Roadtrippin' Part I

I took a few weeks off this summer to do something I haven't done in a really, really long time:  road trip! As with all my vacations, if wasn't entirely spontaneous – I methodically did my research and planned my route ahead of time (only going the wrong way once), setting forth from my home base in the heartland of Canada to explore the American Southwest over the course of a much-too-brief ten days. With all that has happened since I've last been in the United States, I wasn't sure what to expect; this was, after all, my first real visit into Trump's America. 

This trip marked a test for me to get over some of the anxiety I've had behind the wheel. As previously written, last year I was driving behind a semi-truck when it fatally collided with a car overtaking the oncoming lane. The first day we hit the open road on this excursion was also marked by tragedy as another major vehicle accident with six deceased, including an entire family, occurred on one of the same highways we were traveling. As we drove through the small prairie town where it occurred, we happened upon the aftermath as a tow-truck transported one of the nearly unrecognizable SUVs. It was another poignant reminder that life is fragile and precious. 

The trip was also a time to reflect on my dad and the times we shared in my youth taking road trips with our family's wood-panelled station wagon—an 80s kid staple—and Bonair trailer. It seemed like such a simpler time. One where the realities of adulthood, stress and loss had not yet been introduced. But as I am now the age my father was back then, I realize that sense of wonder can always be recaptured if your spirit is open to it. Despite our current era, which shows an increasing lack of empathy, regard and shame, the world remains a magical place. You might have to squint at times to see it, but once you catch a glimpse, faith can be restored. 


I can't drive more than nine hours a day. That is my limit. Being the sole driver on this excursion took a lot out of me, as this was the distance we tried to span almost every day from prairie to mountains to moonscape-mirrored desert. Even though one is just sitting, glancing at scenery and singing along to Elvis, it does become fatiguing after awhile. I don't know how my father managed to do this all the time with no complaints (especially when I was acting a right shit in the backseat). I tried to emulate this zen-like state while watching the terrain evolve. In Montana, this was easy; there is hardly any traffic at all. In other parts of the country, though, becoming one with my inner Clark Griswold was more satisfying. 


After crossing the border into Montana, we turned off our phones to escape unnecessary roaming and data charges, relying instead on a Garmin GPS. I also relied on my natural sense of direction which was only overruled once. 

"Are you sure we're supposed to turn east?"

"The GPS shows we go east for a bit and then south."

"...But the time to reach our destination has increased by two hours compared to what the phones stated before we turned them off. We're heading in the direction of North Dakota ...."

"The GPS is correct. Just follow it."

And so I did. Adding two hours to our trip through the backwoods of Montana. It is beautiful country, this big sky country. 

But there's no fucking gas stations. 

 Wind farm somewhere on the back roads of Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Wind farm somewhere on the back roads of Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Big Sky Country (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Big Sky Country (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

❤️

Birthday memories of an amazing man whom I will always hold dearly in my heart. My dad will be forever loved and missed.

 My dad in New York City, one of his favourite places (2012 ©Deborah Clague). 

My dad in New York City, one of his favourite places (2012 ©Deborah Clague). 

Hong Kong X

Every morning after waking up, I would open the curtain from the window and flood my room with light from the rising sun. I wanted the view of the city—my impeccable view of Victoria Harbour—to be the first thing I saw. It was a sight that would fill me with motivation and gratitude. And as my trip was nearing its end, I wanted to soak up every minute of it in hopes that the feeling would carry forward long after I left Hong Kong. 

Beyond the view, there was something else at the window that elicited wonder from me daily. A bird would often circle around my window, perhaps able to see movement behind the glass and as curious about me as I was about him and his urban adventures.


A bird wouldn't be the only creature that I held silent conversation with. 

Visiting Buddhist temples and pausing in the presence of their serenity was a most welcome respite from the constant traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Outside, people just stared at the screen of their phone (like most everywhere else, just amplified here amongst 7+ million citizens). While inside, one couldn't help but take stock of their surroundings as the feeling of peace carried over the air with the wisps of incense. Man Mo Temple was a highlight but I also wanted to return to Wong Tai Sin, the "good luck" temple. I wanted my trip to start, and end, there in the hopes that its myth might rub off on me. 

