Solo mum Evie Farrell and her daughter Emmie are two adventurous souls. From Australia to the world, they started travelling five years ago and have never stopped. In 2019, they even wrote a book about their travels: Backyard to Backpack: A solo mum, a six-year-old and a life-changing adventure.
We wanted to get to know them better and discover the secrets behind their lifestyle.
By Ana Roque
Photography courtesy of Evie Farrell
LEMON Magazine [LEMON]: Tell us a bit more about you and Emmie. When did you start to travel?
Evie Farrell [E.F]: Emmie is 11 and our first big trip was when she had just turned six. Before that we travelled a lot together to resorts and places like Disneyland. I think I took her to Fiji when she was like 4 months old — her father and I had just separated and travel has always been a really important part of my life.
In February 2016 we set off on a big adventure. Since then we have been travelling full-time. We came home a couple of times for me to earn money, but we kept doing short trips while here.
[LEMON]: What was your life like before travelling full-time?
[E.F]: Emmie was in kindergarten and I was working full-time. I used to leave home really early and be back when it was time for Emmie to go to sleep. We had an au pair who lived with us and looked after Emmie and I felt like I never had quality time with my daughter.
Then a very close friend of mine passed away and it made me realise how true that cliché about time is, about never knowing how much time you have and making the most of every moment. That really was the catalyst for making the decision. Within six months we had left Australia. I thought it would be for a year and it ended up being most of the time since then.
[LEMON]: What kind of travellers are you?
[E.F]: We are very unplanned and unorganised — not so much disorganised. We like to explore and take it easy. We have goals of places that we want to visit and experience but we just go with the flow. I let Emmie lead. We are very collaborative and have a lot of fun. We go wherever we want to, whenever we want to.
I think one of the great things to learn, although you will learn it very quickly when you travel with kids, is that you have to be really aware of their needs. Sometimes that means sacrificing things you want to do to visit a playground, have a nap, or just sit and play in the sand.
At the end of the day, we are very easy travellers and we stay in all kinds of accommodation. I also don’t like to pigeonhole us in terms of being tourists or travellers — as long as we are out in the world exploring, that’s amazing. There shouldn’t be any judgement in travel.
[LEMON]: How many countries have you visited?
[E.F]: To be completely honest, I don’t know. I feel like exploring is not a competition so we don’t keep count. It’s about the experiences and the memories.
[LEMON]: Which destination did you and Emmie like the most? And where did you like the least?
[E.F]: We just loved everywhere in Asia. Emmie loves China for the food and the people. She also adores Japan because of the structure she sees in their daily life. For me, it’s Vietnam. We lived there for some time and people are beautiful, entrepreneurial and kind. And the food is fresh and delicious.
We both also loved being in France and spending time in Paris, but Asia is in us. We just love it and we miss it a lot. Also we were robbed in Europe and that really turned Emmie off. It was not the best experience.
[LEMON]: Where did you feel the most secure?
[E.F]: We just constantly feel so completely safe and looked after in Asia. Especially being a woman with a young child. I have never felt anything but safe everywhere in Asia. I really feel at home there.
[LEMON]: What do you think is the best destination for travelling alone with a kid?
[E.F]: I think the best destination for travelling with a child is somewhere where you feel really comfortable and confident.
I mean, there are certain things that I would look at with young children: the medical facilities in the country and the political and economic environment. At the same time, I feel like some of the poorest countries we visited have been the most giving. They have such a sense of community and family.
I still think you need to be aware of your surroundings and just know what is going on in the destinations you will travel to.
[LEMON]: Do you think Emmie benefits from this lifestyle?
[E.F]: The number one benefit of travelling full-time with your kids is that you spend every moment together. That’s what children want at this age. They don’t want to just see you for ten minutes as you are rushing to and from work. I think they prefer to have valuable, beautiful time with their parents rather than being given gifts to make up for time that was not spent with them.
In addition to that, they learn about the world, about different cultures and religions. They get to see how other people live and experience poverty and hardship. This helps them appreciate their own lives and know how fortunate they are to even be able to have the luxury of travel.
In terms of social skills, Emmie is so conversational and confident. She is able to deal with change and to walk into different situations. She’s been to seven different schools, in Australia and overseas, as well as doing distance education. I personally feel you learn more experiencing the world at this age than you do sitting at a desk at school.
[LEMON]: What has travelling full-time taught you?
