“I think that’s your train over there.”
Station 7B was not where we were supposed to be. Station 14 was. So there we were, watching the train in Station 14 go off in its merry way. It was 3:17 AM and the next train from Amsterdam to Utrecht would come in an hour. And while we had friets with mayonnaise and tartar sauce to keep us company, there’s no doubt that this kinda sucked.
“Are you lost?”
It’s 3:15 AM, and in comes a Dutch man named Flip – old-fashioned for Philip, he says. Like Goedhart, all we had to do was make eye contact before he posed the question. He would spend the next half hour giving us tips and advice around the best places in Amsterdam and Den Haag. Disco clubs, ethnic restaurants, book recommendations, and wise advice like how herring is good for hangovers. He wasn’t even going on the same train as us.
The conversation had been going well, so I thought I’d ask him this question:
“Is there anything you’d wish you’d have done our age?”
No regrets, he says – although he does wish that he studied abroad during his college years. He had an amazing time at university, and I get the impression that he’s travelled all around the world – but living in a foreign country as a student is much different than visiting as a tourist or living as an expat. But this is only in hindsight — something he didn’t think of until after he graduated. There was no emotional baggage from this, just the sense of “what if?”
But then he turned the question to me. What about you? People don’t ask other people (let alone someone they’ve met for less than an hour) these kinds of things unless they have some regrets themselves.
If five other people went up and asked the same question, I could have different answers for all of them. But that night I told him one.
Regret is good in that it forces you to reflect on your past so you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. And while I do wish I made some different decisions in life, I’m rather happy with how things have turned out — even if it meant missing the train and walking home in the pouring rain until 6. At least it was memorable.