can’t believe it. We won the cosmic lottery.

They’re the silly people who buy paper snappy fish for the kids and bring ten times more cookies than any sensible family would eat to foreign countries for Christmas and who think nothing of camping on the Saharan sand in the freakin’ FREEZING cold so they can ride camels and eat sandy dates with their grandkids.

And here’s the kicker:

They act like it’s completely normal.

Because in our family, it is.

My parents. The coolest people I know.

Who are the coolest people you know?