The couple

The first time I saw Pernille was in the back of a ute outside Chiang Mai in the early 90s. She was travelling with her mother, I was backpacking with my brother, and we were all heading off to spend a week deep in the Thai jungle.

Of course her looks caught my eye – she was a beautiful, blond, Danish 18-year-old. But she and her mother were refreshing and intriguing people, and I hadn’t really met any Danes before. During that trip I didn’t waste much time thinking about romantic pursuit. I just quietly admired her from a distance, thinking there was no way I’d get anywhere with her mum around.

Two weeks later I was in Malaysia, walking down the street in George Town, Penang, and she appeared through the crowds like a mirage. It was a real “the clouds parted” kind of moment.

She and her mother were en route to Indonesia and my brother and I were off to India, but both of our flights had been delayed so we all spent the evening together. Pernille and I connected on all sorts of things – she was interested in astrology and mythology, which really attracted me.

This time we exchanged details and off we went on our separate adventures. Over the next few years she crossed my mind but I never wrote. I don’t know why. You know what young blokes are like.

‘We’ve had our hard times… But we’ve made it through and this year we’ll celebrate 30 years of marriage’: Geoff and Pernille

But two years later, home in Brunswick Heads, I received a letter from her – although it was addressed to both my brother and me. That evening when he suggested we reply, I said: “Mate, I’ve already sent it.” I’d written back within the hour and gone straight to the post office.

A few months later I had moved to Sydney and in early December I greeted her as she stepped off a long-haul bus in Kings Cross. We were awkward but very excited. We talked until 4am. I think we sort of knew it wasn’t just going to be a friendship. We borrowed my mum’s van and went on a little camping trip. Romance blossomed.

About a week later we were in a park in Glebe, and she confessed she’d told her mother that if she were to marry anyone it would be me. I said: “I’d marry you tomorrow,” and that was it. I didn’t have to get down on one knee or anything. From that minute we just knew we would be together.

The odds of running into her that day in Penang must have been astronomical. It has given us a sense of fate about our meeting, as if it was meant to be. Pernille is a very instinctive person and always trusts her gut. Even though I can be analytical I like to think I have good instincts too. And what amazes me is how little was said that day in Glebe and how much was understood.

Early in the new year we took off again, to Singapore, India and her Viking homeland. Less than a year after we were reunited in Sydney, we got married at Copenhagen town hall in 1993. No guests, just the two of us. I took our wedding photo, balancing my camera on a tree stump.

We came back to Australia in late 1998 and had three children. Deciding where to make our life has been one of the hardest choices. Ultimately Australia won, for lots of reasons – but mostly the climate.

Love is about acceptance; you don’t have to agree on politics, it doesn’t have to be lovey-dovey all the time. I think that’s where we’ve managed to get it right, accepting each other’s differences. We’ve had our hard times – marriage isn’t easy for anybody. But we’ve made it through and this year we’ll celebrate 30 years of marriage.

With my daughter now living in Copenhagen, I’m worried she’ll meet a Danish boy and never come home. My mother-in-law laughs at that – she knows how I feel.

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