THE ULTIMATE OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE - 1010 Park Place
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THE ULTIMATE OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

DAVID & ESTHER ZIMMER All Photographs ©David & Esther Zimmer, 2018
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When’s the last time you did something outside your comfort zone? For some of us that may be going to the movies, alone, but my dear friend, Esther (Essie) Zimmer, and her husband, David, are spending a year, bicycling from Turkey to Singapore. Yes… You read that right. For most of us that would be like flying to the moon!

Many of you will remember Essie. She blogged about food and body image for 1010ParkPlace, and when I was in Paris, two years ago, she came from London to Paris to meet me.

David Zimmer is an American, and his wife, Essie, an Aussie. After 14 years of living in London they decided to embark on this mind-boggling cycling trip. I keep up with their adventures on their Facebook page, Everything Ahead of You You can like their page and follow them as well. Thank you, David, for answering my questions. I’ve had to condense it. xoxo, B

What prompted this trip?

David and Essie have both travelled extensively, but their wanderlust and desire to see “what else is out there” prompted their trip. They also wanted to strip back their lives to the core; to remove all of the complexity and focus on a few simple things: the road ahead of them, the room or tent over their heads, the food and the people they’d meet. 

“We also wanted to prove to ourselves—and to others, thinking about doing something similar,” said David, “that you can, in your mid-40s, without much planning or training, go out and do something amazing.

Anyone can have a big adventure!”

How did you prepare? I remember an early Facebook video of Essie where she was just getting the hang of the bike, but you were already in Turkey.

“We researched bikes,” said David, “camping and cooking equipment; what other’s had taken on similar trips; what worked and what didn’t. There’s a constant balance between weight and comfort/luxury, so we spent time thinking about what and how we would pack.” 

A favorite moment: crossing the border into Kyrgyzstan, riding along next to a herd of horses who were running free and playing like kids. An awesome, spirit-cleansing few minutes.

David and Essie took half of a bike maintenance course and a 2-day expedition first aid course. Ten days before they left they picked up their bicycles, rode them twice, and then shipped the bikes to Istanbul.

One of their guiding principles has been to “learn as we go.” Since they were about to spend a year on a bicycle, they didn’t waste time pedaling around London. They considered the first month of their trip as their training.

So that very first video I saw on Facebook of Essie, wobbling down a street in Istanbul, was the first time she’d ridden the bike with her fully-packed “pannier bags” hanging off the bike…. I can’t imagine! What if you’d decided you couldn’t handle that much weight, girlfriend? David’s bike was loaded down as well.

July 18, 2018, the Caucasus Mountains

Other than basic route planning for their first month in Turkey, they waited until they were on the road to do more detailed destination and route planning: what roads to take and where they might pitch their tent or stay in a guest house. Many mornings they set off without being sure where they’d sleep that night.

“We were never really sure of where we’d be more than 4 or 5 days ahead,” said David, “which was part of the fun.”

On the Pamir Highway, 50km from Osh, in Central Asia. The older woman insisted David and Essie pack up their gear and follow her to a house she shared with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. They made them tea, fed them and gave them a bed for the night. 

The market in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is the little yellow blip SW of the “A” in Asia.

What’s been the hardest part of the trip?

“Getting out of London,” said David. “When you’re 44, it takes a little longer to ‘run away’ than you think!” 

The couple had to cut ties with a life they’d spent 14 years, building, together. They rented out their house; donated, gifted, recycled or sold their things; put the remainder in storage; settled finances and a myriad of other things they couldn’t do from the road.

David & Essie bicycled down this “weaving bastard” where they met a 70-year-old French couple, Mathieu & Francoise, who were hiking up the road!

They were prepared for the cycling to be even more difficult, particularly their first four months of mountain cycling. Woah! I cringed every time I saw their Facebook posts!! While the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan was tough cycling—over 4000m in altitude with rough, sandy “roads”—their key principle has been “don’t be in a hurry.” Even when the going gets tough, they just keep plugging away.

“We would have gotten more from our experience if we were able to speak more directly with people,” said David, “but not being able to speak Russian in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan hasn’t been a language barrier.”

