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


(CNN) — It was a summer season’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 observed a gaggle of males taking part in soccer additional up the beach, calling to 1 one other as they kicked a ball backwards and forwards on the sand.

Gianna, then 27, is Australian however her mother and father are from Italy, so she’d spent a whole lot of time touring round the EU. She figured the group had been from someplace in Europe, however she could not place the language.

As she made her approach again to her beach towel, Gianna discovered herself staring at one in all the guys, who was engrossed in the soccer sport and unaware of her gaze.

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

Gianna was vacationing in Byron Bay with two mates. Considered 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 around me in Australia I believed to myself: ‘Okay, I will take her someplace fairly spectacular,'” Gianna tells CNN Travel. “And so I believed I might take her to Byron Bay.”

“Pondering of the way 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 beach bars. Alessandra and Gianna had been additionally vacationing with one other buddy who was turning 30, so loads of partying alternatives had been a should.

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

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

As the day drew to a detailed, Gianna had an thought.

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

With that in thoughts, Gianna and her mates headed to the beach early the subsequent morning, purposefully setting themselves up in just about the similar spot the place the guys had been taking part in soccer the earlier day.

“I wished it to look coincidental,” says Gianna. “Nevertheless it wasn’t.”

Basking in 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 sleep.

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

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

Gianna noticed the man she’d observed the day earlier than. Instantly, the two of them locked eyes.

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

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

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

Brook Mitchell/Getty Photographs

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

A few of Sebastian’s German mates 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 beach wasn’t one thing Sebastian had ever performed earlier than, he tells CNN Journey.

“Nevertheless it felt proper,” Sebastian remembers in the present day. “She seemed up and smiled. I believed, ‘I actually need to go over there.'”

After some time, Sebastian’s mates paused their soccer sport and joined in the dialog and the two teams of mates organized to satisfy at a neighborhood bar — a Byron Bay mainstay referred to as The Beach Resort — later that day.

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

Gianna stated she was focused on Sebastian, however her buddy who was about to show 30 admitted she was focused on him too.

“That is fairly foolish,” says Gianna now, laughing. “However I stated to her, ‘Okay, look, as a birthday current. I will not do something. That is my present to you, principally. I am going to 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, ‘Nicely possibly he actually is extra focused on 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 fantastic 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 evening out was going to spark something critical.

At the finish of a night spent chatting, ingesting and dancing, Gianna and Sebastian exchanged numbers.

Sebastian was truly alleged to be heading again to Sydney a couple of 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 additional break day.

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

“I believed, ‘Why not?'” he remembers in the present day.

Vacation romance

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Sebastian and Gianna with Gianna’s buddy Alessandra, on the evening 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 two trekked to the Cape Byron lighthouse, a beaming white mild station on 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 exhausting 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 stated their farewells, the two mentioned the chance of Sebastian coming to go to Gianna earlier than his Australian sojourn got here to an finish.

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

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

“I stated, ‘You possibly can come, however I’ve to be trustworthy with you, I’ve met somebody, nevertheless it’s not critical.’ It was additionally at the starting levels. I did not wish to misinform him. I believe he was a little bit upset,” says Gianna.

For Sebastian, this telephone name sparked a larger realization.

“Usually I’d 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 shouldn’t give that up.’ It is exhausting to explain — however extra like another, not power, however there’s one thing inside that tells you, it is best to actually comply with that.”

“I believed, ‘I actually shouldn’t give that up.’ It is exhausting to explain — however extra like another, not power, however there’s one thing inside that tells you, it is best to actually comply with that.”

Sebastian Guggenberger

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

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

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

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

A couple of month or so later, Gianna referred to as Sebastian up out of the blue to reconnect. He requested her about 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 Method 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 two additionally talked about the chance of Gianna coming to go to Sebastian in Germany that summer season.

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

However one thing about assembly Sebastian had ignited in Gianna an already burgeoning want 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, every 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 totally different.”

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

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

And earlier than leaving, Gianna took a TEFL course to show English as a international language, pondering she may train in Spain, or possibly head on to Japan after Europe and train 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 scholar condominium nonetheless, with different college students, and she or he moved in. It was a tiny room, principally, nevertheless it was enjoyable.”

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

“Everybody loves her,” says Sebastian. “She will be able to 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 acutely aware her summer season of journey had an expiration date.

“I’ve to return,” she advised Sebastian. “Or I’ve acquired to discover a job.”

“Perhaps it is best to keep,” he stated.

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

Gianna’s mother and father — who’d at all times considered her as the wise center daughter — had been shocked when her summer season in Europe turned extra of a everlasting relocation to Germany. However they trusted Gianna’s choices and wished her to be completely happy.

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 similar continent, however she confided in Gianna years later that she thought the entire factor 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 proper selection.

“I by no means wished anybody’s opinion,” she says. “I simply thought, ‘I do know I am doing the proper factor. I’ve by no means actually performed something like this.’ And I type of trusted myself. I simply trusted the state of affairs, and I trusted him I assume — the approach he was, the approach 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 along with his household, and the two had been dedicated to creating the relationship work long-term.

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

And the two continued to journey extensively collectively once they may, a love of exploring the globe being one in all the 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 wonderful,” says Gianna.

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

They had been each delighted to begin 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 beginning, Sebastian proposed a mountain 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, in the south of Germany.

“And after we acquired to the prime, he requested me to marry him. I managed it to the prime. And I believe my first phrases had been like, ‘No approach.’ That is how shocked I used to be.”

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Sebastian requested Gianna to marry him whereas they had been mountain 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 similar feeling I had once I met her, or once I tried to go to her in Melbourne,” he says.

And Sebastian figured mountain climbing was a approach of constructing a proposal “fascinating and never tacky.”

Gianna stated sure, and the couple had been married at a civil service not lengthy earlier than Gianna gave beginning to their first baby.

A 12 months later they celebrated their marriage with household in 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

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

By way of their twin cultures Sebastian and Gianna have instilled open-mindedness and a love of journey of their children.

A number of years in the past, the household briefly relocated to China for Sebastian’s job.

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

“We predict generally so alike it is scary,” he says. “However in fact 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 youngsters.

Courtesy Gianna Guggenberger

It is exhausting, agrees Sebastian, that Gianna’s household lives so far-off, particularly throughout the pandemic.

Gianna does marvel if a return to Australia might be of their future, particularly when their children are older — they’re twin residents, they usually would possibly specific an curiosity in finding out 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 properly for them to this point.

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

And wherever they find yourself, they know it will be collectively.

“We’re removed from joined at the hip, I’ve tried to at all times give him the freedom to search out his success and happiness,” says Gianna. “However at the finish of day we each like the thought of claiming good evening to one another.”


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