Adventure|Cultural Exploration

The Focal Point: Humdrum Life in Beijing

Written by Shaun Swartz

Welcome back to “The Focal Point” – the space in which we’re sharing the images and stories from our travels abroad that left us inspired to plan our next journey. Have an image or story you want to share? Send it to us and don’t be shy! Send it via email ( or Instagram DM (@GoBeyondStudentTravel). So without further ado, this week’s travel abroad blog story and China travel photos come to us from the skinny streets of Beijing – Enjoy!


China was a mystery.

Equal parts intriguing & beautiful, yet nerve-wracking to navigate and nearly impossible to ever fully understand. At once, China was gritty – raw from a breakneck pace of urban development – but simultaneously proudly aware of its historical longevity, as if torn between a desire to globalize and a need to preserve the lessons of foregone schools of thought.

Central Beijing’s winding, narrow hutongs are a concrete labyrinth in which time and spatial relevance seem to carry less weight with each spiral toward the city’s center. A piece of the maze unlocking with every turn. Novelty here is in no short supply, as meandering these alleys will find niche camera stores sharing space with butcher shops and souvenir stands. These hutongs are a slice of humdrum Beijing life – more familiar than foreign given time to observe. Two women chatting on a corner; a sprouting curbside garden; a trash collector blocking commuters; two friends sharing an umbrella. It’s funny how the world becomes a lot less scary when focused on our similarities rather than our differences.

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