This family lived about 50km from Murghab and were the only evidence of human habitation for dozens and dozens of miles. David & Essie spent the night in their two-room house in exchange for a few dollars.

Have you had any ah-ha moments about yourselves?

“We’re enjoying the experience on the bike even more than we thought we would,” said David. “We’re pretty proud of ourselves for how well we’ve taken to the road.”

Other than the usual homesick pangs for family and friends, they’re surprised how little they miss of their lives in London. “We love the simplicity of this life,” said David. “We have so little, but we don’t want or need for anything. It’s liberating, and you realize how weighed down we are as a society by accumulating things when we could be having more experiences and doing far more with our lives, instead.” 

At this point in your trip, will you keep traveling even though winter is setting in?

David and Essie smartly planned to cycle from west to east, starting their trip in Istanbul and ending their journey in Singapore. Their plan was to follow the warm, dry weather and avoid the snows that start in October and don’t thaw until May. That way they could cycle the long routes. Their plan worked! By cycling through the mountains in the Caucasus and Central Asia in the summer months, the high passes were still open.

This week they reached the end of the mountain leg of their route! 

Yesterday they boxed their bikes, and with the “pangs of an anxious parent,” they watched a baggage handler whisk them away as they boarded their flight to Hanoi, Vietnam, the beginning of the next leg of their trip which will end in Singapore. Southeast Asia is just entering their dry season.

“We aren’t expecting this to be a life-changing experience,” said David. “It’s a perspective-changing experience, but it’s not going to fundamentally change who we are, but how we view ourselves and our priorities.”

We’ll be following you, sweet friends! Be well. Be safe! God bless you!!

Love, Brenda

44 Comments

  • Reply Sally Leonard October 27, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Fascinating!! Brenda, thanks so much for sharing!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 10:25 am

      Hi Sally, David and Essie are amazing, aren’t they? Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Brenda

  • Reply Joanna October 27, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” Wow! That hit home! I travel every year for a few months, but the rest of the year is similar to ground hog day. I’ve travelled all over North America on a Harley, RV’d through Canada & the US, lived in four different countries, visited several more countries over the years, spend five months of the year exploring the coast from of B.C., up to Alaska and beyond on our boat, but still, I feel I should be doing more, experiencing more….what is the next adventure?

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 10:30 am

      Hi Joanna, That quote made me pause in my tracks as well. You’ve had lots of adventures, but the Harley… That scares me! Last week a friend was riding his Harley, doing everything right, when I guy in a car hit and killed him. We’re all devastated…. Just devastated. I used to go on a wild adventure every six weeks or so, but now, I no longer have anyone to travel with, and a lot of trips I don’t want to do alone. Tell me when you figure out your next adventure. I want to go to Cambodia to see Angor Wat. Thanks so much for your awesome comment, Brenda

  • Reply Esther Zimmer October 27, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you, Brenda! I read this twice marvelling that those two people are actually David and I! I commented to David at breakfast that you’ve reminded me of just how extraordinary this trip is – it’s not that it’s started to seem ‘ordinary’, quite the opposite – but crossing borders and arriving into new countries and dealing with all that comes with that: New culture, language, customs, food, currency, etc. and cycling off into the unknown does seem ‘normal’ to us now. It seems like a lifetime ago I wobbled down that street in Istanbul with my panniers attached to my bike for the first time. In answer to your “What if you’d decided you couldn’t handle that much weight, girlfriend?” question – I figured if Cheryl Strayed could manage ‘Monster’ all those miles, I’d be able to manage on my two wheels! It was never part of the plan to ride off without testing the weight first, but it sure does make for a better story. Love you, Essie xx

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 10:41 am

      I love seeing you here, Essie! What an amazing adventure you and David are on. While David says he doesn’t think it will change who you are, I think it’s going to have a huge impact on your life in ways you couldn’t have imagined. I’ve even wondered if it will be hard to go back and live a more “traditional” life? When I stopped my “adventures,” I ultimately saw a therapist because I missed that lifestyle and the adrenaline, but it was in the best interest of me and my “new family.” Since then I’ve learned we can make every stage of our life an adventure… not just a year we live 75 times. Love, Brenda

