HE VISITED nearly 100 countries on his travels before settling in Laos, where he works as a travel guide.
And now Mark Steadman’s been named the best in the world.
He won the Wanderlust travel magazine Gold Award at its recent 2015 World Tour Guide Awards, which was held at the Royal Geographical Society in London.
Mark, formerly of Mill Road in Fareham, was nominated by people who had been on his tours and his name was chosen out of 2,000 nominations.
The list was whittled down to eight finalists and further traveller testimonials sought, with Mark coming out top.
He said: ‘Everyone who received a nomination is a winner for providing a special experience for someone, somewhere in the world.’
Humble Mark acknowledged the role of local crews, such as guides and drivers, in running successful tours.
Mark grew up in Fareham before moving to London to pursue a career in the music industry, working for HMV and Virgin records.
In 2005, he began a new career in tourism and in the course of his work and independent travel, he has visited nearly 100 countries, his favourite places in the world being Iran and Laos, where he now lives.
Mark has led tours in places as far away as Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and Cuba, although he still claims Southsea is one of his favourite places in the world.
Michael Pullman, from Wild Frontiers, Mark’s employer, said: ‘We are very proud but we were not surprised as he always gets excellent comments wherever he is.
‘He is extremely knowledgeable and he looks after his groups very well.’
The award was decided by a panel of six independent judges including travel writer Bill Bryson, Wanderlust co-founder and editor-in-chief Lyn Hughes, TV wildlife expert Mark Carwardine, travel expert Derek Moore, co-founder of Nomad Travel Stores Paul Goodyear and Peter Antoniou from Swarovski Optik. The judges were impressed not only with his guiding talents, but also his bond with the communities where he works.
In Laos Mark has set up a free English language school, Lone Buffalo, which is a community project that links English tuition to football for young people living in the world’s most heavily bombed country. A £5,000 bursary was also awarded to Mark, which he has donated to the Lone Buffalo project.
Mark’s parents, Dennis and Carole Steadman, attended the ceremony along with his sister Tracy, as Mark was at work.
‘Mark has found his niche in life, he adores the Laotian people, his work, and is a credit to us all,’ said Dennis.