She went on a bachelorette party abroad - and ended up meeting her future husband

Madeline Robson and Sebastian Mamet
Madeline Robson and Sebastian Mamet met on vacation in New Orleans, sparking an unexpected love story. Photo credit: Madeline Robson

By Francesca Street of CNN

The last place Madeline Robson expected to meet her future husband was her friend's bachelorette party.

"I'm here for the bride," Madeline remembers thinking. "I shouldn't be having my own love story. This is so strange."

But when Madeline flew from her home in Ontario, Canada to New Orleans to celebrate her friend's upcoming wedding, she found herself - almost without realizing - right in the middle of her own love story. 

Madeline, then 26, arrived in New Orleans in June 2017 as part of a gang of 12 excited women. Their main goal? "Partying."

At first, Madeline and her friends barely took in the city's beautiful architecture and skipped its famous music scene in favour of late-night clubs.

"I don't think anybody did any research before. We were just there for a good time - and we had a really good time," Madeline tells CNN Travel today.

The first few nights, the group were out all night on bustling Bourbon Street, dipping in and out of bars, drinking shots and dancing. 

By the time the last night rolled around, most of the women were feeling the effects of the long nights. They weren't just hungover - many of them seemed to have come down with something. Staying in for "a low-key night" became the general consensus.

But Madeline, who'd managed to avoid whatever had struck down most of her friends, thought staying in seemed like a waste of time: they were only in New Orleans for a few days, surely they should make the most of it?

Two of her friends felt similarly, so while most of the group geared up for a movie marathon, Madeline and her two allies dipped out into the night.

The three friends decided to head to Frenchmen Street to sample the live music scene they'd so far avoided. They found themselves in a busy jazz bar and, by coincidence, recognized the guy on stage - they'd met him the night before. When he finished performing, they got chatting with him. This guy, a local, said he wanted to show Madeline and her friends his favourite hole-in-the-wall bar a couple of doors down. 

It was about two in the morning by the time Madeline and her friends squeezed into the tiny venue.

Everyone inside was crowding around the stage to watch musicians. As the rest of her group, including the guy, pushed to the front, Madeline hung back a bit - she didn't feel like fighting her way through.

"It's definitely easier when you're super tall though," she thought to herself absentmindedly as her eyes landed on the guy next to her. He towered over the crowd and, Madeline assumed, must have had a great view of the stage.

This guy noticed Madeline's eyes on him and gave her a small smile. 

"I don't know who said 'hi' to who, but we started talking to each other somehow," recalls Madeline. "And then just ended up talking for hours in this bar, all night long."

The tall stranger in the bar was Sebastian Mamet, a twentysomething recent college graduate from Sweden who, by his own admission, "didn't have much of a life outside of work."

Madeline and Sebastian
Madeline and Sebastian hit it off in New Orleans and stayed in contact. Photo credit: Madeline Robson

Sebastian was on a solo trip to the US - a trip his company had pretty much forced him to take. He never took any vacation, and the days were starting to stack up. He'd been initially reluctant, but the idea of seeing New Orleans was a big draw. Sebastian loves music and he'd always dreamed of frequenting the city's blues bars.

Now, Sebastian found himself ignoring what was happening on stage and focusing on Madeline. 

"It just felt like we'd known each other for a while," Sebastian tells CNN Travel.

Sebastian suggested Madeline and her friends come with him to another bar. Even though it was the early hours of the morning, it was warm out, so the group sat outside on a terrace, drinking and talking.

"He had a really good energy about him," recalls Madeline.

When 5am rolled around, Sebastian walked Madeline and her friends back to her hotel. 

"Do you want to get breakfast with me tomorrow?" he asked Madeline.

Madeline hesitated.

"I was feeling guilty," she says today. "I was there with a bunch of girls."

"I shouldn't ditch my friends," Madeline told Sebastian, declining his invite. 

"Well, here's my number," Sebastian said, keying the details into her phone. "Just in case you change your mind."

After a few hours of sleep, Madeline woke up feeling differently. Her friends were still sleeping. They had no set plans for their final day. And the women who were awake encouraged Madeline to embark on this New Orleans adventure.

"They were all like, 'Go get breakfast, have fun!" Madeline recalls.

So, Madeline and Sebastian found themselves at a quintessential New Orleans cafe, infused with French influences, sitting outside. 

"Then, there's a huge torrential downpour and the whole cafe flooded," recalls Sebastian.

Somehow this unexpected rainfall only added to the experience. Madeline and Sebastian left the cafe and started wandering around the city. Their conversation was just as engaging as the night before.

"Everything was very natural and easy," says Sebastian.

