German woman puts down roots in Homer
In 2009, 24-year-old Daria Gesenberg set out from her hometown of Dortmund, Germany to travel alone. She expected to meet new people and to see interesting places. What she did not expect was to meet her future husband or, to eventually move to Alaska.
In Germany, Gesenberg worked as an orthopedic nurse and then in an intensive care unit.
"The job was a dream come true, but after two years, I needed a break from being around so much trauma and death, and so I decided to travel," she said.
And so Gesenberg quit her job, left her apartment and set out to travel solo, wandering through Thailand, Vietnam, Fiji and New Zealand. While hanging out on a beach in New Zealand, she met Rudy Multz, a young man from Homer, Alaska.
"We spent the whole day on the beach talking," she said. "When he told me he was from Alaska, I was confused because I didn't know that much about Alaska. And when he told me about his large family, I realized that their lifestyle was a lot different than mine."
For the next three weeks, the pair travelled together. Then, Gesenberg returned to Germany and Multz returned to Alaska.
"I knew that I wanted to see him again," she said. "I went home to work and saved up money."
Six months later, Gesenberg flew to Alaska to spend more time with Multz and to meet his family.
"I was so nervous," she said. "Rudy picked me up at the airport in Anchorage and we drove to a festival in the middle of the forest. It was raining and we hung out in a tent."
The couple spent three months getting to know one another, building a yurt on the family's property north of Homer, and deciding that they wanted to be together.
In 2011, Multz joined Gesenberg in Germany. When the couple got pregnant, Multz returned to Alaska to work and save money and Gesenberg continued to work as a nurse.
"Being alone during the pregnancy wasn't difficult because I had my friends and family around me," she said.
Seven months later, Multz returned to Germany, the couple got married and their baby, Luca was born.
"Finding out I was pregnant was a surprise, but I'm glad it happened," she shared. "It would have been nice for Rudy and I to have some more time to live and travel together before Luca was born, but we've grown as a good team together. We've been through some challenging times, but that made us stronger together."
At the end of 2012, the young family moved to Homer. Gesenberg, now Mrs. Multz shared that it took about a year and a half to adjust to the culture shock, to settle in and to figure out what she was doing.
"I was pretty isolated my first summer here because I didn't drive and I didn't know anyone except Rudy's family," she said. "Going to the grocery store and trying to find good, organic and unique things was a surprise and, being with an infant was a big enough change for me, but being a new mother in a foreign country made it even more challenging."
While she had studied some English while in school in Germany, she worked hard to become fluent in Homer, through conversations with friends and family and through her work at Fat Olives restaurant.
"At social gatherings, I was afraid to say the wrong thing and I'd find myself missing moments and the conversation moving on," she said. "So, I started looking up words and learned on the go."
Now 32, Multz feels connected to the community through her work and her friendships.
"I like bringing friends together," she said. "It's easy to forget when we're all so busy that we need each other."
Multz is currently busy raising her daughter and would like to travel again one day, but for now, she is happy to call Homer home.
"I'm a part of the fabric of the community now," she said. "I like the idea that we could grow old here with my family along with our friends and their kids. Rudy is a good one. I figured that out right away and held onto him."
Multz shared that she especially appreciates how welcoming and kind the people of Homer are.
"This is the fantasy you have when you live in the city and are anonymous — to live in a place like Homer where people help one another," she said. "And, I'm excited that Luca is growing up Alaskan."
Multz shared that traveling alone and moving to Alaska ultimately showed her how strong she is.
"It was a good challenge and I came out of it strong," she said. "Now, I know what I can do. I learned things about myself that I wouldn't have learned if I had just stayed with what I knew, where I was and where it was comfortable."