Texas parents who left Houston for a new life in Costa Rica’s ‘blue zone’ after mom’s


A woman who fled the US to live in Costa Rica’s ‘blue zone’ with her family after noticing she felt much healthier when she visited amid her cancer battle has shared some of the immense benefits to living in the Central American country.

Kema Ward-Hopper, originally from Houston, Texas, was devastated when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 – just months before she was set to tie the knot in Costa Rica with her longtime boyfriend, Nicholas.

Despite her being in the midst of her treatment, they still decided to go through with the trip and jetted off to the Latin American country to say their ‘I dos.’

And as soon as they landed in Costa Rica, Kema noticed a stark difference in the way that she felt.

A woman fled the US to live in Costa Rica's 'blue zone' with her family after noticing she felt much healthier when she visited amid her cancer battle

A woman fled the US to live in Costa Rica’s ‘blue zone’ with her family after noticing she felt much healthier when she visited amid her cancer battle 

Kema Ward-Hopper was devastated when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 - just months before she were set to tie the knot in Costa Rica with her longtime boyfriend, Nicholas

Kema Ward-Hopper was devastated when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 – just months before she were set to tie the knot in Costa Rica with her longtime boyfriend, Nicholas

Despite her being in the midst of her treatment, they decided to go through with the trip and jetted off to the Latin American country to say their ‘I dos’ – and she felt so much better there

The five places with 'Blue Zone' status: Okinawa, Japan ; Sardinia, Italy ; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece ; and Loma Linda, California in the United States

The five places with ‘Blue Zone’ status: Okinawa, Japan ; Sardinia, Italy ; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece ; and Loma Linda, California in the United States

Kema said she felt more energetic and like she was suddenly ‘getting better’ – but within a week of returning to their home in Texas, it was ‘bad again.’ 

For years, she couldn’t stop thinking about how different she felt in Costa Rica – and she eventually decided to move there full-time.

Kema underwent a unilateral mastectomy and is now cancer free. She's seen during her cancer battle with her daughter

Kema underwent a unilateral mastectomy and is now cancer free. She’s seen during her cancer battle with her daughter

She has now opened up about all the ways her and her family’s lives have improved since they left the states during a recent interview with CNN – from her kids being able to connect with nature to the strong sense of community.

‘I felt the best that I had been feeling since I’d been diagnosed,’ she recalled of her first trip to Costa Rica to CNN.

‘I thought that I was getting better. But it really seemed like it was environmental, because after about a week [back at home], I was feeling bad again.

‘So that was the first indicator that there was something special about Costa Rica.’

Kema explained that she eventually underwent a unilateral mastectomy and is now cancer free – but the family faced more tragedy a year later when their house was destroyed by a hurricane.

While looking for a new place to live, Kema and Nicholas couldn’t stop thinking about Costa Rica.

The family eventually decided to move to there full-time - and she has now opened up about all the ways her and her family's lives have improved since they left the states

The family eventually decided to move to there full-time – and she has now opened up about all the ways her and her family’s lives have improved since they left the states

Kema (seen with her daughter) praised Costa Rica's strong sense of community, explaining, 'The locals are helpful whether they know you or not. The community looks out for each other'

Kema (seen with her daughter) praised Costa Rica’s strong sense of community, explaining, ‘The locals are helpful whether they know you or not. The community looks out for each other’

‘We just felt like we wanted to get back there and just feel good,’ Kema recalled. ‘There’s something energetic about being in Costa Rica.’

In 2018, the couple, along with their young daughter, Aaralyn, packed up all their things and officially relocated to the country.

They settled in Pueblo Nuevo, a small town located in the Nicoya Peninsula that is one of the world’s few blue zones – the areas around the world where people have the longest life expectancies.

She noted that the food is healthier and the air feels cleaner. She said, 'We have noticed that we feel better when we¿re here. Our cardiac health and lung health seems to be better.' One of the meals she recently prepared is pictured

She noted that the food is healthier and the air feels cleaner. She said, ‘We have noticed that we feel better when we’re here. Our cardiac health and lung health seems to be better.’ One of the meals she recently prepared is pictured

Adjusting to life in Costa Rica was certainly a shock – as they weren’t used to living ‘in the jungle.’

‘It was an adventure,’ joked Kema. ‘One long learning experience.’

But the pair was immediately drawn to the country’s simple lifestyle, relaxed nature, and strong sense of community.

‘I had an idea of what I thought community was, but that was completely obliterated when I got here and experienced true community,’ she gushed.

‘The locals were helpful whether they knew you or not… It was amazing. The community really looked out for each other.’ 

The couple – who expanded their family by welcoming son Nicolai in April 2020 – say their days now consist of ‘lots of hikes’ and splashing around at the beach, and they’re especially happy that their young kids have connected with nature.

‘My husband and I both commented that she was able to kind of have a childhood like we had in the ’80s and ’90s – being able to go outside and play outside of the watchful eye of your parents,’ commented Kema.

She said ‘families come first’ there, adding, ‘I feel like in the States, you feel pressure taking your young child out to dinner or something.

She said 'families come first' there, adding, ' They love children. And I don¿t necessarily know that I felt the same [in the US]. It¿s a very family oriented nation'

She said ‘families come first’ there, adding, ‘ They love children. And I don’t necessarily know that I felt the same [in the US]. It’s a very family oriented nation’

In addition, she said she has found herself less 'uptight' since making the move, since things feel much slower-paced there than the 'super fast' States

In addition, she said she has found herself less ‘uptight’ since making the move, since things feel much slower-paced there than the ‘super fast’ States

Kema described the Costa Rican people as 'hardworking' and much more connected to their surroundings. She's pictured with her daughter

Kema described the Costa Rican people as ‘hardworking’ and much more connected to their surroundings. She’s pictured with her daughter

‘Here, if your kid wants to play and walk around the table, then they tell you to leave them alone and let them. So it’s just different. 

They love children. And I don’t necessarily know that I felt the same [in the US]. It’s a very family-oriented nation. Families definitely [come] first.’

She also noted that the food is healthier and the air feels cleaner. She said, ‘We have noticed that we feel better when we’re here. Our cardiac health and lung health seems to be better.’

In addition, she said she has found herself less ‘uptight’ since making the move, since things feel much slower-paced there than the ‘super fast’ States.

Kema described the Costa Rican people as ‘hardworking’ and much more connected to their surroundings.

‘They live with the land and not in spite of the land,’ she added. ‘They don’t try to remove all of the nature so that they can exist. They just kind of exist with the nature. At least where we live.’

The family have no plans to return to the US, however, Kema did admit that she misses a few things – like it being cold around Christmas time and being able to order from Amazon, which isn’t a thing there. 

‘When Christmas rolls around, sometimes I just want to put on fuzzy socks and a big hoodie and curl up somewhere cozy with a mug of hot chocolate while it’s cold outside. But that does not happen [here]. It’s a hot Christmas,’ she said.



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