As I shared in my very first post, my life has been a lot like one of those (really long) dot-to-dots I did as a kid. When I could finally see the big picture, I knew right where to go next. No more envying, no more dreaming…it was time to make a solid plan for building a retreat.

In early 2018, I stood on a vacant lot (dot) in Playa Venao, Panamá, and knew this was where I’d build it.

Why am I building a retreat???

There’s a fairly long line of people who believe I made a mistake buying property in Panamá before renting. I imagine those same people would believe the same about me building a retreat.

Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not.

What I do know is that I have several things working in my favor:

  • An extensive and successful background in real estate and designing and building a home (some of which will help me in Panamá)
  • Being super low maintenance and super highly adaptable
  • A personal philosophy that the grass is greenest wherever you water it
  • The retreat will also be my home (and it will not have a bar or restaurant)
  • Being a digital nomad (so I’m not relying on the retreat for financial survival)
  • My strong intuition and fierce determination
  • My life philosophy that I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I did not

If I had to pinpoint it, I’d guess that my dream of building a retreat was conceived on a meandering trail in a Costa Rican rainforest. The father was a passionate nature guide whose love for his life, and the nature around him, was palpable.

He showed me what was possible and, from then on, I had fantasies of building a retreat on a regular basis.

While chilling in Caye Caulker, Belize, I would dream of having a few of my own colorful beach bungalows.

During several travel therapy sessions on the north shore of Kauai, I would fantasize about creating a peaceful jungle sanctuary for weary souls.

On a long weekend in Cabo San Lucas, I started writing notes about what my imaginary artists’ retreat somewhere in Mexico would look like.

But, the idea really took hold in Bavaria…

For a solid year, I researched long and hard about how I would support myself if I married my then German-boyfriend. My favorite idea was a guest house catering to English speakers—partly because German grammar was kicking my ass and mostly because it felt right.

My time in Germany also taught me just how hungry I was to be an expat at some point in my life.

A temporary pause…

After the German fairy tale ended not-so-happily-ever-after, I placed my dream of building a retreat up on a high shelf to focus on finding a way to support myself back in the U.S.

Nito, my Costa Rican nature guide, silently reminded me never to let my dream die while I focused on starting my own company and went through a re-divorce (a LONG horror story with my ex-husband and two California attorneys as the main characters).

Then, I got lucky—or, rather, some much needed good karma struck.

I fell hard for a guy who also had expat aspirations and, several months later, I landed an outstanding first client.

Over the next six years, not only did I thrive financially, but Ken and I:

My vision for Vista Cañas…

Vista Cañas will be centered on my three deepest passions—nature, books and my fellow woman.


1. Nature


Building a Retreat in Panama | PANAMAEXPATINFO.COMThe nature surrounding the Vista Cañas property was the reason I fell so hard for this place. These are just some of the natural treasures in the immediate area:

  • Breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean (AKA the Tuna Coast)
  • A huge rice field, a tiny island, and lots of tree-covered mountains
  • Unobstructed sunsets
  • Monkeys (and so much more)
  • A massive (and effectively private) beach with sea caves
  • A meandering estuary
  • A secluded surf spot
  • …and, if you come at the right time, migrating whales and nesting sea turtles

Just beyond the driveway gate are:

  • Isla de Cañas (a nature and sea turtle preserve)
  • Waterfalls and vistas
  • Lots of uncrowded beaches
  • Rolling farmland and lush jungle

And, besides nature, there’s so much more to see and do…like visiting the quaint town of Pedasi and the tropical island of Isla Iguana, horseback riding and zip lining, visiting a local farm and taking a permaculture tour, deep sea fishing and surf lessons.


2. Books


Building a Book Retreat in Panama | PANAMAEXPATINFO.COMWhen 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 was one of my most precious commodities.

Today, books still bring the feeling of Christmas to my every day—and are definitely a source of inspiration and fuel for this crazy journey Ken and I are on.

It was an extra special day when I realized that books must be an integral part of my retreat.

So, in addition to nature, Vista Cañas will also have:

  • A well-stocked library of books
  • Complimentary pre-loaded Kindles
  • Strategically placed hammocks
  • Secret reading spots

3. Women


Building a Woman's Retreat in Panama | PANAMAEXPATINFO.COMOf course, men will be welcomed with open arms, but the life that I’ve led and the fires that I’ve walked through have created a desire to create a safe, empathetic and supportive space for women.

Vista Cañas will actually be the “headquarters” of Tribe XX—an online community I created where women support and encourage each other to live their very best lives, whatever that may look like. (If you’re reading this and you’re a woman, PLEASE JOIN!)

I am beyond excited for the day when I get to tell every member that they have a sanctuary—to rest, rejuvenate, and heal, to re-balance or regain footing after a divorce, death, or empty nest, to be seen and heard, or just to try new things and have a fun adventure.

If all goes well…

Although I’m chomping at the bit to get started building a retreat (MY retreat 😍), my serious case of mom guilt won’t let that happen until my baby girl graduates university in December 2020.

My plan is to move to Playa Venao in mid-January 2021, get residency courtesy of the Friendly Nations Visa, then commence construction.

In the meantime, my architect—Barrios & Associates—and I have been hard at work designing Vista Cañas. The main house is done, the two casitas are in progress, and I think we make a great team:

Building a Retreat in Panama | PANAMAEXPATINFO.COM

If all goes smoothly, I expect the Vista Cañas Nature & Book Retreat to open in late 2021. But, hey, it’s Panamá, so who the heck knows??? In the meantime, you can learn more about it here >>> VISTA CAÑAS NATURE & BOOK RETREAT

What I do know is that I expect issues and imperfections. It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen…and, I know, it’s meant to happen.

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