Photo: YoshimaiFeature Photo: US Department of State

Kaitlin Mills shares the moment she lost her travel virginity in Beijing.

Different people from every walk of life stuffed into a crowded plane for eight hours. Americans, Canadians, Londoners all sitting around me, the different twangs in their voices drifting over to me. I would never see them again once I stepped off the plane.

Walking through Singapore International Airport, watching guards walk past, holding machine guns high in front of their chests. My heart beating a little bit faster; unable to tear my eyes away; getting closer to something.

Getting into a taxi in Beijing, watching the country zoom past, greenery and poverty, elegant buildings next to shacks, people and possessions spilling out into the land. A sprawling college university, a town inside itself, gleaming, still newly built, next to a shanty town. The same people living their lives so completely differently with only a metre wide murky river to separate them. Watching a truck speed by, the doors wide open, people sleeping inside, people sitting there, nothing between them and the concrete dashing past.

A line of gardeners pulling out weeds all working together, their only job for the day in an overcrowded country, the same job one person could have done in an hour with a lawn mower. Five people in every aisle of the grocery store just waiting to help.

Photo: ppz

Getting completely lost in a city with more than three million people, knowing only Ni Hao as a single bit of Mandarin. People working on a three storey construction site with no safety equipment.

Haggling in a strange mix of English and Mandarin was almost at the edge. Pushing onto a crowded bus, now no longer bothering to say sorry in a language that wouldn’t be understood. Eating a meal that would never have been touched at home.

Trying to get a rapid heartbeat under control after climbing step after step, staring out into the distance as the crumbling wall faded into the distance was close.

Calling out a greeting in Mandarin to the guy climbing on the mountain picking up litter.

That was the moment.