In 1972, 28-year-old French journalist and writer Anne-France Dautheville left her copywriting job in Paris and motored across the globe: First across the Orion Raid, a motorcycle tour from Paris to Isfahan, Iran; then to Afghanistan. In 1973, she became the first woman to ride across the world solo on a motorcycle: Astride a Kawasaki 125, she trekked three continents and covered 12,500 miles. She wrote articles and novels documenting her travels, her rebel spirit and unorthodox ideals ultimately causing a sensation in Paris. Here was a young woman unafraid to think and act for herself – she blazed a trail, quite literally, across the world, inspiring other women to do the impossible. Most recently, she was the inspiration behind fashion brand's Chloe's Autumn-winter 2016 collection.
Below, I have imagined Anne-France Dautheville’s life lessons according to the courageous and carefree life she lives.
No matter the journey, always travel in style. Anne-France had things made for her for the journey – a leather belted safari jacket and leather salopettes – but she also took along beautiful floral dresses, high heels and kohl eyeliner. She said: “Even on a trip for 12,000 miles, I am a Parisienne.” Her staples on the open road included leather trousers or dungarees paired with a printed scoop-neck t-shirts, and she always wore a scarf and biker boots unless she was out to dinner.
Live your life according to you. "My life started at 27. It was as if the thousands of kilometres around the world were concentrated in a few perfect seconds." My idée… was to see the world. It was to see when it is different, and fascinating. “From now on, life would be mine, my way. I would feel the wind on my skin, the world as my home.”
Be brave and do the impossible. “No one from France really went to that part of the world then; they might go as far as Turkey or Morocco, but not Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran.” In many of the countries she traveled, “They didn’t see too many girls alone on a motorcycle. I was colour TV for them.” Her parents were mortified by her trip – she could have been a copywriter and had a nice life but she chose to go on an adventure.
Being an artist is about sharing. The story of my life is sharing. When I write, I give the best and the deepest of me to people I wouldn’t have dinner with. This is the artistic dimension. When I traveled, it was, ‘What can we share?’ Maybe it’s a bit utopic. I don’t care. It’s what I felt, and what I did.”
Fame is overrated. She never chased fame and still doesn’t. “I’m not fascinated by myself,” she says. “By my life, maybe, but not by me. My bellybutton is not the center of my world.”
Tailor your career to your life, not the other way around. A freelance journalist, Dautheville both documented and paid for her travels by writing articles, which were subsequently spun into books. Many revolved around the novelty of her gender, such as “Girl on a Motorcycle” (1973) and “And I Followed the Wind” (1975).
Your own personal story is never over. Following the victory of the Socialists in the 1981 elections, laws restricting movement of currency abroad to just 2,000 francs was introduced, which made Dautheville’s kind of journeying impossible. She retired to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, a small village outside Paris, where she continues to write about her love of plants and animals. Ultimately, a life centered around the home gave her a different satisfaction. “It was another story, another trip, inside of me,” she says, with a smile.
Old age doesn’t have to be the end of life. These days, Anne-France is still writing. She is very poetic and loves mythology and the thoughts behind words. She knits her own sweaters, is very slender and chic, and still wears her kohl eyeliner – she doesn’t leave the house without it. She was still biking until two years ago when she had an accident. People in her village think she is crazy.
See here for a glimpse into her adventure.