The Law of Large Numbers

As the sun began to set on our first day back on the road we were feeling beat down. We had hit terrain that slowed us to a snail’s pace and it looked like our goal of getting to the state park to camp was going to be impossible to reach. Then, while taking a short break to eat an energy bar and turn on our lights, a man approached and offered us help. He was a local cyclist and volunteered to drive behind us as we rode to protect us from traffic. Was this divine intervention from Jesus, like many of my family members would say? Was this the universe guiding us along our destiny?

No. This was simply math.

While many of our interactions on the road may seem designed, they are really just a consequence of us being out in the world a lot. We’ve been at breweries at the same time as someone who saw us two days earlier. We’ve left REI right as a cyclist is leaving and offers us a place to stay. We’ve pulled into a park right as a storm starts to rain down on us. It seems that fate/god/whatever is pulling for our success and safety.

But, we’ve also left a town right as a windstorm stops us in our tracks. We’ve arrived at a city just in time for the 4th of July festivities that fill the campgrounds and leave us nowhere to sleep. We’ve had three tubes blow in a three block radius. We’ve biked on the hottest day of the year and arrived at our scheduled water point to find the water is contaminated and had a boil order… meaning it was undrinkable and we were out of fluid. It seems that fate/god/whatever wants our ride to fail or us to die.

Nope. It is just math.

When you spend 10-12 hours a day biking in new places you interact, however passively, with thousands of people each week. It is incredibly likely that some of these people will be friendly, share your interests, and be able to help you. It is also likely that you will get rained on sometimes or reach shelter just in time to prevent getting wet. Sometimes the rest area has functioning water and sometimes it doesn’t. The more new interactions you face the greater the likelihood that rare events will happen.But, you don’t need to be on a four-year bike tour to experience this. Just look at how my partner and I met.

We met for the first time at my going away party in Washington DC. She was there visiting her college roommate who was also my coworker. Any number of things, big and small, throughout the Universe’s existence could have prevented her from being there. If she had a different roommate, went to a different college, the sperm that created her wasn’t the first to the egg, our mutual friend didn’t take the job with SFL, etc. And, on the other side, are a near infinite number of things that could have prevented that party from happening or me being there. And, even more things that could have made our personalities incompatible. So yes, it is true, the chances of my partner and I getting together is incredibly close to 0%, but the chances of each of us finding someone who we are compatible with is incredibly close to 100%. The thousands of people we meet connect us to thousands that they know and they connect to thousands of other people.

Fate doesn’t bring people together into close relationships, math does. We naturally disconnect from people we aren’t compatible with and draw close to those we are compatible with. We filter out hundreds of thousands of people until we find someone that is good enough.

So yes, we have some crazy things happen to us but that is simply because we left our town. Crazy things are bound to happen when you go to new places, meet new people, and try new things. Get out there and do enough stuff and you are virtually guaranteed to experience something that is unlikely and unexpected but, if you stay in the same place, see all the same people, work at the same job, vacation at the same places, watch the same shows, etc then you will never experience anything new, much less experience anything unique.

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