[E.F]: Travel has taught me to believe in myself. I think it enabled me to kind of become myself: I finally got to be me. I felt restricted and that I always had to be a certain way. But when you are travelling you can relax away from expectations and be free. I feel like as a society, we put certain expectations upon people as they grow. We need to go to school, high school and university. Then we find a partner, get married and have kids. There are expectations about how we are supposed to be and live. By doing something different I was able to break out of that and it just made me so much happier. I feel more confident as a person and I feel that I have made good use of these years being with Emmie, rather than spending them away from her at work. I could have earned a whole lot of money but it is more valuable to me this way.
[LEMON]: How would you describe your relationship with Emmie?
[E.F]: We have absolutely the strongest, most honest, open, beautiful relationship. I honestly could not ask for more. We are so close and I am so grateful for that. I know that we would not have that if we had not been travelling, because of the circumstances of us being apart so much with me working. Travelling is the best decision I could have ever made.
[LEMON]: How has your life been since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
[E.F]: We were at home for about eight months in 2019.I was home, writing my book and doing all the media and launch events for that and as soon as we could, we left Australia. We left on the first of December and travelled to the Philippines. We were there for about six weeks over Christmas. From there we went to Myanmar, where we explored the temples and the lakes and rode around on motorbikes. We spent some time in Malaysia and then went to Japan. We were there when the Australian government said that everyone needed to come back to Australia.
We are from Sydney and after the lockdown was finished, we travelled around our state — New South Wales. Then we moved to a little island off the coast of Queensland. Tourists come here but the local population is about 1800 people. There are beautiful beaches and a huge koala colony. It is just a beautiful place to live. Emmie goes to school here and we’ve just been biding our time until we can travel again.
[LEMON]: What are your biggest concerns when it to comes to travelling alone with Emmie?
[E.F]: Honestly, I have no concerns when travelling with Emmie. I feel safe, I feel happy, I feel comfortable and so does she. We both have a great time together. I know that she is living an amazing life and not missing anything. We obviously stay in touch with her dad and her grandparents through social media and phone calls, and she sees them whenever we are home.
In terms of travel, for her and for me, I don’t worry about anything. It’s our best life!
BEST PLACES YOU HAVE EATEN
“For Emmie, I would say China because of the Xaolongbao (soup dumplings). She actually first tried them in Taipei (Taiwan), but you can get them all over China.
For me, Vietnam for the fresh food and salads… Also Bangkok (Thailand) for the street food. There is just incredibly fresh and delicious street food on every corner of the city. But we also love Japanese food.”
BEST ADVICE FOR SOLO MUMS TRAVELLING WITH THEIR KIDS
“If you really want to travel full-time with your child, you can absolutely do it! Don’t put pressure on yourself and just slowly build up to it. If you are afraid to travel, take it slow. Start with “staycations” in your city and places that you are familiar with. Go to resorts where you feel comfortable and explore while having them as your base.
We should not put pressure on ourselves to do more than we feel comfortable with. As a solo parent, spending that valuable time with your kids is so important and it’s really what everyone wants, right?”
TOP 3 EXPERIENCES WHILE TRAVELLING
“I will never forget camping overnight on the Great Wall of China. It was spectacular and kind of spiritual because there is an eerie atmosphere… but not scary. It’s just amazing and I would definitely go there again.”
“I loved sitting with Emmie in the doorway of the Blue Train in Sri Lanka.”
“Most recently we had so much fun in Bagan (Myanmar), riding around to the temples on a little motorbike with Emmie on the back.”
3 BEST TIPS FOR TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
1 “Pack light! You can always buy what you need if you forget something — just don’t pack too much. We travel with a carry-on backpack and find that we really need very little. You’ll find that the less you have, the less you need.”
2 “Don’t try and do too much with kids! They still need down-time to stop at parks and do kids’ stuff. Just take it slow and enjoy being with them, as well as seeing amazing things and having amazing experiences.”
3 “Always take an hotel card. Put it in your child’s pocket or in their backpack so they know that it’s there. Keep one for yourself too. Especially in countries where you do not speak the language. If you and your child get separated, they will have a card that shows where they are staying. If you get lost and need to get back to your hostel, hotel or wherever you’re staying, you have the address card that you can just show the taxi or tuk-tuk driver and they will be able to get you back.”
Book: Backyard to Backpack: A solo mum, a six-year-old and a life-changing adventure