"Obviously we had a really good connection," agrees Madeline. "But he lived across the ocean. And it was so far." 

When they hugged goodbye, Sebastian thought, "She's such a great person. It's so unlucky that she lives in Canada."

Similar thoughts ran through Madeline's mind: "We're never going to see each other again," she thought. "This was just a crazy vacation story."

"But we did," she says today.

Flying across the world for a second date 

Waiting at the airport for her flight, Madeline's phone pinged with a message from Sebastian.

"Have a good flight," it read. "Let me know when you get home."

So began a texting back and forth that "just literally never stopped from that point," as Madeline puts it.

A couple days later, with Madeline back in Canada and Sebastian back in Sweden, Sebastian suggested they could speak on the phone. 

"We ended up FaceTiming," recalls Madeline. "And then we started FaceTiming multiple days, maybe not every day, but many days."

Less than a month passed before Sebastian proposed that they meet again. He had more vacation to take. Maybe he could come and visit Madeline in Ontario in August?

Madeline agreed. Looking back, she admits this was "really crazy."

"The fact that I let him come visit me after knowing him for less than 24 hours must have meant that I felt really comfortable, or I was really irresponsible," she says, laughing. 

But she had no hesitations in saying yes. And Sebastian had no hesitations in flying across the world for a second date.

Sebastian spent a week in Canada. He and Madeline spent time in her hometown in Ontario and travelled to the region's wine country, as well as visiting Toronto and Niagara Falls.

Sebastian had pictured Niagara Falls as a secluded nature reserve. Madeline tried to warn him the waterfall was a tourist hotspot, but he didn't quite believe her.

Even if Sebastian found the touristy side of the Falls pretty "cheesy," he and Madeline still had a great time there. 

"It was cool because it's such an iconic Canadian landmark," says Madeline.

Of course, Sebastian had met some of Madeline's friends in New Orleans, but she also introduced him to a few more pals over that trip. She didn't tell her family about him though - that felt a bit too intense, especially when she didn't know what would happen between them.

Madeline's friends were supportive and liked Sebastian, but "people were kind of like, 'There's no way this is going to go anywhere,'" recalls Madeline.

Towards the end of Sebastian's time in Canada, he and Madeline started talking about whether it was going to go anywhere. Could they see each other again soon? 

They decided Madeline would visit Sebastian in Helsingborg in Sweden three months later, for Christmas.

Madeline and Sebastian
Photo credit: Madeline Robson

A Scandinavian Christmas

On the flight from Canada to Sweden, Madeline oscillated between excitement and anxiety.

"We thought he knew each other. But looking back, we really didn't know each other that well," she says. "I was going for three weeks. It was a long time." 

She was also set to meet Sebastian's entire family. Again, this was exciting, but undeniably nerve wracking.

"It's a strange thing - having only spent a short amount of time with somebody - to be going to spend three weeks during the holidays with them and their family, who you've never met before," Madeline says today.

Sebastian doesn't recall being obviously nervous, but his anxieties just manifested themselves differently - he spent hours trying to plan the perfect visit for Madeline.

"I was trying to fit way too much into the trip," he says today. Over the three weeks, he took Madeline to Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Prague. 

"We did too many things," says Madeline, laughing. "But it was really fun."

Madeline particularly enjoyed her first introduction to Scandinavian culture. She'd never been to a Nordic country before but felt instantly at home.

"It was really cool to see the culture here and life," she recalls.

Over the next year, Madeline and Sebastian alternated visiting one another in Sweden and Canada. 

"We were very lucky. We got to see each other a lot that year, and travelled a lot as well," recalls Madeline. "We travelled together to quite a lot of places."

A move to Sweden

That year, in between jet setting, Madeline was finishing off her MBA. She was set to graduate in December 2018 and knew she couldn't make any big life decisions before then. But afterwards, she'd be more flexible, and as the December date approached, Madeline started considering what she might do next. Maybe moving to Sweden was on the cards.

"I had already for quite a long time been like, 'Once I finish my MBA, I'm ready for a change. I want to either move somewhere else, do something else, take a gap year…" 

In February 2018, Madeline took a year of absence from her Ontario communications job and moved to Sweden, taking advantage of a visa scheme that allows people under 30 to live and work in certain other countries for 12 months.

It wasn't a long-term decision, but it was a big one all the same. Madeline imagined she'd spend all her time traveling, just working here and there, but she ended up getting a corporate marketing job almost right away. The job gave her some stability, but life in Sweden was still a lot of change all at once.

"It felt like a big step," says Madeline. "I felt like I was leaving something that was really safe and really taking a chance on something that I had no idea how it was going to turn out."

At first, life in Sweden simply felt "surreal." 

