In Evie’s words …
Who inspires me? My girlfriends who are all starting their own businesses and doing what they love! They inspired me to do what I love. It’s never too late to follow your passion.
Best advice Go for it. If you want to try something or have a dream then give it your best shot. I don’t think there’s a downside, even if it works out differently to what you’d hoped.
Evie Farrell and her six-year-old daughter Emily stride hand in hand onto the beach in Borneo. An achingly beautiful sea stretches before them, the sand is so white it’s near blinding, and a breeze caresses the tangle of jungle beyond. There’s no-one else in sight – just mother, daughter and their wide smiles, beach hair, and bare feet.
Evie’s heart swells with the love she feels for her daughter. They’ve never been closer. She’s never felt so free, so excited by possibility. For the duo are on an 18-month Asian-travel adventure. It’s a time to reconnect, to let go of stress, to revel in the richness of shared experiences.
But they haven’t always been this way. Just a year ago Evie was drowning in the rat race, working full time, saving to renovate her home, her time with her daughter a whirl of rushed night-time kisses and weekends that felt painfully short.
A single mum since shortly after Emily was born, Evie had worked long hours in Sydney to keep them financially afloat for most of Emily’s life. Her baby was in the care of a foreign au pair. Emily spent more time with her carers than her mum.
Evie loved her job but she yearned to be with her daughter. They were managing but it didn’t feel right. Evie hated to admit, even to herself, but she often felt disconnected from her own daughter. “It just didn’t sit right with me,” Evie says. “So every three months we’d go on a holiday together – Fiji, Disneyland, Borneo. I love to travel – and that’s how we connected.”
Evie sometimes confided in her good friend George – someone who seemed to have it made. George had a gorgeous husband, two lovely kids, a new house. “She’d got to a real sweet spot in her life,” Evie says. Then cancer struck. George passed away within months.
“It just made me realise that we never know what’s going to happen in our lives,” Evie says. “And I realised my first priority had to be spending time with Emily.”
“It just made me realise that we never know what’s going to happen in our lives.”
But how to do this with a mortgage, and the high-cost of living in Sydney? Evie considered the money she’d been saving to renovate her house. Did she really need to keep up with the ‘Joneses’? She remembered the cheap living she’d enjoyed on her Asian holidays. And she thought – why not throw in the job, swap the rat race for the holiday lifestyle, live cheap and be with her daughter full time? The rental income would cover the mortgage and provide some spending money. And she wouldn’t need much in Asia.
Her friends didn’t take her seriously at first. When they realised she wasn’t joking they were worried, But what if you don’t like it, they asked? What happens when your money runs out? What will you do when you get back? You’ll go mad spending 24 hours a day with your daughter. But Evie didn’t share their fears. It felt right. A weight lifted from her shoulders.
It took a year of planning to get there. Evie rented out her house for 18 months. She saved more money, resigned from her job, organised distance education for Emily, planned visits with Emily’s dad.
When the day of departure arrived, they grasped hands and bounded through immigration on route to the Philippines, awash with excitement. The first few weeks passed in a whirl of beaches, swimming, snorkelling, and soaking up sun. Until Evie got an ear infection so bad that her ear drum burst.
Anything is possible
Already steeped in the luxury of having time, this blow did little to cloud their enthusiasm. Evie visited hospital. And, with swimming now out of the question, they decided on a city adventure rather than a beach one. Next stop Taiwan.
Their time in Taiwan’s Taipei became a holiday highlight, brimming with whole days of “shared moments”, whether it was travelling the metro through a kaleidoscope of city streets, or hiking hand in hand up a mountain.
Their confidence grew. They journeyed to Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Singapore, Borneo, Langkawi. They trekked mountains, zip lined across ravines, shrieked with the delight at their first sighting of hornbills and shared the wonder of discovering the world’s biggest flower – a giant rafflesia – deep in the Bornean jungle.
They met different people, they ate different food. Emily’s inquisitive nature found the time and circumstance to blossom. “Kids this age are so beautiful,” Evie says. “They’re inquisitive, accepting and tolerant, they take an interest, they ask questions. It’s beautiful to watch.”
They stayed in cheap accommodation, and occasionally lashed out at a resort. They argued over Emily’s school work. They attended tourism events. Evie updated her blog. She wrote about their adventure, and she shared tips on travelling with kids to encourage other families to travel together.
They Skyped Emily’s friends and father at home. And they came to believe that anything is possible.
“I’d always been kind of cynical about the saying ‘follow your dreams,’” Evie says. “And I know it sounds cliché but if you want something badly enough you really can make it happen. It’s become really important to me to let other mums know that it really is possible. If we can do it, anyone can do it. Once you’re on the road, you’re fine.”
“If we can do it, anyone can do it.”
Evie says she has felt her own personality shift as she continues the 18-month adventure. She’s now steeped in holiday mode – that blissful state when there’s always enough time, nothing seems too troubling. Even when she broke a tooth recently she simply shrugged her shoulders, visited the dentist, got a new tooth, and kept travelling. “The luxury of time takes away the stress of everything,” she says. “Any challenges, you can just sort through them.”
Evie also came to reflect on her life at home – at how much stuff she’d accumulated, on how focused she’d become on ‘things’. She now sees herself as less wasteful, more focused on experiences than possessions. “I feel so much more content in myself,” she says. “I don’t have any worries – those day-to-day worries like routine, mortgages, working, getting caught up in having to have what everyone else has. Now we have just one backpack between us. It’s so casual. It’s fulltime holiday mode. I know it will be different when we’re home, but I think we’ll be different too.”
“It’s fulltime holiday mode.”
New lives await
Evie says they’ll travel for as long as they can afford it – hopefully 18 months, possibly with a trip to America at the end. After, they’ll return to their Sydney home. But Evie believes they’ll never go back to their old way of living. They’ll be slower, they’ll make the time for each other, and never again will they let stress and routine get in the way of that beautiful connection between mother and daughter.
Get involved …
You can keep abreast of Evie and Emily’s journal, and get tips on travelling with kids, at Evie’s blog www.mumpacktravel.com
You can also follow the duo on Instagram @mumpacktravel