“IT HAS certainly been a unique lifestyle choice”, Steve Trewick laughs when asked to reflect on the last 35 years.

Back at the home he was born in near Newport city centre, just yards away from what was Queen's Comprehensive School where he spent his teenage years, Mr Trewick has finally been pinned down – thanks to Covid.

Days away from prison when he was 18 for fighting, he was given an ultimatum – temporarily move to West Virginia with a family who would whip him into shape, or serve time in Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

Now, at 53, he says the trip to the States changed his outlook on life, and he hasn’t looked back.

South Wales Argus: Steve Trewick has travelled 135 countries in 35 years

Steve Trewick has travelled 135 countries in 35 years

South Wales Argus: He says he got the travelling bug thanks to his mum sending him to America when he was 18

He says he got the travelling bug thanks to his mum sending him to America when he was 18

“I was a little rogue as a kid,” he says when asked to reflect on his formative years.

“Mum would constantly be losing me in town. She called me her ‘little wanderer’. That’s probably quite apt really, I’ve spent my life wandering.”

Since leaving for the States at 18 he has taken in 135 countries.

He’s been kidnapped in Algeria, had his job taken away by a tsunami in Thailand, and begged on the streets in his underpants in Colombia.

But he has no regrets, he says, and would rather look back on his life as an adventure.

“It’s been scary at times, weird in others, but overall, it’s been a fantastic journey,” he said. “I’ve certainly lived for the moment every day. How many people can truly say that?”

Where it began

“I was in the dock and told I should expect a custodial sentence,” Mr Trewick remembered.

“I’d got into the wrong crowd really. It was never serious crimes – just idiocy.

“My mother wrote a letter to the judge, pleading with him to allow her to send me off to America with a family there that she knew, who she was convinced would change my outlook.

“She was right, it became my salvation, and completely changed my philosophy.

“I wanted to channel my adventurous nature in the right way.”

He returned to Newport at 19, and by 20 – while working six months of the year for the Post Office, began spending six months in the autumn and winter in Australia on a work visa, where he says the “wanderlust took a full grip”.

The following years saw him camp in Morocco, hitchhike south east Asia clockwise and anti-clockwise, and cross 125km of the eastern Sahara.

It was in the Sahara that he says he experienced one of the many scary situations he’s found himself in.

South Wales Argus: Steve with his girlfriend and her niece in Thailand

Steve with his girlfriend and her niece in Thailand

South Wales Argus: Steve and a family that took him in in Cuba

Steve and a family that took him in in Cuba

Kidnapped, held hostage, and begging

During his sponsored walk for charity across the eastern Sahara he was held hostage after he was mistaken for a spy.

“I had accidentally wandered into Algeria, which wasn’t the plan. It’s difficult to know exactly where you are, as the area is obviously so vast. I was advised by the police in Tunisia that there were dangers before I started the walk.

“I was pulled by the group which took me hostage three days into it. Initially I was very pleased to see the camp, as much of what I do relies on people being charitable.

“They didn’t threaten me with violence, but they were very suspicious of my motives, and I was kept there for several days and forced to convert to Islam.”

He did eventually complete the walk, after persuading the group which took him hostage that the police would be looking for him if he didn’t reach his destination.

But Algeria is by no means the most dangerous place he’s been. That recognition is reserved for South America, and in particular Honduras and Colombia, which he visited in the late nineties.

“At the time people were armed to the back teeth there,” he said. “Life is pretty lawless in place like the Mosquito Coast in Honduras and the Magdalena Valley in Colombia. I was under no illusions who was running those areas – and it certainly wasn’t the police.

“Life is cheap there and as a foreigner I was probably seen as a target.

“I was stripped of my clothes and any money I had. It was just me and my underpants for two weeks, begging on the streets in Bogota.

“It was tough, but I feel lucky they didn’t shoot me.

“I raised £50 begging, bought a hammock, and went to a local national park, where I camped for three weeks – eating fruit from the trees, before I returned to the UK.”

He recently visited Damascus in Syria [via a £60 flight and bus fare], which he says he found to be a “very hospitable place”.

“I expect some confrontation, but as I’ve aged I think I’m better at avoiding it now. Perhaps if I returned to Colombia I wouldn’t end up on the streets.

“I’m well aware I’ve pushed the envelope with some of the places I’ve visited – places most people wouldn’t go. But I’m glad I have visited them, because what I’ve found is that generally people are very nice.”

‘We lost everything in the tsunami’

After moving on to Thailand in 2003, he decided to stay for seven years.

“Thailand is a remarkable place,” he said. “It’s certainly up there with one of the best places I’ve been.

“I stayed there after meeting my then-girlfriend and her family, and we ran a small business by the coast, which was completely washed away in the tsunami in 2004.

“It was devastating, and felt like we lost everything.

“We were on the island of Koh Lanta, which was completely wrecked. Luckily no one died on that part of the island, but we left because there was nothing there for us anymore.

“I then moved to Bangkok with my girlfriend. It was a shame – we were blissfully happy in Koh Lanta.”

He went on to spend much of his time in Bangkok teaching English, and worked in orphanages helping children. He also taught English to 16 monks in a monastery in Myanmar.

“The best-behaved class I ever had.”

Return to the UK and education

In 2010 he returned to Newport after illness struck him down – eventually diagnosed as chronic fatigue.

He spent his time recovering by completing a degree in religious studies, aged 42, at the University of South Wales, where he achieved first class honours – and two Academic Excellence awards.

