Dusk Masthead

Escaping the Modern Loop

Beatrice Smith

Have you ever wanted to throw in the towel and just go? To quit your job, buy a one way ticket and pack your swimmers?

To most of us, this is a 2pm workday fantasy that mostly involves a winning lottery ticket and white sandy beaches free of colleagues and responsibilities.

Then reality comes crashing back down. The mortgage. The kids’ school year. That new bathroom you want. Your cousin’s wedding in two months time.

‘We can’t all be Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love,’ you mutter to yourself as you refocus on your inbox. But as Evie Farrell explains, you don’t need to be rich, childless or even Elizabeth Gilbert to, just, well, go.

In 2015, Evie and her then six-year-old daughter Emily (Emmie) bought a one-way ticket to the Philippines and didn’t look back—but, as Evie explains, it wasn’t a snap decision.

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The founder of the mumpack travel website was a solo-parent working full-time in communications and struggling to balance work and life. Leaving at 7am for work and returning at 8pm left Evie with almost no quality time with her daughter.

“As Emmie got older I felt like I was spending less and less time with her. With two parents it’s hard enough, but as a solo parent…it wasn’t working and it was really heartbreaking for me because I couldn’t see how I could fix it.”

Regular trips together provided the chance to reconnect, and inspired her to create mumpacktravel as an online destination where parents could share information about travelling with children. But it wasn’t until Evie’s close friend passed away from cancer, leaving two small children and her husband behind, that she considered a different way of life.

Floored with grief, Evie couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to Emmie if it had been her.

“I felt like Emmie wouldn’t have even known who I was, we just didn’t spend enough time together,” says Evie. “It was a big wake up call for me.”

Long-term travel had crossed Evie’s mind, but before she took the leap she booked a trip to Borneo to test her daughter’s resilience to the daily ups and downs of travel, budget stays and public transport. Emmie loved it, and as soon as they touched down back in Australia, Evie put her plan into motion.

Evie and Emmie

Evie and Emmie

“We decided ‘that was it’ and that we would go for a year,” says Evie. “I had some savings and I funded it with money that I was saving to do a kitchen renovation.” Evie also enrolled Emmie in the New South Wales Distance Education Primary School so she wouldn’t miss any schooling.

Evie and Emmie left Australia in February 2016 and traveled for an initial 12 months, starting in Cebu in the Philippines, where a poorly-timed burst eardrum for Evie redirected them to Taiwan.

From there it was Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, China (“we went back three times – we LOVED China”), Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Maldives, Cambodia and even a quick trip over to Europe to explore Paris, London and Cologne.

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As they explored, mumpack travel flourished as Evie poured her real life experience into her writing, inspiring families around the world to embrace travel with younger children. They’ve recently returned home to refill the coffers to fund their next adventure.

“We didn’t want to come back after a year so we kept going for 17 months,” says Evie. “We both would have loved to stay in Asia but we had to come back and earn some money.”

When I ask her if she has a deadline for returning to full-time travel, she laughs.

“It’s the only time I have a deadline!” she exclaims. “I have a contract working until early December and as soon as Emmie is on school holidays we’ll go.”

But not necessarily straight back overseas.

“We’re figuring out whether we can afford to drive around Australia, and if not we will go back to Asia,” says Evie, who admits that Asia has captured their hearts.

From hiking remote pockets of China to eating street food in Bangkok and swimming with sharks in the Maldives, Emmie has thrown herself into travel as much as her mum and Evie marvels at her resilience.

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“Kids are amazing because they transcend every barrier. She’s made friends with kids from different cultures all over the world and I love that travel helps kids keep that open-mindedness with them as they grow.”

However, Evie notes that it wasn’t all sunshine and Frequent Flyer points. A few months into the trip, distance schooling became a struggle as Emmie refused to cooperate with lessons. But, Evie explains, “as we usually do, we stumbled upon a solution”—a stint at an International School in Hoi An, Vietnam.

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Despite the challenges of being a solo parent, teacher, breadwinner and travel agent, Evie’s ultimate goal is to expose her daughter to the world outside of the loop of many modern lifestyles.

“It’s so funny, we often look at people in developing countries and we feel sorry for them,” muses Evie.

“But in many ways I think these people have richer lives because they have time to spend with their families and to take life slowly. Life isn’t always easy, but it’s simple. I think many of us are trapped by the material things we think we need. There is another way, and I reckon we’ve found it”

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You can follow Evie and Emmie’s travels at mumpacktravel.com and instagram.com/mumpacktravel as they plan their next adventure.

This article originally appeared in Magazine: Disruption for Spring 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people – sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies.

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