On my second visit, I had a strange encounter. One that I should preface with a brief story because I know it's going to sound strange and unbelievable but is not, perhaps, entirely unprecedented. A few years ago, my best friend was on her own spiritual journey and found herself delving into the world of crystals, even attending a conference to learn about their supposed healing power and other mystical properties. One strange experience she shared with me was participating in a breathing exercise circle. As she paced her exhalation, eyes closed and deep in thought, she felt the sensation of someone poking her stomach. Immediately exiting her zen-like state, she darted her eyes to see who it was. And there was no one present. Admittedly, I thought she may have, ahem, also been researching other "natural" ways to seek enlightenment during this period but it turned out to not be the case and she swore by the story.

And now, back to mine. 

On my second visit to Wong Tai Sin, I again paid respects at the alters, each representing one of the five geomantic elements—metal, wood, water, fire and earth—and ended by pausing in the Good Wish Garden. It was here that I took a few moments to reflect on my newfound love for the city of Hong Kong, the hardships I've experienced over the past few years and my hope that the future would continue on a path of light ... when I felt a poke. It DISTINCTLY felt like someone's finger poking me near my ribcage. I, like my friend, immediately exited my trance and looked around to see who it was. 

But there was no one there. 

I looked down at the pond, at the koi swimming around, and for the first time I saw a turtle perched on a rock staring at me.  


At Wong Tai Sin, I returned to the same fortune teller I visited ten days prior. On this occasion, he had a line of two women awaiting his seer services. I joined them by sitting patiently on a stool outside his tiny storefront and recollecting back on the futurities he previously shared with me. After involving myself with some dubious characters over the years, that initial inquiry specifically related to my love life. People these days act like love is an archaic concept and feelings don't exist but I am not wired that way. I value honesty, integrity and respect and lament how rare they increasingly seem to be as people treat the emotions of others like commodity to be traded for ego. This toxicity can, unfairly, also taint future relationships as well and while I have met someone who possesses the strong character traits I desire in a partner, I don't want my past to hold any influence on my view of who they actually are. 

"They will travel to meet you. You will meet at an event relating to dance."

And so it was written.

My partner is originally from Kerala, India, but has lived in Australia, South Africa and South Korea performing scientific research. I met him three years ago at a salsa dancing class neither he, nor I, was planning to be at. The chemistry was immediate. All night, I noticed him staring at me (and I'm sure he did likewise). When my friend wanted to leave, I implored her to stay just a little bit longer as I felt I wasn't leaving without his number. Too shy to approach him though, I felt I could will it into fruition. Sure enough, a few minutes later he asked me to dance and the rest was history. While we've had our ups-and-downs, our ons-and-offs, we always return to each other as we are best friends. 

I waited in line for around thirty minutes and then made the decision to leave. The original fortune I received could have been somewhat vague to anyone, but there was an eerie specificity to my life that gave me hope I already found the answer I was looking for. 


The last image of my trip that will forever stay with me is flying over the red lights of a ferris wheel illuminated against the stark countryside of Taiwan down below. Sometimes the perspective you need can only be found at 20,000 feet. 

 Hong Kong sunrise (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong sunrise (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Hong Kong's famous trams, Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong's famous trams, Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Rainy afternoon in the Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Rainy afternoon in the Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Back alleys of Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Back alleys of Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Walking along the promenade at night, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Walking along the promenade at night, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Various amulets available for purchase at Wong Tai Sin Temple (you best believe I now own a "get rid of scumbag" amulet) (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Various amulets available for purchase at Wong Tai Sin Temple (you best believe I now own a "get rid of scumbag" amulet) (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 One last selfie from the top of Hotel Icon (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

One last selfie from the top of Hotel Icon (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong IX

This will be a long, photo-heavy post because the day I trekked to Lantau Island, Tai O Fishing Village and Po Lin Monastery was the most memorable of my trip. 

I get anxiety from the small things while traveling, which sounds ridiculous because I feel that traveling solo to a foreign land where you don't know anyone, not even the language, is of itself pretty bold. But things such as my first trip on a local subway or bus cause great stress and I generally put it off for a few days until I familiarize myself with my immediate surroundings (and the temperament of the local populace). During my time in Hong Kong, there were places I wanted to visit that required me to take on this fear so I couldn't put it off for long.

Entering Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station amongst a sea of people during the morning commute nearly made me break out in hives from nerves. It felt like there were more people rushing about than the entire population of the city I now live in. I searched for the least crowded ticket dispenser and felt my breathing increase as I made my way to the front of the line. "What if I don't understand how to use it?", "What if I cause the people behind me to miss their train?", "What if people start yelling at me for being an idiot?", "What if?", "What if?"