“I wanted to use the time to prove something to myself. I hadn’t applied myself at school, and I knew my years travelling had taught me something about culture and philosophies.”

Remarkably, he gained a first while working on the second half of his degree from Nepal, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Tunisia.

He went on to realise his “ultimate dream” of going to Japan in 2013, when he also visited 16 countries including South Korea, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

“I promised myself if I got better I’d do Japan, which is unlike me as it’s expensive to go there.

“I just about afforded it by taking a part-time job helping kids with challenging behaviour in New Tredegar.”

South Wales Argus: A rare recent photo of Steve at the Foz do Iguaçu falls in Brazil

A rare recent photo of Steve at the Foz do Iguaçu falls in Brazil

South Wales Argus: People at APECD in Benin - a charity Steve is hoping to raise £1,000 for

People at APECD in Benin - a charity Steve is hoping to raise £1,000 for

‘I’ve done it by the seat of my pants’

“Just about” is a phrase that crops up often.

“I’ve certainly lived day to day and managed to afford travelling by doing just enough,” he explained.

“I tend to come back from time to time, sign up to an agency, and do just enough work to get the money to get to these countries.

“I’m very fortunate I got a small inheritance a few years ago too, which helped me travel.

“I can see why it looks chaotic, because that’s what it probably is. The older I get, the more I think about that.

“I met a woman from the UK not so long ago while travelling through Sierra Leone, who told me I was ‘too far gone’ to ever have a normal quiet life in Newport.

“I think she’s probably right. I’ve sacrificed so much in my life to live this way. I’m single, I have no material wealth, and I’m a little concerned for my future. But I’ve got no fundamental regrets.

“I’m habitually linked to this lifestyle now, and I think I’ve accepted that.

“I’ve been very fortunate. Just when I think the wheels are coming off, it comes back together and off I go again.”

‘I’ve relied on charity, and I am always thinking of giving back’

“I’ve relied a lot on friends and family who have assisted me on this journey,” he said.

“It’s probably for that reason I’ve tried to do so much voluntary work while I have travelled.”

He is currently trying to raise £1,000 for APECD – a not for profit organisation in Benin – one of Mr Trewick’s favourite destinations – which aims to promote the empowerment of women in Grand Popo through traditional activities such as preparation of jam and coconut oil.

To support him in his efforts visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Help-Women-and-Children-in-Benin?utm_campaign=p_cp_url&utm_medium=os&utm_source=customer.

‘For the first time I was relieved to come back’

During the pandemic, he travelled to Brazil and eastern Africa, where he was locked down.

“I’d always wanted to go to Brazil and in November it was one of the only countries I could go to because of the pandemic,” he said.

“I’d had the tests and got the all-clear, so headed to Rio.”

A stone’s throw from Christ the Redeemer, which he saw masses of people travelling to see every day, he says he was never tempted to go.

“I avoid tourist destinations – I find them underwhelming. I’d much rather go and meet people.

South Wales Argus: A 'bed' that Steve would typically sleep on during his travels

A 'bed' that Steve would typically sleep on during his travels

South Wales Argus: Steve in Machu Picchu in the 90s

Steve in Machu Picchu in the 90s

“I went to Rocinha – the biggest favela in Rio – which was extraordinary.”

He has perhaps never been as reliant on charity as when lockdown struck in South Africa last spring.

“It was scary. I got there about five days before lockdown started. During lockdown people were being shot for not abiding by the rules.

“It was probably one of the most scary and unusual situations I’ve ever been in.

“I was very lucky to be taken in in Ifafa near Durban, and with the help of (Newport East MP) Jess Morden’s office, got back home to Newport.

“Coming back here felt like Disney Land after experiencing lockdown in Africa. Probably for the first time I was relieved to get back.

“I don’t often suffer loneliness, but travelling to Brazil and South Africa in the pandemic was a lonely experience. I’m really valuing having my family and friends around at the moment.”

‘I do it for the experience, not to show people I’ve been’

He has spent the last 20 years taking very few photos – partially because he travels alone, but also because he doesn’t believe it is worth his while.

“I used to take them, but realised my motivation for doing so was to show people, and that didn’t really sit well with me,” he explained.

“I do it for the experience, not to show people I’ve been.

“I find it very invasive to poke a camera in someone’s face.

“I was grateful and a little shocked in Brazil, though, when a family offered to take a photo of me in front of the Foz do Iguacu falls.

“I’m glad I didn’t focus so much on taking photos of landmarks, because I feel like I’ve got to know people instead. And what I’ve found is that humanity is really decent.

“It hasn’t mattered what colour or creed I am, people have very often gone out of their way to help me.

South Wales Argus: Steve is back at the house he was born in, gearing up for his next adventure

Steve is back at the house he was born in, gearing up for his next adventure

South Wales Argus: His current passport

His current passport

“Yes, I’ve had a dozen or so hostile experiences, but that has been dwarfed by generosity. I’ve lost count of the people I’ve met, the houses I’ve been invited into, the people who have given me the spare key to their homes, or a bed for the night.”

So, after Brazil took him to 135, will he call time on his travelling days?

“I ask myself that question every year, and I talk about stopping a lot,” he added.

“I’d love to do Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Then I might stop.

“But then I’m only two countries away from completing Europe [Belarus and Iceland]. So that is niggling away at me.

“I suppose I’m addicted to it – that feeling of elation when the wheels of the plane leave the ground. It’s a feeling I would never be able to replace. It’s the best feeling in the world.”