The Australian-German couple who met on the seashore at Byron Bay


(CNN) — It was a summer time’s day in Byron Bay, Australia in early 2003. The solar was shining and Gianna Mazzeo, who’d been basking in its rays for many of the day, determined to clean up with a swim.

As she was popping out of the ocean, Gianna seen a bunch of males taking part in soccer additional up the seashore, calling to 1 one other as they kicked a ball forwards and backwards on the sand.

Gianna, then 27, is Australian however her mother and father are from Italy, so she’d spent numerous time touring across the EU. She figured the group have been from someplace in Europe, however she could not place the language.

As she made her manner again to her seashore towel, Gianna discovered herself gazing one of many guys, who was engrossed within the soccer recreation and unaware of her gaze.

“I believed he was extraordinarily handsome,” she remembers now.

Gianna was vacationing in Byron Bay with two associates. Certainly one of them, Alessandra, was visiting from Italy, and it was due to her that Gianna, who lived some 1,600 kilometers away in Melbourne, was in Byron Bay to start with.

“She’s from the Amalfi Coast, and I might visited her and the seashores there are completely lovely, so when she came over me in Australia I believed to myself: ‘Okay, I’ll take her someplace fairly spectacular,'” Gianna tells CNN Journey. “And so I believed I might take her to Byron Bay.”

“Pondering of how to get his consideration”

The beachside city in New South Wales is a picturesque idyll, recognized for its browsing scene, burnt orange sunsets, laid-back ambiance, good meals and vibrant seashore bars. Alessandra and Gianna have been additionally vacationing with one other buddy who was turning 30, so loads of partying alternatives have been a should.

Sitting again on the sand that January day, Gianna nudged her associates and identified the group of soccer gamers, together with the one who’d caught her eye.

“Alessandra and I simply sat there on the seashore watching these boys taking part in, and I bear in mind considering of how to get his consideration,” says Gianna. “However I used to be too nervous to do it.”

Because the day drew to an in depth, Gianna had an thought.

“Now we have this factor in Australia the place we discover a spot on the seashore and we at all times say to one another: ‘Okay, we’ll meet on the similar spot.’ You by no means form of transfer round,” she says. “And I believed maybe he did the identical together with his associates.”

With that in thoughts, Gianna and her associates headed to the seashore early the subsequent morning, purposefully setting themselves up in just about the identical spot the place the blokes had been taking part in soccer the day past.

“I needed it to look coincidental,” says Gianna. “However it wasn’t.”

Basking within the early morning solar and listening to the lapping waves, Gianna felt her eyes begin to droop. Earlier than lengthy she’d fallen into a nap.

A short while later, Gianna awoke to the sound of laughter and shouting.

Shading her face from the solar, she regarded up. Her plan had labored, the group of soccer gamers have been solely a pair meters away, exclaiming in that language she could not place.

Gianna noticed the man she’d seen the day earlier than. Immediately, the 2 of them locked eyes.

“We smiled at one another,” remembers Gianna. “And he came visiting to talk to me.”

Byron Bay is known for its surfing scene and laidback ambiance.

Byron Bay is thought for its browsing scene and laidback ambiance.

Brook Mitchell/Getty Photographs

She quickly realized his title — Sebastian Guggenberger, a 28-year-old German engineering pupil who was working in Sydney for a semester as a part of his faculty course.

A few of Sebastian’s German associates had flown out to go to him just a few days earlier than, and the group had made the eight-hour drive from Sydney for a weekend of bar hopping and browsing in Byron Bay.

Chatting up a lady on a seashore wasn’t one thing Sebastian had ever performed earlier than, he tells CNN Journey.

“However it felt proper,” Sebastian remembers as we speak. “She regarded up and smiled. I believed, ‘I actually should go over there.'”

After some time, Sebastian’s associates paused their soccer recreation and joined within the dialog and the 2 teams of associates organized to satisfy at an area bar — a Byron Bay mainstay known as The Seashore Lodge — later that day.

That night, Gianna and her associates mentioned the German guys as they waited for them to reach.

Gianna mentioned she was fascinated by Sebastian, however her buddy who was about to show 30 admitted she was fascinated by him too.

“That is fairly foolish,” says Gianna now, laughing. “However I mentioned to her, ‘Okay, look, as a birthday current. I will not do something. That is my reward to you, mainly. I will stand again.”

When the Germans arrived and greeted the three ladies, Sebastian instantly began chatting to Gianna’s buddy.

Gianna remembers her coronary heart sinking. “I believed, ‘Properly perhaps he actually is extra fascinated by her than me.'”

However then Sebastian turned to Gianna and supplied to purchase her a drink.

“We walked to the bar collectively,” she says. “And it was clear we favored one another.”

Gianna says her buddy was high quality with this flip of occasions — Gianna’s promise to again off had been extra of a joke than the rest. In any case, none of them thought the night time out was going to spark something critical.

On the finish of a night spent chatting, consuming and dancing, Gianna and Sebastian exchanged numbers.

Sebastian was really purported to be heading again to Sydney a few days later, however he realized he wasn’t prepared for the journey to finish.

