The Cayuga Gratitude Giveaway: Meet the Finalists and Vote for a Winner

When we launched the Cayuga Gratitude Giveaway last month, we asked our travel industry partners to nominate their most-admired and inspiring peers – those who have demonstrated compassion, patience and teamwork throughout a very tough year – and enter them for a chance to win one of two week-long trips to our hotels & lodges in Costa Rica. While 2020 has taken a toll on everyone, we know firsthand that people who work in travel have had an especially stressful time and wanted to give a deserving individual a relaxing and fun travel experience to look forward to.

Reading through the nearly 70 nominations brought us a lot of joy, and it was a difficult task to select just 10 finalists from among the many deserving candidates who were sent our way. But here they are. Meet our Cayuga Gratitude Giveaway Finalists below, read their stories, and cast your vote to help us give one lucky winner a trip to Costa Rica!

Anton Lynch – Latin America Specialist
Trufflepig Toronto, Ontario
Nominated by Trufflepig colleague Victoria Marsh

“Anton who I call Caballero is the linchpin of our Latin America Team. He’s the first to put up his hand to help a client or colleague, always puts others needs before his own, designs fun, creative and thoughtful itineraries for clients and his friendliness, lightheartedness and witty repertoire has been a shining light during these dark and uncertain COVID times. He is both humble and passionate and has been working in travel since the original formation of the Perito Moreno Glacier. He is a mentor and friend, and is always looking out for everyone. Anton is fabulous and brightens up every room.”

Brooklyn Downing, Destination Expert
Kensington Tours Toronto, ON
Nominated by Kensington Tours colleague, Reilly Day

“Brooklynn has been an influential voice in spearheading a recent initiative to introduce sustainable itineraries into the Kensington Tours portfolio. While caring for her clients and handling all of the other cancellations and rescheduling as a result of Covid, she has worked diligently and successfully to make the business case for the importance of sustainable travel, both for the future of the industry and for the planet. The proposal has been accepted at the company’s highest levels and, once the challenge of Covid-19 has subsided, will be officially rolled out. In the meantime, clients who are looking for such travel can work with Brooklynn or any of our Destination Experts who are passionate about creating sustainable journeys.”  

Catherine Brown, Trip Designer
Ker & Downey Katy, TX
Nominated by Ker & Downey colleague Trista Gage

“I am nominating Catherine because she was the first one in our company bombarded with the many changes/closures when Covid first hit, so she’s been dealing with this crisis since January. On top of it she is a mom, with two young kids, so she had to juggle on-line school and full time parenting on top of everything else. And she has also headed up Ker & Downey’s North America destination development, and has handled challenging guest demands in this ever changing and new market domestically with very little support. She is a pleasure to work with and as I know their family travel plans were cancelled this year, I can’t think of a better person to win this opportunity and get to vacation in Costa Rica with her family.”

Grettel Calderon, Central America, Colombia and Cuba Program Director
Wildland Adventures, Seattle WA
Nominated by Wildland colleague Racheal Garrett

“Grettel knows her beloved country of Costa Rica perhaps better than any other travel professional, and while she may not be the highest producer but she knows just who to send to each Cayuga property and has been one of Cayuga’s most consistent and true representatives from the very beginning. She has been recommending Cayuga to Wildland travelers for decades but there are still a few properties she has not experienced personally, beyond a brief site inspection. After dealing with Covid cancellations and rescheduling trips all year like the rest of us, Grettel is currently on leave from work and as Costa Rica has opened back up to tourism, she now finally has time to take a true (and much deserved) vacation and experience Cayuga like a guest!”

Jessica Porras Aguero, Operations Executive
Encounter Latin America Global Offices
Nominated by Eleonore Smits, Supervisor at Encounter Latin America (UK office)

“Jessica, who is based in Costa Rica and knows the country inside and out, handles our operations throughout Central America and is my right hand. We have already seen so many cancelations, so many setbacks and lost wages, but Jessica is like a shining star, not giving up, bright and positive in everything she does to keep our company floating.  Her focus is always on the future, the day that we will begin to welcome travellers again. She really deserves this opportunity to be pampered, to relax and to only focus on enjoying a much deserved vacation instead of devoting herself to work and our travellers.”

