My life has been like one of those dot-to-dots we did as kids that eventually brought me to the vacant lot where the Vista Cañas book & nature retreat will eventually be built.
It’s hard to pinpoint on which dot it was conceived, but I’m pretty certain it was the German one.
For the latter half of 2011 and the better part of 2012, 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 winning the war on German grammar. It was also the only option that excited me.
I do recall that on the next dot, it was downgraded to a fantasy—and a far fetched one at that. After the end of my German fairy tale, I was back on U.S. soil—suddenly just a typical divorced mom who had only recently escaped the burbs. My sole focus became finding work after a 17 year hiatus from paid employment. Let’s just say that fear became my constant companion.
But, my fantasy was persistent. I imagined an artist retreat in Mexico, beach rentals in Belize, a rainforest getaway in Kauai—no matter how much time passed, my mind kept going back to building some sort of sanctuary for people to come.
When I made the decision to live a life without regrets, I upgraded my persistent fantasy to a long-term goal. It may be a cliché, but it’s a worthy one!
Everything was pointing me toward being an expat—if I really was going to build some place, it was unlikely I could afford to do it in the U.S. Plus, 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 we began researching where to expat. Our checklist for living abroad narrowed our options dramatically and Panamá was the clear standout. We took our first reconnaissance mission in December and found a place that checked off everything—the laid back surfing community of Playa Venao.
A year later, we returned to Playa Venao for a reality check and, apparently unbeknownst to my partner, a serious search for property. I wasn’t kidding about no regrets. The moment we drove onto THE Vista Cañas property, I knew I had no choice but to buy it.
I signed on the official dotted lines in May 2018, becoming the official owner of the future site of the Vista Cañas book and nature retreat. Just like that, my goal was now a solid plan. The design process is officially underway!
what you’ll find here…
It’s true what they say—if you do what you love, it’s not work. I didn’t waste a minute getting started—(if I’m being honest, I’d started back on the day we found the lot).
I had no interest in building just another place for people to sleep on their vacation. My vision is to create a book and nature retreat that will feed souls. It’s a testament to the property and Playa Venao that I had the confidence to choose the tag line I did — “You’ll find it here.”
Here’s some of what you’ll find here some day:
If you never leave the private Vista Cañas community (unofficially known as Madroño), your nature bucket will still be overflowing.
This is just a partial list of the natural treasures in the immediate vicinity:
- Sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, farmland and mountains
- Stunning sunsets
- A jungle (with monkeys)
- Direct access to two prime surfing beaches—(huge) Playa Raya & (secluded) Playa Madroño
- A natural estuary
- Sea caves
- Breeching whales and nesting sea turtles (seasonal)
As amazing as the “neighborhood” is, you can’t miss what’s outside the gate:
- Several lush nature reserves filled with exotic creatures
- Isla de Cañas (home to mangroves and nesting sea turtles)
- Hiking trails to vistas and waterfalls
- Miles of picturesque white sand beaches
- Hectares of farmland and jungle
- The tiny tropical island of Isla Iguana
- A (warm) ocean ripe for scuba diving and snorkeling
- Deep sea fishing on the “Tuna Coast”
If nature is what you’re looking for, you’ll definitely find it here someday.
2. Rejuvenation and/or Healing
Sometimes we just need a peaceful place to rest or recover from life’s curveballs. Maybe your work-life balance is off kilter because you’ve let your career or kids take over—or you just need time and space to regain your footing after a divorce, death, empty nest or (fill in the blank).
I’m a born again self carer. It took me way too long to understand that taking care of myself was not selfish and now I’m a passionate preacher.
If you’re in need of rejuvenation or healing, I’m confident you’ll find it here someday.
3. A Book Retreat
When I was a young girl, my small town library—and the books I borrowed from it—were my sanctuary. When I was an overworked college student, and later a harried mom, time to read became one of my most precious commodities. Today, books bring the spirit of Christmas to me on a daily basis. They are the reason I found the bravery to build my Vista Cañas nature retreat.
In addition to being a natural sanctuary, Vista Cañas will also be a book retreat. I cannot wait to welcome solo readers and BRFs (Best Reader Friends)—and hold book retreats for small groups of avid readers.
If you’re looking for a book retreat, here’s some of what you’ll find here:
- A small lending library of quality books (available to reserve and checkout from the website or in person)
- Pre-loaded Kindles (available to rent)
- Plenty of hammocks
- Strategically placed reading chairs and benches
For those looking for adventure, there is an abundance of outdoor activities and plenty of opportunities to get an adrenaline rush here. If you’re not the adventurous type, this is the perfect place to tip toe out of your comfort zone.
Here are just some of the activities in close proximity to the future Vista Cañas book and nature retreat:
- Horseback riding
- Snorkeling & scuba diving
- Zip lining
- Exploring sea caves
- Ocean fishing
- An excursion to the tropical island of Isla Iguana
- Surfing (body, board, kite) and stand up paddle boarding
If it’s adventure you’re after, you’ll find it here for sure.
5. Romance or a Romantic Honeymoon Destination
You wake up to the sound of waves crashing on the beach. After preparing a simple breakfast (and local coffee) together in the communal kitchen, you head out to the patio with a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean and Isla de Cañas. You pack up a picnic lunch and some beach supplies and trek down to the practically private beach where you explore, relax and swim in the warm ocean. When you get back to your casita, it’s the perfect time for an afternoon hammock siesta. You awake to the sound of howler monkeys who tempt you into a short walk before the sun sets behind the distant mountain range. If you’re lucky, you’ll fall asleep to the sound of rain.
If it’s romance you’re looking for, I have no doubt you’ll find it here.
6. Artistic Inspiration
The sights, sounds and smells of nature—and, hopefully, the simple beauty of the casitas themselves—will combine to create a space that has the power to bring forth everyone’s inner artist and inspire great works from the seasoned painters, writers, musicians, photographers.
If it’s creative inspiration you’re looking for, I’m certain you’ll find it here.
7. Panama Expat Help
In addition to our #OPERATIONEXPAT blog, I plan on being available for hands on help to those considering Panamá as an expat destination. My brain will be available to pick, the realities of our expat life will not be sugar coated, and our reputable connections will be shared.
If it’s Panama expat help you need, you will find it here.
8. To just BE.
I’ve wandered to many places in this world and the Vista Cañas nature retreat is one of the few that is a perfect place to relax, meditate, feel the solitude—just be.
9. A Place to Party
This is one thing you won’t find here. Sorry…(not sorry).
when can I stay at the vista cañas book & nature retreat?
You might have noticed that I’m just a little excited about the Vista Cañas book and nature retreat. But, my mama heart is strong and grounded—which is why I’m delaying the fruition of my goal until my daughter graduates university.
In the meantime, I’m on it.
I recently chose one of the two most important people involved in this project—our architect. I connected with Harmodio, the owner of Barrios & Associates, when I reached out in an expat group on Facebook. He’s young, he’s talented and he’s excited about this project. I do believe we’re going to work magic together.
If I can find an equally responsive builder, my estimated completion date is mid-2021.
But, it’s Panamá, so we best all put on our patient pants!