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Cycling Through Change

September 02, 2015

Cam submitted this photo from his bike tour of Africa as part of our Show Us Your Retirement campaign

Cam Kilgour rode his bicycle to and from work in downtown Toronto almost every day during his 23-year tenure as a high school teacher (and during both of his one-year teaching exchanges to Melbourne, Australia). When he retired in 2013, he celebrated by embarking on a four-month, 12,000 km bicycle ride across Africa.

Cam was born and raised in downtown Toronto. He was practicing immigration law when he saw an advertisement for a two-year teaching job in Bhutan. Cam leapt at the opportunity, and his experience sparked a passion for teaching.

When Cam returned to Toronto, he taught for a decade in Scarborough before transferring to Riverdale Collegiate in Toronto's east end. Cam saw great value in working close to home – he could make the walk or bike ride part of his daily routine to keep fit, burn off stress and avoid the sputtering gridlock the city is known for.

Cam's good friend works for the Tour D'Afrique, a company that organizes global bike expeditions. He planted a seed in Cam's mind that he should sign up for one of their tours. Cam worked up the gumption and decided to bike through Africa as a retirement gift to himself.

The tour typically starts in Cairo, but in 2014 the tour organizers decided they should set off from Khartoum, Sudan due to volatility in Egypt. From there, the group pedaled their way through urban centres and rural towns in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, ending in Cape Town, South Africa. They set out on January 10, averaged about six hours of cycling a day, and completed their trek on May 10.

"The situation I witnessed on the ground is far more hopeful than the media portrays," Cam says. "When you read stories about the various countries we were in, there is often emphasis on the negative. What I found most surprising is that there is a lot of hope in Africa. There is a lot of creative energy and a lot of positives."

Spending six hours a day on his bike, visiting countless communities offered moments of clarity about his own life back home. "We live in an increasingly complex world where technology dominates our days," he continues. "By passing through rural communities and just seeing how people lived I realized that you can live a good life without a lot of the bells and whistles."

While he's officially retired as a teacher, Cam sees this phase of his life as an opportunity to contribute to his community in new ways. "We are so fortunate to have this pension, because it gives us the freedom and discretion to manage our post-career change."

"Stay active in your community and take very good care of your physical health. Get enough rest. Contribute wherever you can. When you contribute to your community it's a win-win."