‘The Kid Trotter’ shows it’s never too young to travel the world
By Jude Toyat
In 2014, Irishman Sean Clifford and his French wife Valerie Odile decided to travel to Argentina with their 4-year-old daughter.
Although a lot of people said that the idea of bringing along a child so young on a trip so intense for a month was insane, the trip turned out to be very successful for the family, especially for their daughter Enya.
“It was like a little adventure for Enya, cruising through the jungles and mountains. After the trip, we decided to share our experience with Enya’s friends and classmates through the creation of short video clips of about two minutes that were then shown during a class presentation.
“The response we received from children and teachers was extremely enthusiastic,” said multimedia developer Sean, adding that the children were extremely motivated in wanting to know more about the world around them.
After the success of the presentation and videos, they began to search the Internet and TV stations for any professional videos dedicated to kids and families that address this innate curiosity. Unfortunately they were unable to find anything other than some very tourist-orientated videos.
Then they decided to tackle the idea themselves which slowly evolved into ‘The Kid Trotter’.
“Our project was to focus on foreign travel as a cultural experience. The travel series is also dedicated to kids, families and passionate travellers with the aim to show them what a rich experience it can be for children as well as their families, to go and discover other cultures, languages, people, foods and countryside,” Sean added.
Having most of the skills and deep passion needed for the massive project, it was just a question if they had the time, and could fit it into already busy schedules.
“I then decided to take a break from my job as a broadcast journalist for nine months to focus on The Kid Trotter,” said Valerie who has been working with France 3, the country’s second largest publication channel, for more than 20 years.
Then in 2015, the Cliffords decided to go to Vietnam to do the pilot series for three weeks.
“We managed to film 10 episodes that last about 10 minutes each, on different experiences in Vietnam, some with the native ethnic groups, some with the students that brought us to places there, and we even managed to spare some time with the monks.
“Following that putting the videos online, including YouTube. After that, we received lots of emails that told us about their views on our trip and their interest visiting or doing similar things that we did there,” said Valerie, adding that she realised that most of their viewers were attracted to the fact that the programme is both fun for the kids and very informative for the whole family, especially those wanting to learn more about places foreign to them.
Looking at the success of the pilot series online, with some requesting they produce DVDs of the programme, the family of globetrotters decided to take a nine-month rest away from their jobs to pursue their interest travelling around the world.
They then continued their journey to produce more series in 10 different countries – Singapore, Cambodia, India, Nepal, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Malaysia – a journey which they described as “exhilarating, non-stop, and fun”.
“To inject some fun in the journey, we chose to travel with our push scooters, and as it works out we realised that it also opens our world by giving more opportunities to interact with the local community.
“Most of the people that we have met think travelling by push scooters are funny; therefore it helps to break down the communication barriers as we had fun with them sharing our push scooters.
“Push scooters actually help us to engage so much more with people around the world,” Sean said.
Talking about challenges faced during their journey, Sean said that the most challenging thing for him was the fact that there were only 24 hours in a day.
“We need to film series that takes a lot of time, prepare for the next filming, write down everything so we won’t forget anything, home school Enya, and look after her. Although it has become harder for us to organise our daily lives, we struggle to not lose any time and still be available for people we have met elsewhere.
“Although it has been a crazy non-stop three-month experience for us now, it still feels like only last week since we left Europe. It is crazy to think that we will be going through this experience for another six months, and even so the terabytes of films that consists of our memories are highly valuable for us and to our viewers in hope that we can inspire them to go deeper into knowing others’ cultures too,” Sean added.
When asked whether it was important to take your young children travelling, Sean said that indeed it was.
“It is so important. We have seen lots of difference with Enya as a result of travelling around the world.
“In just three months, Enya has opened so much. For example, she wants to learn foreign languages, and it is impressive for a now 6-year-old Enya to be able to speak three major languages namely French, English and German. She said she can speak 10 languages now,” he chuckled, adding that Enya was a shy kid but now she has no problem interacting with everyone, including adults.
Being away from home and school for such a long time, Sean said that they had taken Enya for homeschooling.
