This time last year, she was living in Sydney, working long hours to create the life she wanted for her and Emmie. But her hard work meant they weren’t spending nearly enough time together.
“I compensated for my long hours in the office by taking Emmie overseas every few months, but it just wasn’t enough,” Farrell writes in a piece for The Huffington Post.
“After a cheap holiday in Malaysian Borneo, I realised we could travel long-term in Asia for much less than it cost to live at home. And we would be together.”
A trip to the Chocolate Hills which are not so chocolatey this time of year but still a fab view of these lovely domes popping up across the land as far as we could see. We’ve been away just over a week now and while I know there’ll be highs and lows to come over the weeks and months ahead I just am overwhelmed with how amazing it feels to be following my dream and spending this special time with Emmie. I can feel my heart and my stomach swirling with happiness and I had a little tear while she slept in the tricycle as we scooted through little towns and jungles and along the coast. I am so lucky to be able to do this, and so, so, grateful that we took this leap and that so many people supported our dream to do it – my family, friends, Em’s dad and even her old principal who told me I was doing a great thing for Emmie with this trip. I’ve quickly switched my focus from the corporate ‘measures of success’ to ‘measures of happiness’ – it’s really not about success or money, is it? It’s all about the HAPPY! And we’re having so much of that. Emmie is just a little ball of joy and daring and the Philippines is full of such wonderful, caring people all working hard to make a living but still friendly, polite and helpful – and of course the scenery and beaches are divine. We are in our little room at the pension, Emmie is snoring beside me and I’m just so HAPPY!!
So she started to plan. She decided to spend the money she’d been saving to redo her kitchen on a year-long adventure.
“After buying insurance and flights, fixing up the house for rent and having a month off work before we left, I had $20,000 to pay for our travels for a year―a fraction of what I was spending at home, but enough to support us in Asia,” writes Farrell.
She and Emmie packed up everything, and seven months ago they left.
Since then, with just one backpack between them, they’ve been to 11 countries and had some incredibly amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Countdown to our biggest departure yet! The final step in my big prep has been completed – I’ve resigned and I finish up just before Christmas! I’ve booked our flight out of Sydney for early February and I’m getting seriously into packing up the house and getting it ready to rent. I have to put it on the market in the next few weeks as it will all be very quiet over Christmas so hopefully we will find someone. And if they move in quickly then we will be down at the caravan for January. Emmie’s schooling is sorted, I’ve booked our first hotel for when we arrive in Cebu and I’m started to plan out our itinerary in more detail. There’s a lot going on…but there always is for all of us. The difference for me right now is that everything I am doing to helping me get to our dream – so it’s inspiring not exhausting. Well okay it’s exhausting but it’s giving me energy not sucking it all out of me! There’s been a lot of steps and planning to get this far, and now we’re so close… The countdown is on! Evie xoxo
“We camped on the Great Wall of China. Emmie was so excited and we had such an incredible time—the atmosphere gave me goosebumps,” Farrell tells Spring.St, when asked about the most life-changing moment of their trip so far.
“This and some of our other amazing experiences—like seeing wild Pygmy elephants in Borneo, caring for rescued elephants in Thailand and meeting local families and children everywhere we go—make me positive I am doing the right thing.
“It shows us only a small slice of just how much is out there in the world for us to discover and enjoy and learn from. There is so much to see.”
Rice glue and wolf poo: my two favourite fun facts from our Great Wall adventure. Back in the day in China concrete was made from a thick, gluggy rice soup with a special ingredient: dirt. This stuff was strong! It’s bright white and layered between all the bricks on the Wall and still keeps it together today. Wolf poo is the best poo for sending a smoke signal! If the watchtower guards saw an army or threat approaching they would light wolf poo which would make heaps of black smoke and signal the next watchtower, and so the message would be sent along the wall. I did not know this! This is us maybe three quarters along our journey up the mountain. I have a backpack with our tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses and water, and a front pack [Em started carrying it but I took it off her cause the hills were a lot of work] with camera, toiletries, jumpers and a few other bits and bobs. All together around 12 kilos – so EASY when I am used to carrying a backpack of 20 kilos plus a fully loaded daypack. It was hard work but all good. I am stronger than I think. Update: We did a small group tour with China Hiking! I am not so amazing to do this all by myself! I wish! ????
Right now, they’re spending a month in Hoi An, Vietnam. They’re in a double-sized room at a guesthouse with a swimming pool, paying $20 US dollars a night (which includes breakfast).
Farrell says the two of them spend about $20 a day on food, transportation and activities.
“At home, this would just cover the train fare to work and a coffee,” she says, “but here we are living well.”
For the last seven months, Farrell has homeschooled Emmie through the NSW Distance Education primary school program, which offers resources for remote families and those traveling overseas for long periods of time.
But while in Hoi An, Emmie is spending a month at Green Shoots International School, which Farrell calls, “her first step into formal education during our travels”.
She explains that the school is an added expense but says, “It’s one I’m willing to pay so she can make friends and have some structure, and so we can settle for a month before moving on again.”
Farrell tells Spring.St she and Emmie are heading to the Philippines and then Cambodia in two weeks, but plan on returning to Hoi An at the end of the year.
“We love it here and Emmie has made some lovely school friends. Life is very simple and easy,” she explains. “So we are hoping to use Hoi An as our base until mid-next year—and if I can earn and save enough money we want to hike in the Canadian Rockies in summer.”
If you’re considering long-term travel with your own family, Farrell has some tips to get you started.
Of course, she recommends saving as much as humanly possible before you leave.
She also suggests renting your car as well as your home to bring in extra money as you go, and asking if you can work remotely for your current job. “Take your computer,” she advices. “Most accommodations have reliable and fast wifi.”
This is Emmie’s classroom at Green Shoots International here in Hoi An. She loves her teacher Miss Belinda and the small class is such a change from home where she had 32 classmates. Just after I took this pic Sue the principal came over for a chat and Em was telling us about compound words. Sue asked her – what’s a compound word starting with lady? Of course, Em replied with delight: LADYBOY! Correct Em and God love you for having such a a gorgeous acceptance of the world around you ???????????? And as my friend said, she has probably spent more time with ladyboys than ladybugs in her time. ???????????? . . . . . . . . #vietnamtravel #vietnam #vietnamtrip #vietnamwithkids #ilovevietnam #hoian #hoiantravel #lovehoian #hoianwithkids #travelvietnam #hoianoldtown #hoianvietnam #hoiancity #vietnamese #wanderlust #funtimes #worldschool #holidayswithkids #happydays #bestdays #fivestarkids #holidayswithkids #wearetravelmums #familyjaunts #lovinglife #traveltheworld #schoolhoian #greenshootsinternational #greenshoots
While away, she suggest connecting with other expat families on Facebook and Instagram. “We’ve found great support and made friends through sharing our travels on Instagram at @mumpacktravel,” she explains.
Seven months in to their year-long adventure, Farrell says it’s the best decision she’s ever made. She tells Spring.St that she and Emmie hope to continue their travels past the original one-year plan.
“If we can do it, anyone can,” she writes in her Huffington Post piece. “I hope to see you on the road.”