Three Minute Squiz With… Evie Farrell

Evie Farrell is the queen of the sea change. She chucked in her high-flying corporate comms job in Sydney when the punishing hours meant she was hardly seeing her then six-year-old daughter, Emmie. She pooled the money she was going to spend on a kitchen reno, rented out her house and took off for 6 months. The mum-daughter duo are now into their third year of globetrotting – and Evie’s wildly successful blog and Instagram accountMumPackTravel – keep sustaining the adventures. From a tropical beach somewhere exotic, she’s compiled this week’s Three Minute Squiz.

Make us all wildly jealous. Where are you now and what can you see out your window/from your poolside deckchair?
Emmie and I are on Ishigaki-jima, one of Japan’s most southern islands in the Okinawa Prefecture, and we’re looking out over the bluest blues of Kabira Bay. It’s been a huge surprise to discover that Japan has incredible tropical islands with water to rival the Maldives. The weather is hot, skies are blue, coffee is great and the wagyu is plentiful. Yep, Japan has tropical beaches and they are amazing – plus rolling green paddocks full of fat, happy cattle.

Make us even more wildly jealous: what countries/destinations have you visited the last three months? Which was your favourite and why?
We’ve been in Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam and in a few days we are off to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to help my sister recover from her emergency appendectomy and explore more of this incredible country. My recent fave was definitely Japan – it was our first visit there and the unique madness of Tokyo complemented by the unexpected beauty of its tropical southern islands was a perfect combination of chaos and calm.

How do you keep up with news from home when you are away (hint, hint)?
Bite sized chunks are perfect especially when signal is weak, so I do love The Squiz for my morning snapshot. I was backpacking in Jordan when we heard Lady Diana had passed away and we huddled around a radio turned to the BBC to get information. These days it’s so easy to keep up but I do worry about how gossip and celebrity-centric our news is becoming.

You’re a Shire girl (which, for anyone from Sydney, means something). Like Bilbo Baggins before you, what have you learned about the importance of venturing beyond your comfort zone?
I love community, but I’m not comfortable with being in one place or the societal expectations of the ‘burbs’ – like the importance of where you live or the kind of car you drive. It’s taken me 2.5 years to return and to truly appreciate the fierce strength of the community bonds in the Shire. Having people always looking out for you, supporting you, and a whole community ready to pitch in and help strangers at a moments notice is something special. I’m really looking forward to getting back, and to fanging around in my ’98 Corolla.

What have been the best bits of travelling with your daughter, Emmie?
There’s so many – but I have to preface that it’s not always easy, it’s just that we have the shitty times in awesome locations. The best bits are spending so much time together, I feel truly fortunate to be doing this with her. Experiencing something for the first time together – like seeing wild elephants, eating lunch with monks, camping on the Great Wall of China, snorkelling with mantas and solving travel challenges are high on the list. I am so lucky that I get to see her grow, build life skills and learn about life outside the bubble of home.

And what have been the hardest/worst bits?
Kids really don’t like school do they? They seem to like it even less when their parent is their teacher. If I had my time again I would go full-hippie and withdraw Emmie entirely. Instead we have struggled to school with the NSW Distance Education program – stubbornness, ignorance and refusal from Emmie and breakdowns, threats and tears from me. The other hard stuff is the same as I would be dealing with at home – manners, eating, not having to ask 457 times for a simple task to be completed oh and packing her backpack. I think she has done it three times in two and a half years. I’m the fool that does that whilst having an adult tantrum.

What’s the one destination you have visited in your travels that blew you away/totally exceeded expectations and why?
I have a very strong heart connection with Cambodia and I think everyone who visits comes away touched by the plight of these resilient people. The world left them to endure the greatest tragedy and they are still rebuilding. More than one third of their people were murdered and most of their artists, musicians and intellectuals were executed. Yet they still smile. The country is beautiful, the architecture is breathtaking and the history is fascinating. Cambodia was the ‘pearl of Asia’ in the 60s and then was almost completely destroyed. Imagine what it could have been.

What would you say is the most overrated virtue?
Any limitation put upon young girls under the guise of being virtuous which hinders them in expressing themselves, building leadership qualities and being kick-arse humans.

What qualities do you most value in a friend?
A love of champagne, an ability to talk honestly, a love of spontaneity and thoughtfulness.

If you had to pick three words to describe the way Australians are perceived by folk in other countries, what would they be?
‘Super awesome bogans’ or ‘no airs & graces’. I’ve found we seem to have a really good reputation for being down to earth. People like us for being friendly, kind and fun.

If you could invite any four people – famous or not, living or dead – to dinner, who would they be? And what dish that you have encountered in your travels, would you want to eat?
Having just become an obsessive fan of New Khmer Architecture I would definitely ask Vann Molyvann. I adore Helen Garner. Her book Joe Cinque’s Consolationand many of her works haunted me for years. I’d ask my Nan and my Mum so they could have dinner together again.

We would eat Hoi An street food of chicken rice, bahn mi and a few bottles of beer, plus some Japanese Icky yakiniku, some xiaolongbao and lamb cutlets for Nan.

What are three things that every traveller should have in their suitcase/backpack at all times?
I am obsessed with hair so I get anxiety without at least one pair of tweezers. In a practical sense a charger board with power points and USB holes for charging multiple devices at the one time, and lately I am loving my Kindle so I reckon that’s a must too. But hey whatever you forget or lose you can always buy along the way.

What skill or talent do you not have but wish you did?
I wish I had style – you know how some people just throw stuff together and it looks amazing? I can’t. And I would love to know how to edit photos properly although I often wonder at our obsession with always wanting to make life look better than it is.

What would you say is the most overlooked news story of the moment?
It’s not topical but I do wish more travellers knew that they can donate blood when on holidays in South East Asia – I’ve donated in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and it is literally life saving in countries where donations are low due to lack of knowledge and cultural sensitivities.

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