Evie Farrell, mama to Emily (Emmie) and founder of blog Mumpack Travel has done something we’ve always dreamed of – packed the bags and given up the school/work routine for a year of travel together around South East Asia. Having saved some money to renovate the kitchen, Evie decided to spend her dollars on something more meaningful – creating memories and sharing experiences with Emmie – traveling together, learning together and sharing the unexpected, the strange and the curious. We have bucket loads of respect for Evie and a serious case of wanderlust from following her blog and her journey so far – who knows, one day we might be brave enough to try it ourselves mamas! Safe and happy travels Evie and Emmie!
Where are you from?
We’re from Sydney, Australia. We live in Burraneer which is on the coast, around 30 minutes south of the city.
Tell us about your blog and social media accounts
I’m obsessed with instagram (mumpacktravel) and I’m uploading pics from our travels every day. I blog at www.mumpacktravel.com about our trips and share our experiences and tips that may help other mums feel more comfortable about solo travel with kids. I’m also on Facebook – mumpacktravel.
What does 2015/16 have in store for you and Emmie?
Right now we’re in Borneo, Malaysia having a test run for our 2016 trip around South East Asia. We’re staying in Kuching which is in the state of Sarawak. It is a beautiful city on the Sarawak River, surrounded by national parks and jungle. We’ve seen orangutans, proboscis monkeys, lemurs, wild boar and poisonous snakes, have trekked through jungles and sneaked a few swims in the Hilton pool, all of which you can sneak a peek at on our Instagram, Facebook or blog.
What made you decide to pack up everything and travel around South East Asia?
There’s a few reasons – mostly it came down to wanting to live a meaningful life and share experiences with Emmie. I want to show her the world, and that means doing it now while I’m financially able and she is young enough to come out of school without it impacting her education – that said, i believe she will get an incredible education traveling. I think it’s very easy to get caught up in working to buy ‘things’ that give a very short-lived satisfaction and don’t add long-term joy to our lives. The money we’re using for traveling is what I had saved to renovate our kitchen – but I found a better use for it in funding our adventure. I realised the kitchen might make me happy for a week, but by traveling Emmie and I will share amazing experiences and memories that will impact our lives and shape her development. I also want to help Emmie be brave and confident and from my perspective that comes from being exposed to new and different experiences and from having a broader awareness and understanding of other communities, cultures and ways of life. I’m already so proud of her, for many reasons but particularly how well she now adapts to different environments, her enthusiasm and her willingness to give everything a go.
Which countries exactly will you both be visiting?
We’re going to start with three months in the Philippines and then we’re planning to travel through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia. We will possibly spend a bit of time in Kerala in India, and if I can stretch the budget I would love to go to Japan in April to experience cherry blossom season. We have a broad plan based around when the weather is best in each country but we don’t want to be slaves to a structured plan. We’re going to be flexible and take opportunities as they come.
What type of accommodation will you be staying in?
Mostly budget! We’re just testing out the plan in Borneo to see if I can still do it. Whilst I’m a backpacker from back in the day I am used to a different style of travel now. The plan is to stay and travel budget for three to four weeks – or longer if possible – and then stay a few days in a more upmarket hotel. The reason for this is I am well aware I will need to be vigilant every minute of the day and I will need some downtime where Emmie can hit kids club and I can relax my brain for a bit.
Emmie will also be wanting to play with children and spend time in swimming pools, so it will suit both of us. By budget accommodation and travel, I mean family rooms in hostels or cheap hotels – we wont go anywhere that would not be appropriate for the safety of a five year old of course, but we will take the cheaper option. This also means taking public transport rather than taxis, and getting our own way to experiences rather than booking tours.
Which country are you most excited about visiting and why?
I am so excited about the Philippines, I’ve spent the most time looking into it as it’s the first country we’re traveling to. I just can’t believe I wasn’t aware of the incredible beauty of this amazing country. We love the beach and the Philippines has stunning beaches and waterholes and rivers in spades, as well as a diverse geography and incredible wildlife – Emmie and I are both looking forward to swimming with whale sharks and taking surfing lessons.
How will you keep in touch with family and friends throughout the year?
We will Skype where possible and I’m hoping my blog and Instagram and other social channels will maintain our connections, and that friends and family will meet up with us along the way. Emmie’s dad will also come and meet up with us too, which is very important to her upbringing and to maintain the strength of that relationship.
It’s probably the only concern I have about this adventure – how much Emily will miss her friends and family who Emmie has a lovely bond with, and her best little friend Tilly who she absolutely adores – Emmie is already missing her on this trip. But as Tilly’s mum said, we will come back in a year and very little will have changed. I think that’s an interesting experiment in itself!
With regards to Emmie’s education – we believe life experiences are a huge lesson in itself – will Emmie receive any schooling while you are traveling? If so, how will you manage this and how did you source everything?