He determined to increase his time in Byron Bay, calling work and reserving some further break day.

Once more, it wasn’t one thing he normally would do, nevertheless it simply felt proper.

“I believed, ‘Why not?'” he remembers as we speak.

Vacation romance

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Sebastian and Gianna with Gianna’s buddy Alessandra, on the night time they met in Byron Bay.

Courtesy Gianna Guggenberger

It was straightforward to get swept up in romance in Byron Bay, says Gianna.

She and Sebastian spent their days strolling Byron’s spectacular coastal paths, and their evenings attending to know each other at bars with ocean views.

“I noticed he was clever, witty, easy-going and well-traveled,” says Gianna.

A spotlight was the day the 2 trekked to the Cape Byron lighthouse, a beaming white mild station on probably the most easterly level of the Australia mainland.

“The lighthouse, we went there collectively — the entire romantic factor, it was very nice,” says Sebastian.

“We actually did get alongside,” says Gianna.

Saying goodbye after this idyllic week was onerous for them each.

“However he had already prolonged his keep in Byron for me, so I used to be actually grateful that we had had the additional time,” Gianna says.

As they mentioned their farewells, the 2 mentioned the potential for Sebastian coming to go to Gianna earlier than his Australian sojourn got here to an finish.

However again dwelling in Melbourne, Gianna reconnected with a man she’d met proper earlier than the Byron Bay journey.

When Sebastian known as her at some point and prompt he come for a weekend go to, Gianna needed to let him down.

“I mentioned, ‘You possibly can come, however I’ve to be sincere with you, I’ve met somebody, nevertheless it’s not critical.’ It was additionally in the beginning phases. I did not wish to deceive him. I believe he was somewhat dissatisfied,” says Gianna.

For Sebastian, this cellphone name sparked a higher realization.

“Usually I might have thought, ‘Okay, I had fun, no matter.’ However that actually did strike me weirdly and I found I had stronger emotions,” he remembers.

“I believed, ‘I actually mustn’t give that up.’ It is onerous to explain — however extra like another, not drive, however there’s one thing inside that tells you, you need to actually comply with that.”

“I believed, ‘I actually mustn’t give that up.’ It is onerous to explain — however extra like another, not drive, however there’s one thing inside that tells you, you need to actually comply with that.”

Sebastian Guggenberger

Nonetheless, Sebastian did not wish to fall additional if Gianna was pleased with another person, so he determined to not come.

In the meantime, chatting to her mom at some point, Gianna discovered herself evaluating the 2 males and the way she felt about them.

“I mentioned, ‘The man from Melbourne, he is the everyday man I at all times form of entice, he is the kind of man who’s going to string me alongside or so forth,” Gianna remembers saying.

“And I mentioned to Mum, ‘And I’ve met this man who’s fairly completely different. That is the sort of man that in all probability will not break my coronary heart.'”

A few month or so later, Gianna known as Sebastian up out of the blue to reconnect. He requested her concerning the different man.

It fizzled out, Gianna defined.

Relieved, Sebastian agreed to return see her.

Melbourne 2003

Gianna and Sebastian throughout Sebastian’s journey to Melbourne.

Courtesy Gianna Guggenberger

The 2003 System One competitors was going down in Melbourne that weekend, and Gianna had tickets.

“It was nice, he met my household, they usually all favored him. I confirmed him round, it was good,” says Gianna.

Over the course of the weekend, the 2 additionally talked about the potential for Gianna coming to go to Sebastian in Germany that summer time.

“Not as girlfriend/boyfriend, simply associates seeing one another once more,” says Gianna. “We have been each fairly relaxed and neither one in every of us anticipated a lot.”

However one thing about assembly Sebastian had ignited in Gianna an already burgeoning need to make a decisive change.

“My life had at all times been fairly structured,” she says. “I completed highschool, went on to uni. As quickly as I completed, per week later, I had a job. I used to be working as a gross sales rep for a pharmaceutical firm.

“I simply tried to do every thing proper, and I wanted to do one thing completely different.”

Inside just a few months, Gianna had give up her job and offered her Melbourne house — and determined to go to Germany not on per week’s trip, however as a part of an extended, extra open-ended European journey.

This determination wasn’t nearly Sebastian, she says. It was a possibility to journey across the continent, see household in Italy and discover new locations.

And earlier than leaving, Gianna took a TEFL course to show English as a overseas language, considering she may educate in Spain, or perhaps head on to Japan after Europe and educate there.

However first, she traveled to Higher Bavaria in Rosenheim, the place Sebastian lived.

Taking an opportunity

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Gianna and Sebastian on their first journey to Italy collectively.

Courtesy Gianna Guggenberger

“I picked her up from Munich airport,” Sebastian remembers. “I used to be dwelling in a pupil house nonetheless, with different college students, and he or she moved in. It was a tiny room, mainly, nevertheless it was enjoyable.”

Sebastian’s roommates could not imagine a lady had flown all the way in which from Australia to see him, however they favored Gianna straight away.

“Everybody loves her,” says Sebastian. “She will converse to everybody.”