  • Reply Beckye October 28, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Wow! How amazing! I wish I had known sooner! Our family has gone to Kazakhstan twice so those people and markets brought back great memories! The people of Central Asia are very sweet, and the mountains are beautiful. I’ll check out Essie’s blog! Exciting trip and so freeing, I’m sure! Kudos!! And God bless you both on the rest of your trip!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 10:42 am

      Beckye, Somehow that doesn’t surprise me! Yes, keep Essie and Davie in your prayers. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Taste of France October 28, 2018 at 9:25 am

    The photos are jaw-dropping. So they went north around the Caspian Sea? Otherwise they would have run into Iran. I’m not on Facebook, so I’m trying to guess their route. But Turkey leads to Georgia, which is in a kind-of war with Russia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and then Russia itself, before getting to Kazakstan and then Kyrgyzstan. I’m glad they had smooth travels!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 10:54 am

      TOF, From time to time David and Essie have posted maps on Facebook. Even so, I’m not sure how to answer your question, but my concerns have been for their safety; that they might get into parts of the world that are at war… My worries aren’t over because there’s a lot of civil unrest in Cambodia. Just when I had myself talked into going… alone… The U.S. enacted a strong travel advisory/warning about traveling in that part of the world. I’d still like to go… Thanks for your comment and the input. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Donna O'Klock October 28, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    Great artivle, Brenda! So nice to “see” them and the fantastic photos of their amazing, courageous, and mind-opening adventure!!
    XO

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 10:56 am

      Donna, Thanks for reading! They are amazing and courageous, that’s for sure! You and your sweetie have chosen a nontraditional lifestyle, but I don’t worry about you… LOL! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Christina Daggett October 29, 2018 at 12:19 am

    Loved this post, Brenda. My husband and I are Perpetual Travelers, so I found this couple’s story inspiring.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 11:17 am

      Hi Christina, Yes, with your lifestyle, I know you’d enjoy reading about David and Essie. Your latest post was quite interesting, thinking about buying a B&B. That would be a brave thing to do. I know Americans who’ve bought land/homes in Mexico just to have the Mexican government take it back… not buy it back, but take it. Scary! Looking forward to reading your next post, Brenda

  • Reply Haralee October 29, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Brave people!Not in a million years would I take on that kind of adventure. That said I enjoy reading and wish them safe journeys!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 11:19 am

      Hi Haralee, I couldn’t do that, either, but then I’m at a different stage of life and don’t have a mate… both are huge factors in what I do from here on out… and money. It is fun to read about how others are living their lives, isn’t it? xoxo, Brenda

  • Reply Leanne | crestingthehill October 29, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    What an amazing journey – and they are much braver (and hardier) than I am. The photos are beautiful and I’m sure it will be one of those memory making adventures that they will be re-living and re-telling for many years to come.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 30, 2018 at 11:23 am

      I agree with you Leanne! I think it’s going to have an even bigger influence on the rest of their lives than they think it will. This may not be the best analogy, but many people who’ve been homeless for a longtime and are then given an apartment and a job find themselves returning to live on the streets. They don’t like the confining nature of a place with a roof. On one hand, I can understand that, but on the other… I couldn’t be “homeless” and with all that brings with it. xoxo, Brenda

  • Reply Natalie October 30, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Bravos to David and Essie to make their adventurous plan come true. Thanks, Brenda, for sharing the story and beautiful photos. #MLSTL

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 11:57 am

      Hi Natalie, Thanks for reading and supporting David and Essie on their journey! Brenda

  • Reply Min @ Write of the Middle October 30, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks so much for introducing us to Essie and David. Wow – what an experience they’re having and how brave of them to pack up their lives to do it. Good on them. Their story fascinates me so I’m gonna have to follow them and their adventures!

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 11:59 am

      Thanks, Min! They’ll be thrilled you’re following them and you will be as well. Brenda

  • Reply shelley October 30, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    Wow – I’m inspired and in awe. I can’t imagine myself actually doing something like this although there are days when I dream about running away from home. Will be anxious to hear the rest of the story!

