A Travel Story

The Ashland Connection

I’ve written an ebook and audiobook in my Travel Psychologist Travel Tales Series on the best of my own collected personal travel stories of my extensive life of travel. I’m so proud of this ebook. Why not have a looksee or a listenhear?

Wonderment Image

An Excerpt from
Travel Tales of Michael Brein: My Best 100

For it’s water, water, water, that makes you feel you oughter in the halls . . . in the halls . . . For it’s water, water, water that makes you feel you oughter in the halls of Beta, Beta Sigma Rho . . .” (Part of the fraternity song).

What happens when the lines of life criss cross in such unbelievable bizarre ways? What happens if a life event involves not only one synchronicity—an apparently meaningful coincidence that seems impossible to happen merely by chance—but a series of five of them that are intertwined? How do you reconcile in your mind that what happened to you may have so significantly defied the laws of chance—no, make that the inviolable laws of the universe—as to be truly unfathomable and unexplainable, and with leaves you dumbfounded in its wake, which for most of us goes far beyond acceptance and belief?

Are there any accidents? Does synchronicity play a part as yet another organizing principle of the way the universe works? And better yet, can a quintuple entangled synchronicity happen purely by chance? I doubt it.

Here’s my unbelievable travel synchronicity experience surrounding Rahway, New Jersey and Ashland, Oregon.

Part 1: The Odds

Nearly everyone I have ever met has had at least one odd synchronicity experience in his or her travels or everyday lives. By this I mean that an apparently meaningful coincidence happens to all of us one time or another, which seems to happen beyond the normal probabilities of chance.

They say there are more stars in our vast universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches and deserts of Planet Earth. Of course, it is hard to believe (and impossible to prove). And they also say that there are no accidental coincidences–that they all must mean something in our lives, even if seemingly insignificant—and that the likelihood of such unbelievable coincidences happening strictly by chance or by accident is infinitesimal, say, maybe, one in a million or so!

Now, that may hold true for a single coincidence perhaps. And let’s suppose that you have a complex synchronicity event that is compounded with, e.g., maybe two intertwined coincidences that happen together. The likelihood of such a compound synchronicity occurring by chance decreases the odds significantly, say, to, perhaps, one in a billion.

Now, let’s say that you have a combined synchronicity experience that is so involved and so compounded—not a single coincidence, not a double coincidence, and maybe not even a triple coincidence—all happening at one and the same time. What are the odds of that happening? One in a trillion?

Now, consider what happened to me—a quintuple complex coincidence, no less! Let’s say that my travel synchronicity story involves about five unbelievable levels of meaningful coincidences, all intertwined and all happening at once! How is that possible? And what are the odds of that happening to anyone?

Now, I posit to you that the chances of what happened to me in my travel story, “The Ashland Connection,” is so unbelievable, and so unlikely to have happened by chance, that the odds of this happening to me may be no more than one in as many grains of sand on all the beaches and deserts on the earth—and, therefore, possibly more than all the galaxies, stars, and planets that populate our universe!

I say to you that such an experience that happened to me is not only possible—it really did happen!

Hard to believe? Read on and decide for yourself.

Hemispheres Magazine

Flight to Philadelphia—Hemispheres, May Issue

I was traveling at the end of May from Ashland to New York City to attend the “BookExpo America” annual trade show, where I was to display and promote my travel guide series—Michael Brein’s Travel Guides to Sightseeing by Public Transportation.

My route was to fly on United Airlines from Medford, Oregon, first to Philadelphia (to visit my sister for a few days), then take the train from Philly to New York, attend the book show, and then fly back from New York to Medford, again, on United. I would be going to New York at the end of May and returning at the beginning of June.

On my first United Airlines flight en route from Medford, I pick up the May issue of United’s inflight magazine, Hemispheres, to look at it later, and to write to the magazine editors to inform them about my travel guide series and ask if they would conceivably publish a brief mention or a review of my travel guides in Hemispheres at some point.

Train to New York—The ‘Rahway’ Sign

On the train from Philly to New York, I pass a town called Rahway, New Jersey. I remember glancing at the sign and recalling that I knew someone from Rahway some forty-two years earlier, when I attended Carnegie Mellon University (formerly Carnegie Tech). Then I attended BookExpo America in New York City.

