After finding herself unable to tap into her own creativity, personal trainer and fitness instructor LaMonica Evans, 29, decided it was time for a change— and Latin America was the place to make it happen. 

With no set plan, the St. Louis native moved to Panama City, the start of what would become a three-month sabbatical in Latin America taking her through Panama, San Jose, and Mexico

“It was a good opportunity for me to get out of the structure and the norm that I was getting used to,” Evans said. “It was starting to become mundane.”  

Photo courtesy of LaMonica Evans.

Leaving the United States had always been a goal of hers. In college, Evans studied abroad in Barcelona and felt living in a Spanish-speaking country would help her brush up on the foreign linguistics she’d forgotten. She also wanted to be near water and, seeking to grow spiritually and emotionally. Evans set out for Panama, aiming to starve her distractions and feed her creative vibes. 

“Another reason I really chose Panama was that I wanted to go somewhere where there were people who looked like me because there are a lot of Afro-Latin people in Panama City specifically,” she said. 

While in Panama, Evans enjoyed the local fare, engaged with the locals, and met a plethora of ex-pats now residing in Panama for work or retirement. Her favorite dish was Corvina or sea bass, the local catch that was the first item on most Panamanian menus. 

Photo courtesy of LaMonica Evans.

“One of the places I went to would literally get up in the morning and catch the fish and then cook and serve it fresh every day,” Evans said. 

Evans did notice a few differences between Latin American life and her life in the states. For her, the sense of time amongst the locals was much different from back home, and she warns all visitors to expect to wait at least 45 minutes when dining out for food. 

“The sense of urgency is a lot different compared to back home,” she said.

She also recognized the vast difference in the cost of living, with Uber rides sometimes only costing 3 dollars versus the costly one-way rides in the United States. This made travel during her sabbatical easy and affordable. 

Photo courtesy of LaMonica Evans.

“The cost of living was very, very different and the standard of living in Latin American countries is different from what we hold as our standard in the United States,” she said. “So my dollar stretched a lot further.”

Evans left Latin America and returned home in November 2021. Allured by the idea of being a foreigner in an unknown land, she encourages people to explore and get outside and use it as a way to get to know themselves on a deeper level. 

“It just gave me the opportunity to be a student of life, which is a big thing for me, and it gave me the opportunity I needed to also silence a lot of noise and give myself time to just tap in with myself,” she said.