Francesca Street, CNN
Growing up in the US, Kim Pflieger always thought her name was relatively unusual. Sure, Kimberly was fairly commonplace, but it was one of those names with multiple available spellings, and she rarely came across another Pflieger. She figured her first and last name paired together was unique.
But with the advent of the internet, Kim became aware of another Kimberly Pflieger.
Whenever Kim created email addresses, she usually had to add a dot or a dash in there, as alternative options were already taken. As she established herself as a producer in the reality TV world, and later a life coach, this other Kimberly Pflieger, a Canadian health professional, often popped up next to her on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Kim always shortened her name, whereas the other Kimberly didn’t. Otherwise, they’d shared the exact same name with the same spelling since childhood, and even seemed to be a similar age — both in their early 60s.
Naturally curious, Kim was intrigued by the other Kimberly. Pflieger is a German name that Kim learned originated from the region of Europe once known as Alsace-Lorraine, which swapped back and forth between France and Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. Kim found herself wondering whether the two women had shared ancestry.
Midway through 2019, Kim decided to drop the other Kimberly a friendly message on LinkedIn, explaining her reasons for reaching out, hoping the stranger wouldn’t find it odd.
Less than an hour later, she received an enthusiastic response from Kimberly.
Canadian Kimberly says she had also long been aware of, and intrigued by, her US equivalent, who she knew, thanks to Google, lived a glamorous life working in television in Los Angeles.
“Wow, she has the exact same name as me, the exact same way,” Kimberly recalls thinking the first time she stumbled across Kim.
Kimberly never expected to hear from Kim, but she says she was delighted to receive the message out of the blue that day in 2019.
After a bit of back and forth on LinkedIn, the two women exchanged email addresses. Over long emails, they chatted about their respective lives as Kimberly Pflieger.
It was quickly obvious the two Kimberlys shared not only the same name, but the same outlook on life. They were both deep thinkers, naturally inquisitive, sociable and keen for connection.
“It was so easy and so fast,” Kim tells CNN Travel. “Kimberly is so curious, and so present and just so fun and so freaking smart, that we hit it off so fast.”
“We had a lot of the same values and morals and that sort of thing. So I think that sort of spurred on our conversation and created a bigger connection,” adds Kimberly.
The Zoom calls became a regular part of each woman’s social calendar; they’d connect via video call and chat for over an hour about their lives, their politics, their families and their thoughts.
“I found Kim to be a very open, warm person,” says Kimberly. “And I felt comfortable discussing aspects of my life, even though I really didn’t know her.”
As time went on and the calls got longer and the topics deeper, the two women started planning to meet in person. Kimberly and her partner were mapping out a trip to Los Angeles when March 2020 hit, and the pandemic scuppered plans.
“Canada closed its borders, so we just kept communicating through Zoom back and forth, getting to know each other more, learning about families,” explains Kimberly.
For both women, keeping up this connection was a source of comfort during the subsequent two years of lockdowns and uncertainty.
“Finding somebody you end up really connecting with at this age in our life is really, to me, rare,” says Kim.
Earlier this year, as the pandemic waned in North America and travel opened up again, the two Kimberlys were finally able to meet. Kimberly and her partner Paul flew to California to spend a week exploring with Kim and her husband Troy.
Kim and Kimberly say meeting one another for the first time in person simply felt like being reunited with an old friend, and this easy camaraderie extended to their partners too.
“All four of us said, ‘Oh my God, I feel like we’ve known each other forever and ever,'” says Kim.
The group enjoyed some great local food and bonded over a shared love of fine wine, they went on a long hike in Malibu and enjoyed lazy evenings walking by the water.
“Zoom is nice and you can have great intimate conversations, but having shared experiences with somebody really deepens the connection,” says Kim.
“And there was that physical connection,” adds Kimberly. “I’m a big hugger, so of course, as soon as we met, we had to hug, because to me, that physical connection is really important.”
And the fact the two Kimberlys shared a name was also all the more apparent when they were hanging out together, in person. It was the source of much amusement.
“That’s when it really hit me, because we’re now with partners who were calling us by our name, and I’m hearing my name,” says Kim, laughing.
Kimberly brought with her to LA various information and research on her family tree. There wasn’t an obvious link to Kim’s family, but the two women are now planning to have their DNA analyzed. They’re still intrigued as to whether there’s a link somewhere down the line.
The two women are also planning their next meet-up, with Kim and her husband set to visit Kimberly and her partner in Canada this fall, and they hope this will be the next of many vacations together.
Their dream trip would be heading to Alsace-Moselle, the region of France once known as Alsace-Lorraine where they believe the Pflieger name originates. They like the idea of digging into their family tree together, while also enjoying plenty of good French wine.
When Kim first reached out to Kimberly, she didn’t expect to find a best friend. The unexpected outcome confirms Kim’s belief in the importance of “being curious, trusting my intuition and being open-hearted.”
Both women also say their unexpected connection has brought them joy and comfort in a destabilizing period.
“I thought that it was just so heartwarming and delightful that you could make a connection with somebody that you didn’t know that lives in another country,” says Kimberly.
“You could make a connection with somebody, despite all the turmoil going on, and you could foster that, and you could make a relationship and have it grow.
And to me, that is, the biggest part about being human — it’s being open and being able to connect, because we all need social connections.”
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Top photo courtesy Kimberly Pflieger and Kim Pflieger. Kimberly is on the left and Kim is on the right.