Stories from Real Virtuoso Travelers Why I Travel: Michelle and Renier Gobea

Why I Travel: Michelle and Renier Gobea

The Gobeas at Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
The Gobeas at Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
Photo by Photo courtesy of Michelle BGobea

Michelle Gobea wanted a “last-hurrah honeymoon,” as she calls it. “Before we have a kid, I thought, let’s go far as hell and stay as long as we can,” she laughs. Gobea, 36, owns a cycling fitness studio in Tampa, Florida, where her husband, Renier, 40, works in pharmaceuticals and real estate. Tampa-based Virtuoso travel advisor Doria Gomez put together a grown-up’s 31-day odyssey for them through New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, and beyond.
“We travel to embrace our love of great food, back-road locations, and gorgeous, comfortable hotels at the end of the day. Neither of us grew up traveling, especially my husband; he’s from Cuba, where he lived in cramped quarters. We don’t take it for granted that we see the world in a luxurious way now. Best of all, we get to do it together.
We landed in New Zealand and headed straight for Otahuna Lodge near Christchurch. After the long flight, it was a perfect place to sit and do very little – very peaceful, very beautiful. We got our heads together and then traveled south to Blanket Bay, one of the greatest lodges in the whole world. We never wanted to leave.

Renier and I love listening to live music, and he’s very adventurous. He’ll grab a map and take us somewhere way outside the usual tourist zones. Sometimes it means driving for hours, but we always end up discovering great people and amazing musicians.

Michelle and Renier at the Franz Josef Glacier
Michelle and Renier at the Franz Josef Glacier
Photo by Photo courtesy of Michelle Gobea.

Most people who visit northern Thailand stay in Chiang Mai and maybe Chiang Rai. Doria knows we like a little added adventure, so she connected us with a guide who took us into Myanmar for the day to visit markets and temples. We immersed ourselves in the culture and saw a part of the world few people get to see.
My husband is a very anxious flyer, so Doria sends him details on the type and year of planes we’re taking, and even a picture sometimes. Insider knowledge, the ability to understand what we need without asking, and patience are important when it comes to travel advisors. Renier is a huge pain, I’m sure, but Doria handles it with a smile, and it really helps him feel calmer. That, and maybe a Jack and Coke before boarding the flight.
Since we speak Spanish, we’ve spent lots of time in Latin America and Spain. Formentera is gorgeous. Ibiza is so much fun. We’re big fans of Barcelona. Cuba isn’t up to world-class standards yet in terms of hotels, but we love the family connection.
I surprised Renier for his 40th by bringing together a huge group of friends for a vacation on Saint Marten. There were 37 of us and he had no idea! Doria was great: She coordinated it so people could stay in a way that felt right for their budget. To wind down afterward, Renier and I spent four days at Eden Rock on Saint Bart’s – of course we talked about travel the whole time. For our five-year anniversary in 2019, we want to do the Amalfi Coast.”

Where Next?

“Tulum, Mexico; Cuba in March; and Hawaii in May – my mother lives on Maui, and this will be Renier’s first trip. In the fall, we plan on visiting Ireland and checking out the Canary Islands, where Renier’s family originally came from.”

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