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I first visited in Panama as an adventurous 18-year-old in 2009. I was attending University of Louisville and became friends with a lively group of Panamanians that were studying abroad there. Yes it is random they would choose to study in Louisville, but there is actually a small Louisville campus in Panama with an exchange program.

After hearing about the incredible placed they lived,I had to see it for myself.

Driving from Panama’s Tocumen International Airport into the city was a mighty skyline of glistening glass skyscrapers and construction cranes. I was instantly intrigued as to how a “third world country” could look like this.

The 15 days I spent in Panama was a whirlwind from the second I landed. My friend immediately took me out to a chic nightclub on Calle Uruguay that was then called The Loft where we bought cheap bottles of Absolut. We then had a 6 am flight to Bocas del Toro that we almost missed because of the previous night’s partying. The flight ended up being on “Panama Time” so everything worked out. In Bocas, I drank Cerveza Panama for the first time while I waded in turquoise, Caribbean water on a deserted island. From Bocas, I went to the chilly mountains in Boquete where Panama’s coffee and produce is grown and then headed back to the city.

I then booked three more trips to Panama and then finally moved on July 4, 2011 (I know it’s ironic to move from the U.S. on the 4th of July but flights were cheaper) with my dog Riley to finish my final two years of college at the Louisville campus in Panama.

I loved the chaos, the heat, and people I’ve met in Panama City so I have now decided to make it my permanent home.

In 2012, I started my blog PTY Life because there much else around at the time on what life in Panama is like through the eyes of a 20-something. In the blog, I cover things to do in Panama, events, news, tips, and just overall how to have a good time in. (And just in case anyone is wondering what PTY is, it is Panama City’s airport code and often the nickname referred to by locals). I also started the Panama Detour, a food & walking experience through Panama City in 2016 and it’s been incredible to connect with visitors from all over the world!

I have cherished my time in Panama and I hope that by sharing my experiences and what I have learned, that other people will be able to appreciate this country as much as I do. You can also follow me on Instagram at @joeybonura with my latest travel updates.