Over the course of the subsequent few months, Gianna traveled round Europe, having fun with time in Germany, Scotland, Italy, Eire and Vienna, and Sebastian joined each time his research allowed it.

However by October Gianna was more and more aware her summer time of journey had an expiration date.

“I’ve to return,” she instructed Sebastian. “Or I’ve bought to discover a job.”

“Perhaps you need to keep,” he mentioned.

So she did. Inside two weeks, Gianna bought a job at Inlingua Language college in Regensburg, instructing English as a overseas language.

Gianna’s mother and father — who’d at all times seen her because the smart center daughter — have been shocked when her summer time in Europe grew to become extra of a everlasting relocation to Germany. However they trusted Gianna’s selections and needed her to be pleased.

Alessandra, Gianna’s buddy from Italy who was there when all of it started in Byron Bay, was happy to have her buddy on the identical continent, however she confided in Gianna years later that she thought the entire thing was a threat.

“She thought, how loopy to be dwelling with this man that I hardly knew. She thought it might by no means work out,” says Gianna.

However Gianna was assured it was the precise selection.

“I by no means needed anybody’s opinion,” she says. “I simply thought, ‘I do know I am doing the precise factor. I’ve by no means actually performed something like this.’ And I sort of trusted myself. I simply trusted the scenario, and I trusted him I suppose — the way in which he was, the way in which he thought. I simply knew it was proper. And it simply felt proper, it actually did.”

By Christmas 2003, Gianna and Sebastian had settled right into a routine collectively in Germany. She’d met and immediately gelled together with his household, and the 2 have been dedicated to creating the connection work long-term.

Sebastian completed up his diploma and began working in a job that always took him overseas.

And the 2 continued to journey extensively collectively once they may, a love of exploring the globe being one of many many issues that had first bonded them.

In 2005, Gianna and Sebastian spent an extended trip in Australia, returning to the shores of Byron Bay as soon as extra.

“It was simply as superb,” says Gianna.

And once they bought again to Germany, Gianna fell pregnant.

They have been each delighted to start out a household collectively, however whereas Gianna had at all times dreamed of a marriage, Sebastian says he’d by no means deliberate to get married.

“I do not know why,” he says now. He was dedicated to Gianna, however weddings had by no means been his factor.

However just a few months earlier than the delivery, Sebastian proposed a climbing journey.

“I am pregnant, I do not wish to go,” Gianna protested, however Sebastian insisted, so she relented, they usually headed to Tegensee, Bavaria, within the south of Germany.

“And once we bought to the highest, he requested me to marry him. I managed it to the highest. And I believe my first phrases have been like, ‘No manner.’ That is how shocked I used to be.”

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Sebastian requested Gianna to marry him whereas they have been climbing in Tegensee, Bavaria in Germany.

Courtesy Gianna Guggenberger

Sebastian says his change of coronary heart happened as a result of he’d as soon as once more felt overcome with certainty. It was “the identical feeling I had once I met her, or once I tried to go to her in Melbourne,” he says.

And Sebastian figured climbing was a manner of creating a proposal “attention-grabbing and never tacky.”

Gianna mentioned sure, and the couple have been married at a civil service not lengthy earlier than Gianna gave delivery to their first youngster.

A 12 months later they celebrated their marriage with household within the lovely surrounds of Bali, with visitors attending from Australia, Germany and Italy.

At some point at a time

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Gianna and Sebastian celebrated their marriage in Bali.

Courtesy Gianna Guggenberger

Within the intervening years, the couple have had two extra kids and Gianna, who arrived in Germany with out talking a phrase of German, is now fluent within the language.

Through their twin cultures Sebastian and Gianna have instilled open-mindedness and a love of journey of their youngsters.

Just a few years in the past, the household quickly relocated to China for Sebastian’s job.

The couple dove into this new journey with enthusiasm and keenness. The very fact they’re each keen to take a threat is vital to creating their relationship work, says Sebastian.

“We expect typically so alike it is scary,” he says. “However after all there are variations.”

“I embraced all of them,” says Gianna. “I’ve by no means had issues or a foul expertise. I actually love my life right here. However not at some point goes by the place I do not ring Mum, learn the Australian information on-line or miss the ocean breeze.”

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Gianna and Sebastian stay in Germany with their three kids.

Courtesy Gianna Guggenberger

It is onerous, agrees Sebastian, that Gianna’s household lives so distant, particularly throughout the pandemic.

Gianna does marvel if a return to Australia may very well be of their future, particularly when their youngsters are older — they’re twin residents, they usually would possibly specific an curiosity in learning or working there.

However each Gianna and Sebastian are of the view that it is best to not overthink or overplan for the years forward.

That is at all times been the couple’s coverage, ever since Gianna first flew to Germany. And it is labored fairly nicely for them up to now.

“We actually simply took at some point at a time,” says Gianna. “That is how our relationship sort of labored out.”

And wherever they find yourself, they know it’s going to be collectively.

“We’re removed from joined on the hip, I’ve tried to at all times give him the liberty to seek out his success and happiness,” says Gianna. “However on the finish of day we each like the concept of claiming good night time to one another.”

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