"But it was exciting," says Madeline.

Sebastian and Madeline decided they would live together in the Swedish city of Malmö. It was more international than Sebastian's previous home in Helsingborg. Plus, Sebastian moving meant they were both starting afresh, to some extent.

Madeline also moved with her beloved cat in tow. She worried about her settling in, but the cat soon seemed at home.

Slowly, things felt less surreal, but for that first year, Madeline's life in Sweden felt somewhere between a dream and an extended vacation. She and Sebastian loved living together and getting to experience everyday activities together. 

"Everything with us together felt new and exciting, because we had spent a year and a half never getting to just do normal things like cook dinner together or go grocery shopping," says Madeline. "All those things that so many people take for granted in relationships for us, I think, were so stimulating because we never got to do them before together - everything was just always an adventure."

While the two savoured their time together in their Malmö apartment, they were also rarely there. At every opportunity, Madeline and Sebastian would travel to different European cities together. Madeline loved traveling, but this lifestyle had its downsides.

"I think a product of that is that I never really felt super settled in Malmö in the first year," she says.

Settling into Swedish life 

In 2020, while traveling internationally was out of the question, Sweden's Covid restrictions were laxer than in other countries, so Madeline and Sebastian were still able to travel domestically.

It was during this time that Madeline fell in love with Sweden.

"All of sudden, our weekends were spent outside in the forest, or going for hikes along the coastline," says Madeline.

In Malmö, the couple would walk around exploring, stopping to sample coffee and pastries on outdoor terraces. 

"All these little things - even though we're in this really horrible, difficult time - started to feel quite special and romantic," says Madeline.

"I started to find all these things about the city that I really loved so much. That was definitely during Covid when we started talking about seriously staying here."

Madeline extended her visa, and she and Sebastian bought an apartment.

"Okay, this is real," Madeline recalls thinking. "We're staying." 

Due to Canadian border restrictions, Madeline didn't return to her home country until midway through 2022. By then, she was fully settled into Swedish life, and Canada was the vacation destination.

"I didn't see my family or friends back home for two and a half years," she reflects. "It really forced me to find a community here - and I don't know if I would have found that if it wasn't for the pandemic. So that was, I guess, a really nice thing to come from a really difficult and hard situation."

It was also during the pandemic that Madeline started sharing snippets of her life in Sweden online, via her TikTok and Instagram accounts. Madeline realized there was an appetite for her short videos about the cultural differences she'd noticed since moving to Sweden. Her videos also provided a slice of escapism for everyone who felt like their life was on hold. The views and comments came flooding in.

Madeline's still big on social media, three years later. 

"I still share a lot of the cultural stuff. But it's really developed into a travel and tourism and life in Scandinavia type of account," she says. "It's been really, really fun."

A Swedish wedding

Madeline and Sebastian got engaged a few years ago, and originally planned to marry in 2021. The couple planned a big international wedding but cancelled the nuptials when pandemic travel restrictions proved too complicated.

"When we had to go around and plan it for the second time, we kind of realized that we just wanted it to be a very small thing, that felt more us," says Madeline. 

So, the couple got married in summer 2023 in a small ceremony attended only by their respective parents and siblings.

"We went out into the countryside and got married in a little tiny countryside church and had a tiny little ceremony there," says Madeline.

Afterwards, Madeline and Sebastian went to a local chocolate factory and enjoyed a Swedish fika - a coffee and pastry break.

Later, the wedding party travelled to another countryside spot, a beautiful bed and breakfast that Madeline and Sebastian had been to before and loved. 

"We decided, 'Oh, it's a place that's really special to us. Let's just book some rooms there," Madeline recalls.

It was a day both "beautiful" and "low key."

"It felt very authentic to us," says Madeline.

Madeline recently shared some of her wedding photographs on her Instagram feed. Sebastian only pops up on her social media from time to time, but whenever Madeline shares glimpses into their life together, she'll get inundated with messages from other people in international relationships. 

"Is it worth it? Moving abroad for love?" they ask.

Madeline always says yes.

"I always just say to people, have no expectations. If you're going to go for it, I really recommend you take the chance, because you never know how it's going to end up," she says.

"Put everything you have into it and see how it ends up. I have no regrets on how this has gone. And I always like to encourage people to take the chance." 

Today, when Madeline and Sebastian look back on their New Orleans meeting, Sebastian says he's struck by how unusual their meeting was, but how "normal" their life is today.

As for Madeline, she's got over the guilt of meeting her husband-to-be at her friend's bachelorette party. Now it seems meant to be.

"It's really interesting to think that we were there celebrating somebody else's love, and then this is what was born of it," she says. "It's really, really cool."