Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

Vacation Time Is Precious: Trip Of a Life Time. Cast Of Characters

(and I mean characters)

By Patty Chang Anker

The Trip of a Life Time Gang Back Row (nature spotting, 1 to r): Cheryl, Patty, Shannon, Max and Roberto Front Row (nature spotting, 1 to r): Felipe, Jennifer, Michael, Yolanda and William

Did you miss the show?  The Trip of a Lifetime starts here:

Otherwise, don’t change the channel, these are closing credits worth staying for.  Let’s start with Michael (seated in the middle), and go clockwise from there.

Michael S. Kaye, founder and president, Costa Rica Expeditions:  Ask anyone what they think of Michael and the words “pioneer,” and “visionary” are sure to come up, along with stories of how he helped this person or built that organization, or changed the prospects of this community or the way that business is done.  CRE is the leading eco-travel outfit in Costa Rica and runs the Monteverde Lodge and the Tortuga Lodge.

Michael is the kind of person who creates English classes for tourists to teach local kids, or thinks up an entirely new web-based system for the National Parks to communicate with visitors and each other.

He is also the kind of person (ie, a bit “loco”) who invites 5 strangers for 5 days with him in the jungle just to see what will happen.

“Everyone has something that drives them, motivates them above all else,” he says.  “Mine is the desire to amuse myself.”   I think that is a modest way of saying he looks for ways to make his heart sing.  Sharing the beauty and power of Costa Rica with fellow travelers who are ready to fall in love every minute of every day, makes his heart sing.

On our first night in Costa Rica, enroute by boat to Tortuga Lodge, he suggested stopping at a “new restaurant” for dinner.  On the bank of the canal was a torchlit lounge with pillows and blankets on the grass, a bar area and fully set dining table.  “How long has this restaurant been here” we ask as we tuck into platters of skewered meats and vegetables. “It isn’t a restaurant,” he replied.  He had arranged for it all to appear magically just for us – a pop-up dining experience in the jungle at night.

Michael makes everyone’s heart sing.

Meet Michael at his travel blog, the one that started it all:

And find out more about Costa Rica Expeditions here:

Jennifer is my hero.  At 68, she is Facing 70 Upside Down with more vigor than I’ve ever had in my life.  Jen is extremely well-read and well-traveled and also wickedly funny – a cross between Dame Judi Dench and Rue McClanahan.  I secretly hoped she would chicken out of the rafting so I could stay back and keep her company.  She rocked the rafting and every other activity thrown at us.  At the moment she is painting and quilting for craft shows while charming the systems people at Apple so she can post nature videos online.

Felipe – animal tracker, stuff of lore – meet Felipe here:

Cheryl – is a nurse who now trains other nurses, which puts her in the first class lounge in heaven, in my book.  She recently Faced 50 in Costa Rica and is the most enthusiastic one of us in learning about the flora and fauna around us.  She gives me hope that life will continue to surprise and teach me, and that mothering two teenage daughters, while challenging, will probably not actually kill me.

Patty – Who let her on this trip??

From Michael: I did—and am I glad I did.  I am also glad that everyone pitched in with the comments about Patty that appear below so that she will be as embarrassed as I am by all the praise

Shannon said…

Well, of course the blog wouldn’t be complete without a profile of Patty. Here is a woman whose kindness and intelligence shine through everything that she does. Seeing only the best in people, her warmth and humor helped transform us from a group of very disparate individuals into a close-knit gang of friends and explorers. Those of you who know Patty, already know of her ability to embrace every new experience with enthusiasm; for those of you who don’t–keep reading her blogs and you’ll see what I mean. Thank you Patty for helping us relive this wonderful adventure. I can’t wait to see what new topic you’ll tackle next!

November 25, 2010 11:39 AM

Cheryl said…

I’ll miss The Trip of a Lifetime Posts – for me, it was a way of extending the vacation spirit for quite awhile after re-entry into the normal routine of life. Patty’s way with words and descriptions truly captured the essence of the trip. Patty: yoga maestro, super blogger and conqueror of fears whose creativity, enthusiasm, joie de vivre and sparkle were an inspiration to us all. Thanks so much.