When all was said-and-done, I discovered that the Hong Kong subway is the EASIEST to navigate of all the places I've been. It's a complete breeze! And the local populace is more welcoming and patient than other western cities of equivalent size. This realization gave me a new freedom during my trip, broadening my horizon as to how (and where) I could spend the remainder of my days. The confidence these small tasks can instil should not be underestimated. Small steps can lead to great journeys. 

The train eventually took me across land and over water to Lantau Island, home of Tai O Fishing Village, Po Lin Buddhist Monastery and its "Big Buddha". To get to these sights though, I had to take a long—and very scenic—gondola up a mountain, choosing to upgrade to the glass-bottomed version for optimal viewing. On the twenty minute or so ride, I was grouped with a family from New Delhi, India. At first I sat in the corner, looking out into the distance and not wanting to infringe as they took numerous photos of each other and coordinated dance moves for a video they were making. Seriously (at one point I grew concerned at how much the gondola was rocking). The father eventually reached out asking if I wanted a picture taken of myself. After saying yes, I was pretty much adopted into their clan for the remainder of the day and even invited back to their hotel afterwards to feast on my favourite dish, biriyani, which we all agreed was better than the fish-heavy local cuisine. 

I learned that they would be moving to Canada in the coming year, seeing it as a clean break from a homeland that they described as being riddled with corruption. This echoed what I have heard from others, including my partner who is originally from southern state Kerala. They inquired as to the best place to settle in my homeland and asked just how cold our winters were. I'm not sure they believed me. But they will find out. As the conversation continued, the men - the father and his two adult sons - excused themselves from the women and invited me for a cigarette. It amused me that they assumed I smoked (I don't). When I asked if their wives would be joining, they informed me they would "never". The youngest son even tried to conceal his habit from his new bride by holding nacho chips in his hand which he felt would eradicate all traces of the smell of smoke. 

I felt a tinge of pity for his naïveté.

How little men know that when a woman wants to find out what her mate it up to, it is with the greatest of ease that she become a Russian-level spy. 


After disembarking from the gondola, I took a bus from Ngong Ping Village to Tai O Fishing Village which is pretty much constructed on stilts overtop of water. It was an amazing sight to behold and offered glimpse into a life vastly different than my own. A life revolved around the ebb of tides versus the whims of head office. I was even invited into one of these traditional homes for a brief tour. Its sparse decoration focused on pictures of family and their history, along with written Buddhist prayers. Another thing I noticed about this place was the number of dogs running about. Maybe it was their freedom, maybe it was the scraps of fish that were thrown their way, but these friendly, happy doggos beamed with contentment. I set out a goal of petting and taking pictures of all of them. 

I also took a boat ride around the general area and saw a portion of the world's longest sea bridge; the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge connects the three major Pearl River Delta cities at a span of 55km. The megaproject hasn't even opened yet and will officially welcome vehicular traffic in July 2018. 

Completing my day-long excursion, I visited Po Lin Buddhist Monastery where I hiked up to "Big Buddha" and contemplated the next steps I want to take in life.  

 Going up the Ngong Ping 360 gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Going up the Ngong Ping 360 gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Looking down at Lantau Island—and my filthy Nikes—while looking through the glass-bottom gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Looking down at Lantau Island—and my filthy Nikes—while looking through the glass-bottom gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Going up the Ngong Ping 360 glass-bottom gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Going up the Ngong Ping 360 glass-bottom gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Taking part in a traditional tea ceremony on Lantau Island (@Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Taking part in a traditional tea ceremony on Lantau Island (@Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Good boy no. 1, Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boy no. 1, Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Good boy no.2, Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boy no.2, Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Good boys no.3 and no.4, Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boys no.3 and no.4, Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Family portrait inside home in Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Family portrait inside home in Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Toilet in house in Tai O Fishing Village. I'm glad I didn't have to go because I don't know how to swim if I fell in (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Toilet in house in Tai O Fishing Village. I'm glad I didn't have to go because I don't know how to swim if I fell in (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Good boy no.5, Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boy no.5, Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 What's for dinner? Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

What's for dinner? Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 My new adoptive family, Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

My new adoptive family, Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Good boy no.6, Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boy no.6, Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Climbing up to Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Climbing up to Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Climbing up to Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Climbing up to Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018).