Jill Taylor & Peter Tibble, Travel Advisors
Jet Set World Travel Chicago, IL
Nominated by Katrin von Enden, Co-Owner of Travel Pioneers

“Jill & Pete are an amazing power duo of the travel industry – they are very hard working advisors and have the perfect skill set to communicate with their clients and relay to us as a DMC the traveler’s needs. They are also very focused on educating themselves and their clients and are always open to ideas and suggestions, interested to learn more about the destination.

Furthermore, over the past several months they have periodically relocated to Austin, TX to care for Jill’s father and stepmother, who is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. She and Peter have shown selflessness and compassion as they have balanced caring for her family with caring for their clients and continuing to move business forward, while continuing to offer support and insight to colleagues throughout the travel industry. A true partnership – they work hand in hand with us as their DMC we are very thankful for them, even more so throughout this crisis!”

Jordan & Tara Harvey, Co-Owners & Founders
Knowmad Adventures, Minneapolis, MN
Nominated by Jena Davison, Knowmad Trip Specialist  

“Wow, where to start. These last several months have shook our industry in so many ways and Jordan has been such a fearless leader. I’ve appreciated his candor, transparency and support during these uncertain times, and he has extended these same qualities to our clients as we manage so many disappointments and challenges along the way. But more than that he & his wife Tara (Co-Founder) have looked out for our team like family, and I truly feel as though they have kept our best interests in mind as they have had to make many tough decisions for our company. They are incredible people and business owners, and I feel lucky to work alongside them! I feel as if Jordan has looked out for the very best interests of our clients too, unwavering in his fight for them and always one step ahead. I’d personally want to leave my travel in his hands knowing how much he cares. On top of the challenges at work, both Jordan and Tara have been taking care of their two little ones (under the age of 5), an extra layer of stress without child care. I admire their dedication to parenting, passion for work & commitment to self-care, and I cannot think of a more deserving pair!”   

Lindsay Taylor-Lauer, Director, Business Development
Coastline Travel Advisors/Tafari Travel, Denver CO & Garden Grove, CA
Nominated by Sarah Fazendin, Founder Videre Luxury Travel Design

“Lindsay is the main point of contact between all the ICs and the Coastline/ Tafari corporate team. In the best of times, helping and supporting hundreds of independent agents each with our own personalities, experience and business perspective is no small task. And during this most challenging time for our industry, some would consider it an impossible task.

But every single day, Lindsay is there for us with a positive attitude, ever-present willingness to connect/brainstorm or simply offer a shoulder to cry on. She ends every single conversation by letting us know she’s here for us and always happy to help. She has been an immense source of inspiration for all of us at Coastline and Tafari over the past few months. We are so lucky to have her in our corner!”

Patty Mason, Travel Consultant
Tzell Park Avenue Travel Services Rochester, NY
Nominated by Megan Mason, Destination Specialist with Costa Rica Experts

“Patty is so hard working and dedicated to her business and clients. She works long hours and makes herself available even when she doesn’t need to be. She has been handling some very complicated/stressful flight options and has been inundated with rescheduling trips since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic but has kept a smile on her face!  Patty has never been to Costa Rica but it is on her bucket list and especially now, she deserves a vacation!”

Schoschana Daberkow, Owner
Shana Travel de Panama, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Nominated by colleague Sashara Gonzalez

“I have to nominate my boss, Schoschana Daberkow. During this incredibly challenging time and strict lockdown in Panama, she has constantly checked in on our staff and team to see how we are doing and has helped us however she can.  She also invited a family to stay in her house during the months of total lock down so they could be in a bigger space instead of a one bedroom apartment. Additionally she has a passion for all animals, has not forgotten about their needs and has arranged care, food and medication for the street animals in Bocas Del Toro. She continues to do whatever she can to be helpful during this Pandemic and put the needs of others before herself.”

