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.
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!
my vision for vista cañas…
I had no interest in building just another place for people to hang out and sleep on their vacation.
My vision is to create a retreat that will feed souls—with three primary focuses:
Even if you never left the private Vista Cañas community, unofficially known as Madroño, your nature bucket would 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 visited by monkeys and other wildlife
- One vast and stunning beach with sea caves
- One secluded surf spot
- A natural estuary
And, if you come at just the right time, breeching whales and nesting sea turtles.
As amazing as the “neighborhood” is, you won’t want to miss what’s just outside of it:
- Isla de Cañas (home to mangroves and nesting sea turtles)
- Hiking trails to vistas and waterfalls
- Picturesque and uncrowded beaches
- Hectares of farmland and jungle
- A tiny tropical island called Isla Iguana with (you guessed it) lots and lots of iguanas (and more)
- A (warm) ocean to surf, snorkel and/or scuba in
- Prime deep sea fishing on the “Tuna Coast”
If nature is what you’re looking for, you’ll definitely find it here.
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 feeling of Christmas to me on a daily basis—and they are behind the massive amount of bravery I am tapping into to build Vista Cañas.
That’s why in addition to being a nature retreat, Vista Cañas will also be a book retreat offering guests:
- A well-stocked library of books (available to local readers too!)
- Complimentary pre-loaded Kindles
- Strategically placed hammocks and patio chairs
- Hidden reading spots
Vista Cañas is the future headquarters of Tribe XX—a community of women supporting women founded by my daughter and I in the Fall of 2019.
I’ve always been extremely passionate about connecting with women. It wasn’t until my necessary midlife transition that I was able to find women who desired the kind of connection I was looking for—intimate, raw, real and positive.
We founded Tribe XX to boost up women—and be boosted ourselves.
I am ecstatic for the day when I can tell every member that they have a place—to rest and rejuvenate, to heal after being hit by a curveball, to re-balance when things have gotten out of whack, to regain 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 grasp that taking care of myself was not selfish—and now I’m a passionate preacher.
And, there’s more…
For those looking for adventure, there are plenty of opportunities to get your adrenaline going here.
If you haven’t been the adventurous type, this is a fantastic place to tip toe out of your comfort zone. Here are just some of the things to do in the area:
- Horseback riding
- Snorkeling & scuba diving
- Zip lining
- Permaculture & farm tours
- Ocean fishing
- A visit to a tropical island
- Surfing (body, board, kite), surf lessons, and stand up paddle boarding
For those looking for romance, imagine this…
You wake up to the sound of waves crashing on the beach. After preparing a simple breakfast and local coffee together in the kitchen, you walk out to the communal terrace or back to your private deck and savor the stunning view of the Pacific Ocean and Isla de Cañas along with your meal.
Then, you pack up a picnic lunch and beach supplies and trek down to the practically private beach where you explore, relax and swim in the warm ocean together.
When you get back to your room or casita, the hammocks remind you that it’s time for an afternoon siesta. You awake refreshed to the sound of howler monkeys who tempt you into a short walk before the sun sets behind the mountains in the distance.
If you’re lucky, you’ll fall asleep to the sound of rain falling outside.
The sights, sounds and smells of nature—and, hopefully, the simple beauty of Vista Cañas itself—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.
In addition to our #OPERATIONEXPAT blog, I also plan on being available for hands-on help to anyone 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.
I’ve wandered to many places in this world and I am certain that Vista Cañas will be a perfect place to relax, meditate, soak up the solitude—and just be.
if all goes well…
Although I’m chomping at the bit to get started building my book and nature retreat, I won’t be making the move to Playa Venao until my girl graduates university.
The move date is set—January 15, 2021.
My architect—Harmodio Barrios of Barrios & Associates—have completed the design of the main house and are working on the casitas now.
I’ll choose my builder when I am down there and, if all goes smoothly (ha ha), I expect the Vista Cañas book & nature retreat to open in late 2021.
But, hey, it’s Panamá, so who the heck knows???