'I spent more time commuting to work than with my 5yo daughter. So we left our lives.'

Four years ago I realised that to truly live I had to leave.

Five months later my six-year-old daughter Emmie and I started the adventure of our lives with a backpack and one way tickets to the Philippines. I didn’t know what was ahead of us, but the fear of staying in a life we didn’t love and where I hardly saw my daughter was greater than my fear of the unknown.

I’d been solo-mumming for the previous five years and while from the outside it may have looked like we were doing fine, it just wasn’t working. Her father and I had broken up shortly after she was born and I’d quickly returned to full time work to pay the mortgage and the bills and try my best to give the two of us a good life.

It wasn’t easy.

Living in Sydney was expensive and I had to sacrifice time with Emmie to be able to earn enough to support us. It’s a challenge many parents face, especially working mums and dads, and I was like so many others racing around each day from home to daycare to work and back with a million things on the to-do list in my mind.

Things mums never hear. Post continues after video. 

Video by MMC

No matter what I did, I just couldn’t find a balance. I hardly saw Emmie, and that just wasn’t a life I was happy with. It wasn’t enough for either of us.

I spent more time each day on the train to work with strangers than I did with my own daughter.

I felt disconnected, I felt like I was failing her – especially when she begged me to volunteer for canteen or pick her up from school and I couldn’t do it. It’s an awful feeling – the anxiety, the sadness and the desperation to change but not knowing how.

I was terrified that this was what our life was going to look like every day, month and year – Emmie at a desk in a classroom and me at my desk in a concrete pillar on the other side of Sydney. The separation of time and distance in a busy world was erasing our connection with each other.


I searched and searched for another way. And then, I finally found it. A friend asked me what my two favourite things were. Easy! Emmie and travelling.

All of a sudden I had my solution.

Andrew and Holly chat to Evie about her travels and time spent abroad with her daughter Emmie on this week’s episode of This Glorious Mess. 

I worked out that if I used my savings to travel (instead of the kitchen renovation I’d earmarked the money for, in an attempt to find happiness in things) we could spend a year – at least – exploring Asia together. Our dream could come true. We would be together. And how much happiness would a new kitchen give us anyway? It was easy to spend my savings on us instead.

Realising I actually had this decision in my hands, that I had the power to change and create a life that would make us happy, was not just empowering – it changed everything.

It was a new way of thinking for me, and the world opened up. For years I’d just been following my life as it bumped along a well-trodden path – school, university, a job, a relationship, a mortgage and a family…suddenly I understood I could step sideways. I didn’t have to live my life this way. And so I jumped.


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We love the Batu Cave Temple and stopped in to check out its new rainbow coloured steps – thank you @zettyadilaaa for taking us ????????????The limestone caves here are 400 million years old and Batu Cave has been an important Hindu shrine since the late 1800s! As you drive from KL (about 30 minutes, a Grab taxi will cost between 16-34 MYR) you’ll see the huge chunk of limestone rising up before you, and the golden statue of Lord Murugan in front of the 272 stairs leading up to the temple. Pigeons and those hideous macaques are everywhere – honestly, I’m not exaggerating – so beware. The monkeys are always being fed and are so bold they will chase you for food. Naughty monkeys! ????????????

A post shared by Evie Farrell ???? & Emmie (@mumpacktravel) on


I made a plan and I set it in motion. I told friends and family and we packed up, sorted out schooling, booked flights, got our travel insurance and rented out the house. One by one all of these pieces came together to make me feel strong, confident and in control of my life – something I hadn’t felt in many years.

I was doing something that was going to change our lives. Of everything that happened, this was the biggest moment. Making a change to my life that would give me back to my daughter was the most courageous thing I’ve done.

With our house rented and everything we owned sold or in storage, I put what we needed into our backpack, took my daughter’s hand and (with permission from her father) set off to travel through Asia.

Evie's written a book, From Backyard To Backpack, about her and Emmie's adventures.

I never felt as alive as I did the day we left, facing the world together, just me and my little girl. My mind was empty from the usual worries and fears that filled it - the crashing, swirling waves of responsibility and panic about work, the bills, the mortgage, the school fees, everything that had to get done around the house, helping Emmie and desperately trying to be a good mum.

It was all gone. All that remained was space for Emmie, for the memories we were going to make, for our adventures, our challenges, our laughs and our fun. The biggest space was reserved for learning all about my little girl.


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I’ve been away for a bit, I’ve been struggling with my back (turns out there’s severe arthritis in my hip; and not sure what else is going on but have chiro tonight and doctor again to get more X-ray results) and I have bronchitis. And like most people - but especially solo parents - I had to keep going; there’s no option of stopping work, or not looking after Emmie, or not making the meals, paying the bills, or keeping the house in order. Thank goodness my mum was up for a few days to help. Geez it’s so much easier when my only responsibilities are Emmie and our backpack!! ???? So it’s kind of sucked for the past 10 days or so. And it’s made me reconsider a bit of our trip (we leave in a week - heal, body, heal) I was really looking forward to the islands in Malaysia BUT with me like this, I can’t be on entertainment duty with Emmie the whole time. We need people, and favourite things, and we’re going to head back to our spirit town and sometime-home Hoi An for a bit instead. Many of our friends will be away cause it’s school holidays, but a few will be there - like Emmie’s Hoi An bestie Nina so yay ???? We will swim, eat, catch up with friends, wander the old town, sweat - it’s going to be ???????????? - and just love being back. Do you have a fave place away from home that you keep returning to? ????????????

A post shared by Evie Farrell ???? & Emmie (@mumpacktravel) on


Emmie and I spent the next two and a half years backpacking around Asia - exploring, adventuring, growing and discovering the world and each other.

It was so much easier than racing to work each day, and living with absolute freedom from deadlines, to-do lists and responsibilities meant I could focus on Emmie and living an incredible life together - surely that’s how we are supposed to spend time with our kids?

Now that we are back (for a bit) I am a stronger, better person.

We have such a close relationship and Emmie is a confident, happy girl of nine. And I feel secure that should anything ever happen to me, Emmie has a beautiful catalogue of memories of her mummy to draw on for the rest of her life. She knows who I am and I know her.

We had to leave to live and I’m so proud we did it.

Evie's book, From Backyard to Backpack, is available now. Read more about Evie's adventure stories at or follow @mumpacktravel on Instagram. 

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