How familiar is it of our daily lives to get caught up in the routine of work, paying bills, rinsing, and repeating? Often times we will sigh, our palms cupping our chins, daydreaming about a fantasy vacation.. Perhaps skipping the exit on the highway to work and driving until the scenery no longer is familiar. But then fear quickly blurs the vision entirely, and the cloud above our heads dissipates as we recount all of the dangers of this dream. “How will I pay my bills, I’ll get killed in Mexico, I’ve never traveled solo” - ordinary cautions that might cause us to put on the brakes.
The extraordinary resiliency of the human spirit is a quality that connects us all, but only few of us have the courage to stretch it to its limits. Laura Buitron, a beautifully diverse and highly-educated individual, has traveled down many-a-lonely-road the last few years of her life than most dream of in a lifetime.
Daughters of the Road was surprised to discover this woman as organically as we did. Her beautiful pictures of a two-wheeled trek through South America are a feast for the eyes.
Coming from rural beginnings, Laura grew up with her three sisters on a farm in Spain. Her father, a proponent of the values of hard work and tough love, taught her the values of resiliency and extreme diligence. “You and your sister are both 16, so add them together, it means you should act like you’re 32”, her father would say. Years of manual labor took a toll on her father’s health, leading him to dream of making the move back to the one place he remembered truly being happy with his life: Brazil.
With a degree in biology followed by a Master’s degree in Marine Ecology, Laura quickly found out that her purpose was not fulfilled by a 9-5 or teaching. Seeking a sense of purpose and thrill, Laura brewed the idea of joining a yacht crew to jumpstart her road of adventure. The values of hard work and persistence instilled in her by her father were the foundation of the spirit that drove her as she pursued a career in a field dominated often by men. She decided she would move to Fort Lauderdale (seen as a huge entry and exit port for the sailing industry) and learn English to aid in her endeavors. Laura began by landing a job cleaning boats and slowly learned more and more about what she knew would satisfy her hunger for adventure. Soon, she would travel to the United Kingdom to earn her captain’s license.
During her conversation with us, she mused, “Yachting is about work ethic.” She reflected on the difficulties she faced earning the respect of her male crew members, mostly rooted in the fact that orders were scoffed at by the crew who were half her age. But with pride, she shared that many of those crewmen return to her and admit that, to this day, they still do things in the way that she trained them to do.
As a captain Laura sailed on various expeditions: one of them around South America, another from Tahiti to Brisbane, Australia, and yet another from Brisbane back to Fort Lauderdale. But she began to yearn for something more...
In 2006, Laura’s thirst for something new was quenched when she purchased her motorcycle. She bought a BMW F800GSA and used it to cruise the roads of Florida in her free time off the boat. In her free time away from sailing, she would take trips on her bike. Her journeys took her not only around the United States, but also across Europe and also throughout the eastern countries of Asia.
She humorously recounts tales of her journeys with the charisma of a soul immortal in its youth. She laughed and shared tales of traveling two-up on her bike with her 71 year-old mother. The two have shared more than 2,400 miles together navigating across the United States and Europe; this illuminating some of where Laura must get her freedom of spirit.
At the age of 44, Laura’s current quest is lovingly titled “Ashes of Freedom.” The journey has morphed as her path has changed, but the initiating motivation remains the same: to retrieve the remains of her deceased father from Brazil and drop them off with her mother in Argentina.
Wasting no time, Laura stopped in Seattle to take an EMT course – another practical skill to add to her arsenal of abilities. However, being prepared to deal with disaster often does not deter it from happening. When she started the trip, she had heard horror stories about traveling through Brazil alone on a motorcycle. Her family’s reactions ranged from disapproval to anger, they told her “Laura, you will get sold into prostitution, or killed!”
While riding through Costa Rica, Laura fatefully experienced an accident that left her with no scarring physical injuries, but her bike was incapacitated, and her spirit was wounded. At this point, feeling broken, she considered quitting, but realized that her father, who had since passed away, would not have tolerated it.
More often than not, however, she learned that locals will often be very helpful to anyone on a journey. Inspired by the soothing effect the travel had on her soul, Laura decided to expand her trip and become the first woman to ride a loop around the entire country of Brazil alone. Since seeing all that she has accomplished on this ride, Laura lovingly shares that her sisters now applaud her accomplishments and the level of courage this type of quest requires.
The moto-culture of Central and South Americas vary, Laura shared. It seems that Brazil has a thriving love for Harley-Davidson beasts, while Costa Rica ebbs between H-D and BMW. An observation Laura shared that stuck with us is the differences in reactions to female riders, specifically. Her experience with riding in the U.S. included skepticism and doubt as to level of ability and self-sufficiency. In South America, she has found that people are incredibly enthusiastic about female riders and never seem to question her ability to lift the bike, navigate or sustain herself alone. In Brazil, “you are a goddess if you are a woman on a bike,” she lightheartedly shared.
Eloquently, Laura gave us her spin on it: “For me, when I put on a helmet, I’m not a woman, or a man; I am a rider…Riding doesn’t have a gender.”
Where Laura minced no words was when she shared the raw realities of traveling alone in a foreign country. We asked her to share what she felt were some of the more-difficult points and the things women (or anyone, for that matter) need to know before taking a motorcycle trip across borders.
Among the greatest challenges Laura faces daily is spending time finding somewhere to sleep. She does not plan ahead of time due to the unpredictability of the roads and of the time required to go from place to place in South America. She spends almost an hours a day searching for a safe place to rest at night.
Safety is the first priority for Laura on the road. She discusses incidents where both on the road and off the road her preparedness has been tested. She carries a cell phone, tools and equipment for minor repairs on her motorcycle, a first aid kit for any injuries she may face, and a machete for personal protection. She emphasized that one’s greatest defense is being prepared for any dangerous situation. She was candid in her recounting of incidents where strangers would attempt to enter her rooms at night, or she would notice suspicious looks as she dismounted her bike. Awareness is weapon in and of itself. Keeping the bike in sight deters those who may be inclined to attempt some form of theft; she also uses locks on her bike or wheels it into motel rooms that allow it.
Laura’s other suggestions include managing one’s diet (healthy and full of fiber), a regimen of daily exercise (Laura runs three miles daily and does sit-ups and pushups) and a commitment to doing laundry when it needs doing.
(DotR will be publishing a separate piece with Laura’s packing list when a rider is in it for the long haul.)
Although on a rise with social media (find her on IG @chickamotorunner) Laura remains true to the pulse of this entire quest: an advancement of her self-discovery. “I have made my mind ‘naked’,” she stated, implying that she has freed herself from the noise, influence and oppression of a life dominated by the 9-5 grind. It is that freedom of self that has inspired her current motto: “Taking Life for a Ride.”
One might wonder where a person with such miles under her belt would go after completing a journey like Laura’s. The beauty in her choice of lifestyle is that she lives to do what makes her happy each day. While she has long-term goals including owning a motorcycle campground, right now she is only focused on living her days genuinely.
"In the beginning, the bike is your transport; eventually, you and the bike become one. I now identify the bike as a part of me. When it breaks down, I feel it. Work does not represent us. For me, the motorcycle represents me. My motorcycle is my door to the world."
One cannot help but to be inspired when learning of the undying positivity Laura is spreading as she continues on the world. She embodies all that Daughters of the Road has grown to represent and we are honored that she has chosen to collaborate with us in the mission of spreading a sisterhood nurturing the passion that binds us together: the ability of motorcycles to unleash the thirst for freedom within us all.