When Jada decided to go skiing for the first time in Japan, she decided to forgo the lessons and dive head first into the unknown.


The limbo between returning home from our travels and resuming our normal lives begins when we unlock the door, abandon our bags in the kitchen, and sit on the sofa for a breather; we sit on the brink of reflecting upon what we’ve experienced and returning to reality.

‘I wish I experienced more!’, we tell the cushions.

Jet lag and regret join us on the couch as we sit in a mix of exhaustion, regret, what ifs, and I wishs, before coming to terms with the fact that we can’t do everything, and what we would’ve or could’ve done is obsolete. 

Whether we wanted to eat more,  experience more,  try more, explore more, stop more, pay attention more, talk more, spend more, we all risk drowning in the wishing well and leaving them unsolved as sediment at the bottom.

When I first began travelling, one of my biggest regrets was being so caught up in myself and forgetting the importance of authentic conversations beyond me and the little circle I’d surrounded myself in. As a 16-year-old going to Japan for the first time, a cultural school exchange was limiting – travel is about reaching beyond us, but as a young student, I was confined to the school gates and my classmates.


Round 2 – No Regrets

Fast forward to early 2020, just shy of the pandemic, I returned to Japan at 18 and swore to myself I wouldn’t be confined to familiarity and comfort, I wouldn’t just speak to the people I knew and my social circles – I would speak up at every opportunity I got.

This wish would burst out of the well and find me skiing in Hakuba, located in a mountain basin in the far northwestern Nagano Prefecture. 

I’d never been skiing before.  

‘You could break your legs!’, my more experienced snowsport friends said on the bus ride from our hostel.

‘Snowboarding is like skateboarding anyway so it’ll be easy!’

I didn’t know how to skateboard, so that was barely any reassurance. But I still reached for the snowboard when we arrived at the hire shop.

Snowboarding and I were as incompatible as snow and salt.

Any attempt to balance had me sinking face-first into the snow, a harsh thud that reminded me that no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t going to get off the practice slope and I was about to waste a lot of money. 

The time it took me to figure out how to get on the board, fail to balance on my feet, attempt the kid’s practice, and realise I’d made a grave mistake was a mere 20 minutes. I took a memento photo to say ‘Look! I went snowboarding,’ when I really hadn’t, simpered back to the hire shop and pleaded to switch to ski gear for free. I’m very lucky the shopkeeper took pity on me.


Time to Hit The Slopes – Again

With ski gear in hand and a greater sense of control with my legs apart rather than stuck to a board, a renewed sense of zeal spurred enough confidence in me to skip over the practice slope, hop on the chair lift and get off much, much later than any first-time skier should have. 

Before I kicked off down the slope for the first time, my friend’s warning replayed in my head:

‘It’s really hard to stop in skis.’

I learned this firsthand. I’ve never moved so fast in my life.

The trees were a blur, snow was flicking up in all directions and I was plummeting down the slope trying to dodge other people and keep myself from breaking my leg (or worse, my nose). I started to regret not getting off the chairlift sooner (confession: I didn’t know how to and kept missing my chance to get off). The bottom of the slope seemed both so far away and approaching way too quickly, until I felt a hand grasp my arm.

‘落ち着いでください’ Please be careful!  ‘止まれ!’ Stop!

‘無理だ!’ I shrieked back. I can’t stop! Impossible!

With a yank we fumbled together, toppling into the slope in a tangle of skis and limbs.

‘大丈夫か!?’ Are you okay?

‘I’m okay! I’m okay!’ I tried to reassure her as she checked me for injuries. She held my shoulders firmly and looked at me like a worried mother would their child, inspecting me all over and patting my shoulders and my arms.

When the adrenaline wore off, we started laughing. She shook her head at me. 

‘悪いね!’ You sure are bad at skiing!

Then as if to strike a business deal, she held out one of her hands between us, speaking to me in English very slowly.

‘Please help me my English, I will teach you skiing.’

We shook on it.


A Friendship Forged

She imparted every bit of knowledge she could about skiing despite our language barrier – that it wasn’t about just plummeting down the slope, but gliding from side to side and making your way slowly to the bottom. I learnt how to stop, how to fall safely, how to recover if I fell, how to speed up and slow down, how to manoeuvre across and down, how to stay upright. 

For every instruction she gave me, we shared conversation, bouncing between English and Japanese. Teaching and conversation blended seamlessly as she told me about her life and I told her about mine. And in return, I taught her how to introduce herself in English, how to express her thoughts, how to word certain phrases, and how to pronounce difficult words.

This would come to be one of the most educational and valuable conversations I had on my entire two-month escapade through Japan. 

No normal skiing lesson could have gifted such an enriching, challenging, and fun connection. 

The trajectory of overcoming my fear, of choosing my own path, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and biting off more than I could chew, reached a memorable resolution in the form of two people from completely different walks of life establishing a random and pure connection. She, a mother of two, and I, a 20-year old hungover traveller. 

By the time I finally reached the bottom of the slope two hours later, she could introduce herself fully to me in English and I knew how to ski. I knew her life story and she mine.

We had a celebratory cuppa when we got to the bottom of the slope, and to this day I don’t regret skipping the lessons and diving headfirst into the unknown. We parted ways at the top of the slope, like a bird leaving the nest.