The freedom of a schedule

This morning, I was sitting by the borders of the river Eem, and in the distance I could see trains passing. I had to wait for some people to show up, so my thoughts wandered off with the all station train to Amsterdam, and the intercity service to Amersfoort. I know when all these trains leave from Amersfoort railway station, so I could easily pass time calculating if they were on time. But I didn’t. Too geeky. Besides, the international service to Berlin was just passing by, drawing my full attention. And for a good reason. Seeing this train always gives me a sense of freedom.

Some of you might wonder how I could ever associate freedom with a train. It runs on rails, it runs on a schedule, and you are stuck with people you don’t know and all their habits and smells and… No, a car, or a bicycle, that is freedom. You can go basically anywhere, you can go whenever you like, and you can choose your travelling companions.

It depends on how you define freedom. For example, you can see freedom as independence. Making your own plans on where and when to go, and not depending on anyone else. And indeed I agree that a car or a bicycle gives you this type of freedom. Another one is freedom of choice. And there it becomes interesting. Do you really perceive it as freedom when you can choose to go anywhere you like, anytime you like? Maybe you do. But think of this. Freedom of choice can lead to choice stress. That you simply have to much options, and in the end settle with doing nothing at all. That you do not know enough about all the options to make an informed choice. Does that sound like freedom? Not to me.

Fortunately, there are people who have already made some trade-offs for you. Who have decided that it is a good idea to travel from Amersfoort to Berlin. Who have built a railway track between these cities. Who are running trains on set times and regular intervals. So the only thing you have to do is just be at the station on time, and hop on. The train will go anyway.


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