12 Responses

  1. Definitely Grettel Calderon from Wildland Adventures is one of the greatest professionals in the travel industry I have the honor to work with, she knows very well how to read her clients travel expectations in order to put together the perfect travel experience for them. She also knows very well the country to make her clients dream with their future vacation. Definitely Grettel is great asset for Wildland Adventures and the travel industry. Looking forward these difficult times comes to an end very soon and we all can come back to work and travel.

    1. Thank you Armando for your nice words about Grettel. We agree that she is great. Please make sure you cast your vote and help share this blog with others that might be interested in voting. Saludos.

  2. I MUST vote for Patty Mason. I have worked with her for over 15 years and she has been spectacular! I have called her from airports needing to swap flights right then and there, and too many times forgotten what rental car company I used and would call her to refresh my memory. You can always hear her smile on the other end and she is ALWAYS willing to help!! Good Luck and God Speed to Patty!

    1. Thanks for this great comment Jim. I am sure Patty will do great. Lots of votes coming in at the moment…

  3. Anton is the one! I can only be thankful for virtually meeting the brightness of this amazing professional and having the oportunity to learn from someone from across the ocean. Known in Brazil as Toninho – which translates to “our ultimate favorite partner” – working with him definitely makes our lives lighter and brings lots of joy to work! He is extra fun, creative and is a true partner who always shares responsabilities, all for transparancy and trust.

    1. Sounds like Anton is really the one. Good luck with the voting process. We have received over 1,200 votes in total as of today.

  4. Grettel Calderon, of Wildlands Adventures, organized a custom trip for myself and a friend to Guatemala in Spring 2019. It was absolutely superb in every way, and we are very grateful to her. I am a photographer, and specialize in people, and needed this trip to focus on this. I am also interested in politics, culture, religion, and history so the organizer needed to be someone with a wide knowledge of the country.

    Grettel very soon understood my needs, and succeeded beyond all my expectations. She put a lot of effort into the organization, and we can’t thank her enough. She listened to me and the results of my research, and added some wonderful places and people I would never have thought of. Our travels took us off the beaten track, and she found a local guide who was amazing, and followed through on all her hard work. Working through local contacts, she arranged two homestays with local families; took us to markets and religious celebrations; introduced us to a Mayan shaman and private ceremony; showed us historical sites and small villages with local culture; and to see the results of the earlier genocide. We were shown local handicrafts and small businesses; and ate in restaurants with the local people. Grettel worked very closely with me, and patiently adjusted our schedule whenever someone came up with another idea. She returned my compliments by saying that she had never worked with someone like me who had done so much research, knew what she wanted to get out of a trip, and was appreciative of Grettel’s efforts.

    She puts 150% effort into everything she does – and the results show this. Nothing was too much trouble for her, and she was a delight to work with. I hope that we will be fortunate enough to have Grettel organize another trip for us in the future.

  5. Grettel has helped me on 3 vacations and she truly lives up to her commitments. Not only were all the planning perfect but she was also there when we had some unexpected issues on one trip and needed to adjust the schedule and replan the entire second leg of the trip. She was on top of it all the way. On one trip to San Jose, we met Grettel and she gave us a personal tour of San Jose which was well organized and her friendly personality really helped make the day. We have used other travel planners but the reason we remember Grettel is because she seems genuinely cares about our experience, You feel it in how she conducts her self. That said, I feel she is an asset to the travel industry,

  6. Grettel Calderon for sure! I’ve had great experiences with her, her energy, vibe, organization skills and knowledge allows me to enjoy my trips without concerns. It’s good when you have someone reliable so you know that everything is set and you don’t have to worry about it. I really like Grettel’s approach and personality, that’s a plus!

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