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Shelley, I loved David’s remark about “running away,” because little kids first come to mind, but why can’t adults as well? They’ve given us all something to think about. Thanks for reading and for your comment, Brenda

  • Reply Patricia October 30, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    This made my own out of comfort zone experience seem so minor! What an amazing thing to accomplish. Thanks for sharing Essie & David’s experience with us. Visiting from #MLSTL

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      Hi Patricia, I felt the same way about my “out of comfort zone experiences,” and I’ve had some doozies! So happy you stopped by. Hope to see you again, Brenda

  • Reply Victoria October 30, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    I can not imagine stepping this far out of my comfort zone. lol I think it is awesome that these folks are doing this and sometimes I wish I could be like they are.

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Great to see you, again, Victoria!! I think it’s interesting that I’ve featured TWO women and one man recently who’ve done something way out of their comfort zone. David and Essie and Cheryl Strayed, author of the book, Wild, and subsequent film with Reese Witherspoon, who hiked the Pacific Coast Trail from California to Oregon. Both are such incredible journeys!! xoxo, Brenda

  • Reply Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond October 31, 2018 at 12:12 am

    What a fabulous adventure and nothing I’ve done out of my comfort zone can compare. Thank you for sharing Essie & David’s experience with us at #MLSTL and have a beautiful week.

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      Hi Sue!! Lovely to see you here, again, and thanks so much for appreciating what David and Essie are doing! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Debbie October 31, 2018 at 5:29 am

    What an amazing storey. I take my hat off to them for being so brave and stepping outside their comfort zone. Thanks for sharing #mlstl

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks so much for reading, Debbie, and leaving a note for me and David and Essie! Brenda

  • Reply Christie Hawkes October 31, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Amazing. That is so far out of my comfort zone that it’s not even tempting. First of all, I’m not a fan of riding bikes. Second, I am a planner. Flying by the seat of my pants, not knowing where I would sleep in an unknown land, I would be a jumble of nerves. Still, there is something to be said for stripping our lives down to what is right here right now, and this trip certainly sounds like that. The last time I stepped way out of my comfort zone was riding a bike actually–on a trail for 30 miles. I knew what I’d be having for dinner and where I’d be sleeping. 🙂 Still it was a stretch for me, as I hadn’t been on a bike for decades.Thanks for sharing this couple’s incredible story. #MLSTL

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      LOL! I know what you mean, Christie. I’m not crazy about bikes, either, so when you say you rode on a trail for 30 miles… That sounds out there for me. Hiking or going into the great unknown, alone… That I can do, but not bikes! Thanks for leaving your awesome comment, Brenda

  • Reply Sherry Macdonald October 31, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Great story Brenda, I would love to do something like that! I backpack but only for a few days at a time because of work. What incredible views and experiences. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Sherry, Backpacking is adventurous! My friend and supermodel, Kim Alexis, went to Italy for three weeks with only what she could put in her backpack. That didn’t appeal to me, but she had a fabulous time… and without makeup… no one recognized her!! Thanks for stopping by, again and leaving a great comment, Brenda

  • Reply Jennifer Jones October 31, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    Such an adventure David & Essie are on. I’m sure there will be many out of comfort zone moments. Loved reading this #MLSTL Shared on SM

    • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jennifer. A good question for David and Essie will be “what’s been outside their comfort zone?” Brenda

  • Reply Janet Mary Cobb October 31, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    Wow – what a great adventure! Thanks so much for sharing! #MLSTL

  • Reply Brenda Coffee November 1, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Janet, I appreciate it that you took the time to stop by, read about their adventure and leave me a comment! Hope to see you, again, Brenda

  • Reply Janice L Person November 1, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Love travel and plan for it routinely! My plans always call for flexibility!

  • Reply Brenda Coffee November 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Janice, Then without knowing you, I’d say your an easy going, happy woman! Exactly the kind of person I’d like to travel with. Not everybody is flexible or can go off somewhere and be okay if their plans change. Good deal!! Thanks for your great comment and for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate you, Brenda

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