Source: Best Health magazine, January/February 2016
Judy Bonnell is the type of person who doesn’t like to overthink things. Eight years ago, when she and her husband were vacationing in Costa Rica and found a partially completed house for sale in what is touted to be one of the healthiest regions in the world, they took the plunge and bought it.
At the time, Bonnell was a real estate agent in Calgary, and she came back to visit her new purchase on the Nicoya Peninsula 18 times in that first year alone. Eventually, she started spending half the year there, converting the house into a bed and breakfast she called Vista Hermosa (meaning ‘pretty view’).
After getting divorced, she realized there was nothing stopping her from living in this idyllic setting full-time. ‘People thought I was crazy moving, but I have no children and didn’t have to think about anyone else but me,’ says the 59-year-old. ‘Life is short, and I don’t think people pay enough attention to their wants and needs.’
Bonnell speaks from experience: Two years after selling her Calgary home and settling into Costa Rica, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. ‘I was alone and considered going back, but I ended up having my operation and treatment here and I’m feeling great now,’ she says, noting that her surgery happened within 10 days of being diagnosed. ‘My surgeon even gave me his cellphone number so I could get in touch any time I wanted.’
A foodie who loves to cook, Bonnell recently opened her kitchen to the public, with a restaurant serving made-to-order meals based on fresh local fare. ‘It’s a lot of hard work, but the more reviews I see on TripAdvisor, the more I’m encouraged to keep going,’ she says. ‘We’re making people happy.’
As one of the few female business owners in the area, she had to earn the respect of locals, but now many of them are close friends. She says her biggest hurdle has been adapting to the pace. ‘I was used to going 90 miles an hour, and that just doesn’t work here,’ she says. ‘You can’t always get things done when you want them done, but I’m learning to let that roll off my back.’
More than anything, this Canadian expat never grows tired of the view. ‘I love the fact that I can spend 80 percent of my day outside in my expansive garden, with my office right on the patio,’ she says. ‘It’s a freedom I just can’t experience back in Canada.’