“We are still looking at the basics of educating Enya that includes reading, writing, learning languages such as French and German as well as English. Her languages had command leaps and bounds and also she has learned basics of other languages so we adhere to the concept of why schooling is important for children and adults. We learned that it is much more inspiring compared to learning in the classrooms,” he said.
Sean said that he hopes that she will become someone who is multilingual, open to world experiences by travel, and highly knowledgeable.
“We hope that through this travel, she can be more mindful of what is happening around the world.
“We hope that it can also be an eye-opening experience for her and the viewers as travel actually helps in enhancing one’s knowledge in learning different cultures as well as enable her to mingle with people and human interaction is so rich and colourful and meaningful and educational. There are so many rich experience out there that we can have when we travel,” he added.
“As for Kuching, or commonly known as the Cat City, we did an investigation where Enya put on her cape and cat mask, moving around on push scooter trying to find where the cats are and what are the stories behind the cats. So we went to all over the city and finally to the Cat Museum. It was very entertaining.
They had just returned to Kuching for a three-day stay at the Kura-Kura Homestay in Semadang located near Jalan Borneo Heights.
“Here, we have learned many interesting things from the local community including the flora and fauna, traditional ways of cooking and food,” Valerie added.
When asked why they chose to travel to Sarawak, Sean said that it was because they knew that Sarawak was great for its culture and they could find so many different cultures here, with some being well-preserved.
“Biodiversity was also the first word that pops out in our minds as we have heard so much about Borneo and its rich biodiversity which is really incredible.
“But what really stamped in my mind is the strength of the cultures here. It is really fascinating, and I hope that it will be maintained for future generations. I would love to come to Sarawak again in future to film everything about its biodiversity,” he said.
They started their journey in Borneo – specifically Sarawak two weeks ago – only managing to spend two weeks here.
“We love to come back and spend more time here in the future. It has such an amazing culture. We started off and spent five nights near Damai, Santubong and did some jungle trekking and visited the Sarawak Cultural Village which is a great introduction to the local cultures and was perfect for a start off.
They also went to Bako National Park with a local guide from Bako who is highly experienced with the flora and fauna.
“Then, we headed to Borneo Headhunters Tattoo and Piercing Studio and met its founder Ernesto Kalum to learn more about the tattoos. The explanations were brilliant. We also went to Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and were very lucky to be able to get close with the Orang Utan that we have also filmed,” said Sean.
When asked what is the best place that they had visited in Sarawak, they said it was definitely the Kura-Kura Homestay, Kampung Semadang.
“We love just about everything about the homestay. The boat leading us off the jungle, the secret waterfall nearby, the settings of landscapes, great foods. We were basically being spoiled there,” they said.
After months of travelling, Valerie said that Asia had taught her to be that it had taught her to nbe very patient as people here followed a different rhythm compared to Europe.
“It is lucky for people in Asia to live here because we have faster pace life in Europe.
“We also came to know that although some people in this region may experience having nothing yet still feel content. Contrary to some people today, although they might have everything, they are still not happy. That is the real problem in today’s world,” said Valerie.
Meanwhile, for Sean, the journey had taught him that the Westerners are full of spoiled kids and the media is often wrong for injecting the wrong perceptions of foreign people.
“Also, the travel had taught us that the media is very often wrong. Some places that are actually not dangerous are in fact extremely rewarding to visit.
“In Asia, we also realised that people are so kind with children, and have great patient on them. They are simply just people that are kind for nothing and don’t expect anything from it,” he said.
On their future plans, Sean added that they will have to wait for the time to complete their journey to six more countries (Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia) before they can decide.
“We would also like to bring this series to the next level by pumping on the marketing side and getting more exposure so people can be inspired and get in touch with as many people as possible.
“Travel is a disease, and once one starts it, it will become a virus. There will be so many countries that we would like to visit, and share our experiences with people from around the world. We have also being invited by some individual to do several series in their locations which is so nice,” said Sean, adding that they will also be boosting their online selling of DVDs.
The Kid Trotter team advises aspiring travellers to step off the beaten path and never just wait for things to happen.
“Walk down the alleys or little streets then you will meet some amazing people that have nothing and wanting to give you everything, because you will only meet the real people when you walk down the tracks and eventually get real experiences.
“Also, never be afraid to meet people from around the world because they are actually just like us wanting similar things and needs.”