November 26, 2010 1:33 PM

Anonymous said…

Patty won’t blow her own trumpet so it’s up to us,”we few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” to do it for her. First of all, she’s composed this record of our trip for us, great writing, great pics and links. What a souvenir! Patty is a pleasure to be with, intelligent, refined, curious, sometimes smiling broadly, sometimes doubled up with laughter, other times thoughtful and quiet. Very industrious and focused. A good mother. I took a profile photo of her on one of the boats and I’m so fond of it. She looks so lovely, I hope she’ll post it for us. She added immensely to my pleasure each day of our Great Expedition. The same is true of each one of you: as much as we all saw & did was extraordinary, our “company of strangers” was probably the best part.Thank you all.

I must mention William whose sensitive soul is open to all the wonders around him & who certainly touched my heart with his teaching. 

And thank you Michael & Yolanda for sharing your time, yourselves and your warmth with us. Michael has become a great example for me. I can tend to get complacent & lazy: just thinking of his energy & pleasure in life now gives me a real boost & “Get on with things, like Michael!” is now my watchword. Maybe I’ll put it up on the fridge door! I am so fortunate to have been a part of this. JennyF

November 28, 2010 10:20 AM

Max said…

Hmm… I’m supposed to provide a counterpoint to all this gushing? Should I discuss how disappointed I was that you didn’t reenact your tubing mishap for us, thus depriving us of an even more memorable trip?

Honestly, Patty warned us beforehand that she was feisty and had all sorts of attitude, but that really didn’t seem to be the case. Or maybe we were simply the lucky ones. In reality I think she’s a big softy at heart, and a brave soul with the courage to overcome her fears and dive headlong into adventure with minimal squealing.

November 29, 2010 6:53 PM

Michael S. Kaye said…

A lot of people give and share. Patty’s essence is giving and sharing.

When Patty started posting comments on Vacation Time is Precious (, I became captivated by her blog.

At the time I would have had trouble saying why.

Now I know.

Patty’s blog is not so much an account of her experiences as it is a gift to the people she writes about.

What a privilege to have joined G and R and DH as recipients.

November 29, 2010 10:56 PM

Yolanda said…

Los miedos de Patty son sus fortelezas. Porque no entendí todas sus palabras, fije en sus ojos. Sus ojos son fuertes. Te amo, Patty.

Patty’s fears are her strengths. Because I did not understand all her words, I watched her eyes. Her eyes are strong. I love you, Patty.

From Michael: Now that you know what Patty is really like here she is again with the rest of the cast.

Shannon – When everyone else is pointing their cameras at an animal and shooting blindly, Shannon is looking at the animal intently and saying “it’s eyes are so…deep.”  Shannon’s kind and soulful heart beats with the animals’ around us – read more about her here:

Max – braved swarms of mosquitoes, heat, humidity, rising tides, mud, rain, not enough light, too much light and never enough sleep to take his incredible wildlife photos (  That’s ok, he likes to suffer for his art.  The overbearing mom fussing over him, he could have done without:

Roberto Miranda – (aka “Pretend I’m not here!”) is the Costa Rican filmmaker who documented our trip.  For those who have never been on a reality show, it is highly weird to be discussing where the ladies room might be while a camera is rolling behind you.  Until the filmmaker becomes a friend.  And promises your face on Angelina Jolie’s body in the final version.  Roberto’s documentary on urban art recently played at the Costa Rica Film Festival.  His videos of us are still being edited for purposes unknown. You can see 2 examples of his work at and

William Granados – Our beloved guide.  William is like Willy Wonka (excited and proud, but minus the crazy) showing off the Chocolate Factory.  He’s in almost every post of this trip.  Go back and read them all, and then ask him to lead you the next time you’re in his country.  More about William here:

Yolanda – Books and operas should be written about Yolanda.  She has had an epic life, is an indomitable spirit, and her heart is too big to be contained in her tiny body.  She is Michael’s wife and muse, and everyone else’s mother and friend.  “Did I take care of you?” she asks at the end of our trip.  She held my hand from the first rafting trip ( to the final flight  Yes, Yolanda, you did.  Thank you.  Muchas gracias.

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