My life has been like one of those dot-to-dots we did as kids that guided me to the vacant lot where my Vista Cañas book and nature retreat will eventually be built.

It’s hard to pinpoint on which dot my future retreat was conceived, but I’d guess it was in the Costa Rica rainforest where I was infected by the passion of our nature guide.

It really started growing in the latter half of 2011 as I struggled to figure out how I would earn an income if I married my then German boyfriend and moved to Germany. A guest house catering to Americans was the only option that seemed viable for a middle-aged expat who wasn’t doing so great with German grammar. It was also the only option that excited me. 

After that fairy tale ended, I was back on U.S. soil facing the terrifying reality of being a divorced mom who hadn’t worked outside my home for 17 years.

But, the seed that had been planted in Germany had taken root. My mind wandered to opening an artist retreat in Mexico, beach rentals in Belize, a rainforest getaway in Kauai—I couldn’t stop fantasizing about opening some sort of sanctuary for people to nurture their souls.

At some point, I remembered the deal I made myself in Kauai—in short, not to hit that rocking chair with a single regret. So I started focusing on that instead of my fears and upgraded my persistent fantasy to an actual goal.

Everything was pointing me toward being an expat. It was highly unlikely I could afford to do buy or build a retreat in the U.S., and being in Germany made me realize how much I hungered for a different culture.

So what does the Universe go and do? It introduced me to a prospective partner who also had expat aspirations.

Fast forward to 2016—my prospective partner is no longer prospective and he and I began searching for our new country. Our checklist for living abroad narrowed our options dramatically and Panamá was the clear standout.

We took our first reconnaissance mission in December and connected with the laid back surfing community of Playa Venao.

A year later, we returned to Playa Venao to look for property. A very long story made extremely short—the moment we drove onto the Vista Cañas property, I knew I had found my place.

In May 2018, I signed on the official dotted lines and became the official owner of the future site of the Vista Cañas book and nature retreat. Just like that, my goal turned into a solid plan and the design process began!