Saturday, 27 February 2021

Single mother leaves office job behind to travel the world — for years on end

IN 2015, single mum Evie Farrell was working long hours seven days a week in a demanding PR job.

The Sydney woman barely saw her young daughter Emmie, and was exhausted from the effort of paying her mortgage, bills and other living costs.

But when a close friend passed away, she realised something had to change — and soon came up with a plan to swap their city struggles for a life on the road.

At the time, Ms Farrell had around $20,000 saved which she had planned to spend on a kitchen renovation — but she discovered the money could allow her and Emmie, now eight, to travel for around a year throughout Asia.

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Soon she had quit her job and set up a blog, rented out her house, lent her car to a friend and sold as many of her belongings as she could, and in February 2016, the pair set out on their life-changing trip.

Emmie was taken out of her primary school and enrolled in the NSW Distance Education Primary School program for remote families or those travelling for long periods.

But after a year of travelling through exotic locations, the mum-and-daughter duo realised they still wanted more, and decided to stick with their nomadic lifestyle.

Their extended trip was funded by freelance gigs, savings and renting out their home — but now, after two-and-a-half years of travel, they’ve just returned home to Sydney for Emmie’s education.

Ms Farrell, 44, told everyday life in Australia was far more expensive than travelling, and said she had been stunned by the “insane” cost of essentials like petrol, heating, food and internet.

For example, the family recently went out for breakfast in Sydney, and the bill came to $42 — a staggering sum compared to the Asian prices they were used to.

“I could live for a whole day for that, including accommodation, and still have change. I was shocked because I’m not used to things costing that much,” she said.

“I think a lot of it comes down to perception. People think travelling is so expensive, but it’s not.

“People always ask if we’re rich or if we won lotto — they want to know how we could afford to travel for so long — but it’s cheaper to travel than to be at home.”

By contrast, when the pair had an extended stint in Vietnam while Emmie attended an international school, they managed to score a “beautiful guesthouse” with gardens and pools for just $27 a night including breakfast.

Ms Farrell ate pho sold across the street for 80 cents, and says between the two of them they spent just $10 more a day on food, plus an extra few dollars on taxis to the beach and other activities.

“You can live on $40 a day, it just depends on what you do — if you go out for dinner you can’t eat $50 worth of food in Vietnam and everything is good and fresh,” she said.

In future, the two plan on staying in Sydney for most of the year and travelling for three to four months during the winter — and Ms Farrell is already planning a $150-a-day budget

for their next journey.

“Before, my purpose in life was to earn money, but when I’m travelling my purpose is to enjoy life — there’s a huge difference,” she said.

“The life we had before was very dissatisfying — we might have had more money, but we weren’t together; I wasn’t around. I don’t want to go back to that and hopefully we won’t have to.”

According to research conducted by Aussie travel company Luxury Escapes, the cost of living for the average inner-Sydney couple with a modest lifestyle who take no holidays is $185.24 a day, or $67,614 per year, based on average price of housing, utilities, transport and other expenses.

Meanwhile, the company confirmed it’s actually cheaper to live on a Luxury Escapes holiday for 365 days than it is to live in Sydney for one year in 27 countries including the Maldives, Hong Kong, Africa, Croatia, US and England, with most packages costing less than $175 per day.

Ms Farrell said it all came down to your values and perception.

“I have an old bomb of a car, but I’ve travelled the world and I’m saving to do it again because I’ve realised it’s not actually that expensive,” she said.

“I know I used to spend a lot of money buying ‘things’ but then I sold most of it before we left and now that we’re back, we have very little and I’m 100 per cent less anxious.

“I went to Kmart the other day and it’s very tempting to buy and buy and buy but we need to stop — all those incremental expenses add up.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Wage Price Index released this week, there’s no relief in sight from cost of living pressures.

The figures reveal wage growth has remained low — in line with market expectations — with the pace of wage growth up slightly by 0.6 per cent over the June quarter, compared to 0.5 per cent growth in the previous period.

Annual wage growth was 2.1 per cent, unchanged from the March quarter.


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