Irish traveller Tomas Mac an t-Saoir may be remembered by quite a few around the Methven area for his charming personality and hard work ethic but his long stay in New Zealand was not all intentional.
His primary objective was to cycle across the country and slowly make his way back home to Ireland, however his travels were put on hold due to the covid outbreak.
By the age of 17 he had developed a strong interest in road biking and bought his own bike.
This hobby soon became an obsession and by the time he graduated from university at the age of 22, he decided to pedal across the USA as a reward for his hard work. As a result, from this trip, Tomas realised he could happily travel the world in this fashion.
In 2018/19 Tomas travelled to Africa, cycling 10,000km in 11 countries. He had an amazing time, and it completely transformed his life.
Over the course of cycling up to this point he had managed to raise a staggering 30,000 Euros, through sponsorship, to go towards the ‘Donal Walsh Foundation’ for mental health services of young people in Ireland.
After returning again to Ireland he put a plan together for his next trip. Europe seemed too easy as it wasn’t far enough away. Suddenly the idea of going to New Zealand transformed to travelling home from the other side of the world.
He started out in Auckland with the intention to travel further south.
Tomas joined a Facebook group called ‘Irish Mammies’ and received lots of messages offering him a place to stay, which really made him feel at home. He zig-zagged his way across NZ, finding a different place to stay every night with an Irish member of the group.
Leaving Wellington, he ferried over to Picton, made his way to Arthur’s Pass and on to Christchurch. At this point, covid was taking over the world and he knew he would be stuck here for some time potentially. With this in mind he applied for a work visa and soon lockdown happened.
He ended up in Methven and little did he know at that point that he would call the small ski village home for the next one and a half years.
In this time, he would touch the hearts of many in the community. He managed to find employment, painting for Shaun Lightfoot. Together with work in the hospitality sector, working at the Staveley Store, Green Parrot and occasionally helping out at Johnatello’s Pizza Inferno.
Being a lover of sports, he also was heavily involved in Methven’ FC’s Division 1 title winning campaign back in 2021.
Once the borders reopened he continued on his travels. After a stint in Australia, Tomas is now cycling his way around Vietnam.
When changing countries, he prefers not to fly when possible as it is a nuisance to take a bike on a flight, and much more expensive.
He has ferried around Indonesia, from island to island to Singapore, which took a total of 40 hours to reach his destination.
Now in Vietnam, he will soon be at the point where it will only be land and no seas he has to travel as he makes his way eventually across Europe to France, where a flight will be needed to get back to Ireland.
Along the way he hopes to stop to find a little work here and there, which is the perfect time to take in a bit of culture and meet people.
Tomas has often been asked why he does what he does but for him it’s simply his passion. It feels so easy and comfortable.
All he has to do each day is ride his bicycle and deal with any potential issues that spring up. The only worries are sourcing food and drink, and finding a bed for the night.
“People get fazed and think you have to be extremely fit to embark on such a journey, when in actual fact I hadn’t ridden my bike for six months and then went out on a 30,000km journey.
“It’s all about breaking things down to make them achievable. Like anything worth doing in life, you can’t achieve it in one day, so you set yourself targets to hit and slowly and surely you are well into it.”
Tomas has changed bikes during trips and been sponsored for the use of two bikes in his time. Today he uses a Trek Touring 920 and thinks he will stick with it for the foreseeable future.
The short term plans are to travel from Vietnam to Turkey. Long term targets are to cycle South America, then he will have visited every continent bar Antarctica.
The world is constantly changing and planning routes can sometimes be ruined by things going on in countries, civil unrest and wars. Tomas feels very privileged to be doing what he’s doing.
He’s travelled through some very poor communities and knows he has a lot to be grateful for.
“The people I have met along the way have been so kind and have often gone above and beyond to help me.
“At the end of the day, life is short and we only get one chance. I want to make damn sure I live my life to the fullest and say I gave it a go.”
Getting to stay in Methven for the time he did, although against his original plan, turned out was one of the biggest highlights of his journey so far.