Renata Bastos always wondered if she might find romance at Disneyland.
“On one hand, it feels almost impossible and surreal. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense. Where else was I going to meet the love of my life, if not at Disney?” Renata tells CNN Travel today.
For Renata, Disneyland California is a home-away-from-home. She grew up some 20 minutes from the Anaheim resort. As a kid, she enjoyed many sunny family weekends soaking up the magic. As a teenager, she spent long Saturdays wandering the park with her school friends.
By 2012, 20-year-old Renata was at a crossroads. She’d just got back to the US after an extended vacation to her birth country of Brazil. Reconnecting with her Brazilian culture and family was healing and revealing. Renata decided concentrating on herself, her family and her friendships was key to this stage of her life – romantic relationships were firmly off the table.
With that in mind, Renata organized a big trip to Disneyland with her extended group of friends – an opportunity for a catch up after her time away.
On the morning of Friday, January 13, 2012, Renata and her friends streamed through the Disney gates. They spent most of the morning people watching on Main Street U.S.A, and laughing and screeching as they rode the park’s roller coasters.
By mid-afternoon, Renata and her friends broke off into smaller groups to accommodate everyone’s interests, but planned to reunite at Jungle Cruise, the water-based ride in Adventureland. The friends figured there was enough of them to take over a whole boat, to maximize the fun.
When the group eventually reunited in the Jungle Cruise line, they’d grown in number. One of Renata’s friends had got chatting to some guys she vaguely knew while waiting for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and she’d invited them to join in the day’s fun.
Among these newcomers was Brian Mehl.
Brian grew up in a Disney-loving family, and, like Renata, spent much of his free time as a kid and teenager at Disneyland.
Renata and Brian actually grew up in the same town. But as Brian was a bit older, and they’d attended different high schools, the two had never crossed paths,
Like Renata, Brian was at a crossroads in his life in January 2012. He’d just left his job, and was questioning what came next.