I have enrolled Emmie in distance education which is part of the public schools program in NSW. Her current school Principal is very supportive and excited about what Emmie will learn whilst on the road. The distance education program provides coursework and there’s an online portal for lessons as well – it follows the NSW curriculum and Emmie will be in a class with a dedicated teacher. The added benefit is Emmie will be learning on the road and applying the theory and concepts of the school program to the experiences she has.
For parents or single mums who would like to follow in your foot steps and travel with their children for a year – what advice would you have for them?
I think for any mum – whether with their husband, or without if he travels or works long hours, or single mums – it all comes down to knowledge and experience, and just giving it a go. Any kind of travel or different experience can be a fabulous adventure, it doesn’t have to be a big trip.
Once you try it and feel the exhilaration of accomplishing travel by yourself, and have the most incredible bonding experience with your child, you will be hooked. Don’t under-estimate your kids and what they can do. Be brave . Research, plan, prepare and do it. Take your time when you’re there, things wont always go the way you want, but don’t put any pressure on yourself. You can start by travelling to a resort – especially one with kids club, or take a staycation near home to practice. Do a short interstate flight. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll build your knowledge and confidence and the mind-blowing changes you’ll see in your kids.
Will you be doing any volunteer work throughout your travels?
We haven’t planned it, but if possible then yes we would love to. My priority will always be Emmie’s safety and staying with her so the work I can do is limited, but we are open to whatever suitable opportunities we discover.
Tell us what five main items will be in your suitcase?
We share a backpack and have to pack so light, so we’re really taking essentials:
– Our medical kit that includes everything from panadol and bandaids to hydralyte, ointment for cuts and grazes, sunscreen, insect repellant and bandages.
– All my communication – MacBook Air, iPhone and cameras
– Our sleeping sheets (to use on top of the accommodation-provided sheets)
– My diary
– Zip lock bags – so handy for everything – from sneaking snacks from the breakfast buffet (not that we’ll be going to many of those!), to compartmentalising items in carry on luggage and storing wet swimming costumes. I love them.
What 5 items will be in Emmie’s suitcase?
– Colouring book, blank paper and pencil case for downtime and drawing and writing about her experiences every night
– iPad – although we have hardly used it this trip, so we could probably leave it behind and I’ll share the Mac
– Goggles – she wont swim without them!
– Little koala bears to give to local children
– Vegemite; the backup for every meal. It’s an Australian spread that goes on toast, crackers sandwiches etc. We would be lost without it
Did you need to have any vaccinations for this trip?
To be honest, I haven’t checked yet! Emily may need to, I think mine are up to date. That part won’t be fun, that’s for sure.
Are you traveling with multiple airlines or trying to stay with one airline in order to receive lots of air miles?
I’m a Qantas addict, so we will fly Qantas to Manila and then it will be with whoever has the easiest route and best price. We are flying with a couple of budget carriers into and around Borneo, and to get around Asia easily and affordably we won’t be able to fly with premium airlines all the time. I’ll just have to be confident in other airlines.
How will you capture your moments on an iPhone or a camera?
I have both! I use the iPhone a lot, and I have a GoPro I am still learning how to use – it is great for underwater photos and videos, we used it when we were snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef and the photos are incredible, and I have a digital SLR for higher quality pics than the iPhone can provide. So we’re covered – but its a lot of equipment that takes up a fair amount of space considering we’re traveling with one backpack between us!
You are currently in Borneo, what is it like?
At the moment we’re in Kuching and we’re staying in a budget hotel which is absolutely fine. We’re up early each morning for a local breakfast of curry chicken, sambal, cucumber and rice and then we have been heading out to the jungle. In the evening we’ve been having dinner at the local open air market which is on the top floor of a car park – we’ve been the only non-locals there – and Em has done her journaling for school. Then we’ve spent time by the riverside or headed back to our room for an early night.
We’ve also spent time in the pool at the Hilton – it’s across the road and a pool day pass in only 10 Australian dollars. We’ve seen incredible wildlife, met some lovely people and spent a wonderful time in this beautiful city – it’s been really amazing and we’re very fortunate to have had this experience. Next we travel to Gunung Mulu National Park to see the area’s massive caves and the nightly bat exodus, and then to Kota Kinabalu for some rest at the Shangri-la. We both will enjoy that – Emmie will have children to play with and a water park to enjoy, and I will have some rest time.
Can you please provide us with a mini time line of your annual trip?
We leave Australian on 10 January 2016 for the Philippines where we’ll stay until the end of March. At this stage we will then travel to Laos in April, then onto Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia in July and August, Thailand and Myanmar in December before heading home. I really can’t wait!
We can’t wait to follow Evie and Emmie around the world – keep an eye out for updates mamas!