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Local senior dedicates life to science, travel

Dennis Proctor's life has taken him from New Zealand around the world, before coming to Prince George
Dennis Proctor WEB
Researcher Dennis Proctor’s work has taken him to Antarctica, South Asian, Africa and the Canadian Arctic.
Dennis Procter started his life in Christchurch, New Zealand and earned his first degree at Canterbury University before heading to the Antarctic as a researcher. 
Shortly after that, at age 22, he arrived in Vancouver, to study dragonflies for his master’s degree at UBC. Then he went to the University of Alberta in Edmonton to study soil-living nematodes for his PhD. That got him to Devon Island in the Arctic for research into extreme biomes. He has been a Canadian ever since.
“After graduating I got a job with CIDA (Canadian International Development Association) and that took me to Botswana…for a university development project, mostly training personnel.” Says Dennis, “The job lasted nine and a half years.”
His work took him to interesting places and inspired his travels. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice in Africa and travelled to the Amazon and Papua New Guinea. After his time in Botswana, CIDA sent him to Bhutan for a couple of years.
“My parents came to visit me when I was in Botswana and Bhutan. They were travellers already, but they wouldn’t have done those places if I hadn’t been there.” Dennis smiles, “I am the son of my parents; I got a double dose of addiction to travelling and the jobs came along at the perfect time.”
He returned to Canada and got his degree in Education through the University of Calgary. In 2000, UNBC offered him a job and he came to Prince George as an educator and ecologist.
In 2016, at the age of 71, Dennis thought it might be time to retire. He continued instructing part time until 2018 when he decided it was time to focus on his love of cycling and travel.
As a boy, Dennis wasn’t keen on cycling. Instead, his love of competing took him through running and ballroom dancing. But both had to be let go because of his arthritic knees. 
“I’d been racing bikes for about 10 years off and on. I’m quite severely arthritic…from injuries in my early fifties. I was a runner – I was warned… so I started getting out of it,” says Dennis wryly.
 “I had a spell – here – race walking. And I did quite well! I had the potential to go farther I suppose but with the arthritis, I couldn’t straighten my knee and that is necessary in the upper levels. But it did smooth my transition out of running.”
“After the race-walking, I picked up cycling. It was faster, and not weird. Race walkers are actually very good athletes but sometimes I’d pretend I wasn’t me when I was race walking. Cycling is versatile and you can do almost anything on a bike except climb a rope.”
In 2018, Dennis took his “coming out” trip to Taiwan, an island nation with a strong cycle manufacturing background. He stuck mainly to the coast and headed for the foothills from time to time. Taiwan is mountainous, with its highest road pass being 10,700 feet, not something he was ready to tackle! He feels he did not take enough time. The country and the people deserved more than five weeks.
In 2019 he headed to Japan for a cycling tour of the northern half of the country, including Honshu and Hokkaido. He was delighted. The people were what he expected and more.
“In Hokkaido they have this really inexpensive set up called ‘Rider’s Houses’ meant for motorcyclists. Very rough and ready…in one place it was a couple of railway carriages. Aimed at motorcyclists but they did not mind us cyclists using them.” Dennis smiles, “You meet different kinds of people. …You see different things depending on how you choose to travel.”
Dennis’ openness to meeting people led to him being invited home by a fellow cyclist in Japan when they were both taking refuge from a storm. He wears his cycling kit and has an unusual road bike, not a racer, but one built for an aggressive rider. No hiding what he is!
Covid put a stop to his 2020 trip to southeast Asia. He had wanted to tour the mountain villages in Vietnam and Laos with an eye to adopting one or two. At 76, single and with no children, he thinks a lot about how to give back. A friend is involved in doing something similar in Columbia, but his heart is set on Laos.
“I am a former competitive ballroom dancer. These people have held on to their traditions, their dances and I would like to document the dancing. I am a biologist, ecologist, and an educator. Maybe that could work too.” Says Dennis.
That trip is on hold for now. Meanwhile our world traveller has been getting restless, so he will be heading to Iceland soon.
“I am restless, conscious of time passing. Iceland is different, an interesting country, they like tourists, they need tourists. So, Iceland is my COVID breakout trip.”