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The Road Ahead: Panama, 2024

It’s been 16 years since I was last in Panama, where I lived out the final flickers of youth.

Panama flag
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ASTORIA, NYC- As a kid, I’ve always had a fascination with Panama. I would spend countless hours gazing at the National Geographic maps that I had stapled all over my walls and almost invariably that squiggly little country linking North and South America would grab my attention.

The place looked like a bridge to me — a meandering, noodley sort of land bridge connecting continents while dividing oceans. I thought about the peoples who would traverse this corridor as well as something that I would later find out was called the Great American Biotic Interchange, where masses of wildlife from the north and south would join together on their respective evolutionary journeys.

When I began going to the places that I would gaze at on those maps in 1999, high on my list was Panama. However, it wasn’t until 2008 — when I was nine years into my travels — that I’d finally go there. And it would be another 16 years before I would return.

I would like to take a moment here to thank Terry for his generous $5 a month subscription to Vagabond Journey. I had yet to even announce the subscription model yet, and almost as soon as I inserted the code for the payment buttons Terry found them and clicked. I’m floored. It’s incredibly humbling to have a group of people here who have been following this journey for decades … and each time someone tosses me a little cash to keep going it simply feels incredible. Thank you.

I just read through some of my blog posts from Panama in 2008 and laughed — I had no idea then that hardly eight months later I would have gotten together with the woman who would become my wife and be expecting our first child.

There was nothing on my path indicating that I would go in this direction, and those weeks that I was in Panama could be called some of the last days of my youth. I would soon leave Central America and go to Eastern Europe, where I would attempt to ride a bicycle from Prague to Istanbul before getting an email from Hannah inviting me to join her in Brooklyn, where we would actually complete our bachelor degrees.

I just read through some of my blog posts from Panama in 2008 and laughed — I was so young then, so clueless; and my life was so gloriously pointless. Nobody relied on me and I didn’t rely on anyone else. I was wonderfully irrelevant. I was 27 years old — not quite an adolescent, not quite a man — and my only care in the world was working as little as possible and clenching every penny so that I could travel for just more day … just one more day ...

I hope that someday I come back and read these posts that I’m writing today and again find myself clueless and naive. That’s probably the best indicator that you’re learning, progressing, and building something in life. The worst thing in the world would probably be to look back on who you were 16 years ago and think you were pretty cool.

The plan for Panama

What initially caught my attention about Panama was a collection of articles that came out over the past couple of years about how the Panama Canal is facing operational challenges due to an unusual lack of rainwater. Almost universally, the reporters and the researchers they interviewed attributed this to human created climate change. The Panama Canal is an iconic thoroughfare of commerce and travel, and I figure it would be a good place to begin my new project. Plus, as I mentioned above, I’ve always had a thing for the country … and this gives me an excuse to go there.

But I will probably also have some time to hang out a little, travel around, and partake in that particular brand of do-nothing that you can only do when strolling around a new place all by yourself without any semblance of plan or agenda.

I would kind of like to climb up one of those mountains where I can look out at both oceans at the same time.

I may go to Boquete.

Or I may just string together a few random little dots on the map that nobody ever goes to.

I’ll probably end up just wandering around Panama a little. It’s not like I will have any luggage weighing me down.


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Filed under: Panama, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3716 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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