The 4th of July marks an important day for me, two years ago today and 20 years old, I packed up all of my things into two suitcases and moved from Kentucky to Panama with my dog Riley. It’s a little ironic to move to another country on the day mine is celebrating independence, but I was on a budget and it’s cheaper to travel on the 4th of July. I started with the plan of just coming for a semester of school here and then gradually kept extending it until I finally decided to finish school in Panama. I actually just finished my last class two days ago, so now I’ll be trying to figure out what else Panama has in store for me.

On Facebook and my blog I tend to show the best that Panama has to offer. Panama is a great country but it’s not always an easy glamorous life at the Trump pool. Here are some of the behind the scenes things that have happened over the last two years:

– I have had several days where I have had to walk through a foot of water during rainy season because the street drainage systems are not good enough.

-Many times I have waited over an hour for a Metrobus, and when it finally arrived the only space available was where the door opens and even that was a squeeze for me. Then it would take almost another hour to get to work because of construction and traffic.

– When I had a problem with my cell phone, I had to go to the store three times to get it fixed. Each time I had to wait an hour.

– I was stuck in an elevator with 11 people and it took two hours for help to arrive.

– I know a lot of Spanish but some days I get so frustrated with the language barrier that I don’t want to talk to anyone.

– Walking through construction all the time.

– Horrible sidewalks!

– One of the times that I was at the Trump pool, pieces of concrete fell from one of the top floors where they were doing construction and onto the pool area. One of the pieces hit someones knee and it took two hours for an ambulance to arrive while he screamed in pain (and there is a hospital a five minute walk away).

– An hour wait to pay for groceries at Riba Smith (I don’t go there now unless I have to).

– Just constantly dealing with people being hours late in general.

Even though a lot of these things ruin my day at the time, it at least made the day interesting. And if I constantly focussed all my attention on the negatives of Panama (ain’t nobody got time for that) I would not get to enjoy all of the cool things that I have been able to do here. I have gotten to stand in a natural pool in the middle of the ocean, relax at some of the most luxurious city pools, island hop in San Blas, I have been in a few Panamanian commercials, Panamanian carnivals, traveled to Colombia, and partied at some awesome electronic concerts and nightclubs. Also, just having year round hot weather is amazing and I will never live somewhere that gets cold again.

I think that one of the best things about being here is just watching the country grow up. I first came in 2009 for vacation and between then and now the city has changed so much. Back then, there was basically nothing to do in the historic area of Panama in Casco Viejo. In just 4 years I have seen so many bars and restaurants open that the traffic going in there at night feels like I am driving into Calle Uruguay. There have also been several very architecturally stunning buildings that have sprouted up out of nowhere throughout the city. The Diablo Rojo (Red Devil) busses are finally gone and they are replaced by nice busses that you would expect to see in a growing city (I rode a Diablo Rojo bus one time and it is literally hell). Panama’s first subway line is also set to be completed by next year. There is still a longggggg way to go but it’s been great to see the amount of changes to infrastructure in a relatively short time.

I have also made so many great friends here and I think we have an awesome time every weekend. We start almost every weekend at my apartment for music and drinks and then head out to somewhere different each weekend. There is always something new that opens every few months so it’s pretty difficult to get bored.

The hardest part about people here is not getting to see my family all the time but I am so thankful for FaceTime. We try to use FaceTime once a week to stay in touch and it really helps it feel like less time in-between visits. We even had a FaceTime Thanksgiving dinner. I have also had family and friends visit which helps a lot.

I recently started my residency process so I won’t need to make a border run every six months and it means I am staying in Panama for the long term. I am looking forward to more time in Panama and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Experience Panama


I'm Joey, a guy from Louisville, Kentucky that packed up and studied abroad in Panamá at the age of 20 and haven't moved back since. What started as a semester trip to Panamá has turned into 7+ years of living in Latin America and becoming a full-time travel blogger. Follow me on Instagram @joeybonura for more updates on my life abroad!


  1. Jeni Presley Reply

    I admire you for your sense of adventure and determination . I moved from Panama to Nashville 9 years already.. and my skin yells to feel the Panamanian sun again.. my country is small but at the same time so big and so full of adventures, beauty, life, smiles… I miss my holidays and vacations to enjoy life.. in US, the mentality is different; all is work work work.. 🙂 Enjoy life, enjoy Panama, keep exploring. WIsh you the best of luck and keep your blog please, I feel like if I am in Panama again when I read them. 🙂

  2. Jan Stratton Cooksey Reply

    nice but it's a little far for a person your taxes done!

  3. Teresa Rutherford Reply

    Paul and I are looking at this country as a possible move or second home. Please keep the info coming.

  4. Lisa Maltese Reply

    such an interesting journey! so glad he shared it in his article! keep me posted for chapter 2!

  5. It was so hard to let you go two years ago and every time in between now and then. I am proud of you for living your dream and the daily courage it takes for you to continue to do that.
    “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.”.
    Acts 17:26-28
    I found this verse last fall and it really encouraged me to see that God has placed you where you are because it is the most likely place for you to continue to reach out to him and continue to find him. I love you my son.

  6. Stephanie Lievano Reply

    Love you Joey, I'm so lucky we have gotten to experience Panama together!

  7. Jesus Florez Reply


    This is a great reading and hope you achieved your goals here. Really hope we can improve those negative things which I totally agree with you. I must thank you again for this great blog promoting our country which I would definitely recommend to any native English speaker who seek to visit Panama. Hope you can continue contributing by helping us to make this country a much better place for everyone who wants to make Panama his/her place to live.


    PS: Aun no puedo creer lo que paso en la piscina del hotel Triump. Waooo que barbaridad!

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