Flight to Medford—Hemispheres, June Issue

On the return flight west, I grab a copy of the new June issue of Hemispheres Magazine and put it in my attaché case, again intending to read it later, for the same reason, namely, to ask them if they might consider writing a review of my travel guide series in their magazine—indeed a long shot, and certainly very much wishful thinking on my part. No harm in trying, right? What are the chances they would do that?

Travel Guides

Part 2: The ‘Coincidences’

Coincidence #1

I arrive home in Ashland. The first thing I do is to go to my kitchen counter to look over the pile of waiting mail. I spot a large white envelope with the return address, Hemispheres Magazine. Hmm, that’s strange. What can this be, I wonder? I open the envelope, and to my total surprise, I see a copy of that very June issue which I had just grabbed on the flight back, but didn’t yet look at! “Interesting coincidence,” I muse. That selfsame magazine I had right in my briefcase!

Coincidence #2

The consternation does not stop there, however. I mean, I NEVER, ever had a copy of that magazine mailed to me! —especially when I just happened to have saved that very same issue of the magazine on my return flight.

On it is an attached business card with the words, “Courtesy of the Editor. See page (such and such).” I then eagerly open the magazine, and to my total astonishment, there it is—A REVIEW OF MY TRAVEL GUIDE SERIES! Wow! And I hadn’t even opened the magazine on the flight! I was aghast.

Coincidence #3

I then go upstairs to my loft office to check my email on my computer, and as expected, there are indeed a few online orders for my travel guides awaiting my attention while I was away. They could be from Anywhere, USA . . . Europe, Egypt, Hong Kong, Australia . . . And lo and behold—an order from ASHLAND—right where I LIVE—my very own hometown—awaits me! I have NEVER had an online order from where I lived—simply unbelievable!

Coincidence #4

I look at the order . . . The name of the person is the SAME last name as the person I knew in Pittsburgh some forty-two years earlier at Carnegie Mellon—and the same person from Rahway that the sign the train passed on the way to New York reminded me of.

Could this possibly be that very same person? I even laughed, because the notion was simply absurd to me. And now living in MY own town? And ordering my guides online?

But the coincidences do not quite end here. I email back and offer to PERSONALLY deliver their order! Remember, this order could have been from ANYWHERE in the world. So I joke and ask if I should deliver it personally to them—door-to-door service!

Or would they prefer to pick it up at my place—an interesting llama ranch on top of one of the local mountains? For you see, I don’t think that they had any idea at all that they were ordering my travel guides online from literally just around the corner from them! For all they knew, they were ordering these publications from who-knows-where.

They elect to pick it up at my house!

I ask in the next email, if he could possibly be, perchance, that selfsame person I knew once upon a time, some forty-two years earlier at Carnegie Mellon?

I get an almost immediate telephone call back. I hear the voice, and to my incredible amazement, I actually RECOGNIZE it! Now, honestly, I never had but a few conversations with Jan C back in those days at Carnegie Mellon. He responds rather energetically and enthusiastically, “I would indeed be that person!”

I am so taken by this that I even sing to him the fraternity song. Now, what’s amazing about this feat is that I can NEVER remember the words to songs, let alone the words to one so obscure as from an era forty-two years back, but the words flowed, nonetheless.

Jan C and his wife come over and pick up their guides. We have a brief reunion from some four decades earlier, marveling at this set of sheer unbelievable coincidences!


Coincidence #5

I asked them how they happened to hear about my travel guides and why they interested them. They said that they were into public transit, so when they read about my series in Hemispheres while on a recent United flight, they were prompted to order a couple of copies.

Jan C had not actually recognized my name at all, ordered a couple of my guides online, not having any idea that I actually lived in the same VERY small town as they did, and they most certainly had no inkling at all of the incredible coincidences that made up my compound synchronicity—the ‘Ashland Connection.’

The impossibility of this synchronicity was not at all lost on them, either. After all, they were statisticians.


Do the paranormal and the strange pique your interest ever so slightly?

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