The Anniversary Routine: Che Guevara’s Travel Technique for Free Food and Drink

Before he became a marxist revolutionary, secular humanist and anti-imperialist martyr, Ernesto Guevara  undertook a spontaneous motorcycle journey with his friend Alfonso to explore the South American continent. The 23 year old, fresh-faced medical graduates, under the guise of leprosy doctors, jumped on ‘La Poderosa’ and began the comedic, ad-lib adventure documented in Che’s travel notes The Motorcycle Diaries.

After numerous disasters and set-backs their haggard motorbike finally gave up in Chile, but through wit and discernment the pair managed to hitch lifts, scrounge for food and find shelter at night to make it to Venezuela. Never knowing where their next meal would come from these tactful backpackers developed a “highly refined technique” that seized advantage of citizen’s good-nature. They  labelled it the “Anniversary Routine” (Guevara, pp. 130-131).

Step 1) Say something loudly to your travelling companion, immediately identifiable as your own culture, something containing slang and drawl. The candidate will take the bait, immediately asking where you’re from. Use this to  strike up a conversation.

Step 2) Begin to speak of your hardships, but don’t make too much of them, all the while maintaining a gaze fixed in the distance.

Step 3) Let your friend intervene and ask for the date. When the candidate provides it your friend should then sigh, saying: “Imagine the coincidence, it was a year ago today.” The candidate will inevitable ask; “a year ago since what?”; you then respond that it was was a year ago that your journey began.

Step 4) Let out a gigantic sigh, saying quietly to your friend, as if you were confiding in him: “it’s such a pity we’re in these dire circumstances and aren’t able to celebrate.” The candidate will immediately offer to pay for your drinks. Refuse for a while, admitting it would be impossible to ever pay him/her back, but finally accept the offer.

Step 5) After the first drink, you should steadfastly refuse to accept another, whilst your friend makes a concerned  face at you. The host will become a little angry and insist, but continue to refuse without giving reasons. They will continue to ask until you confess, full of embarrassment, that your local custom is to eat when you drink. The host will then also offer to buy you some food. Just how much you can push for will be based on how you judge the candidate’s face.

I do not recommend using this snidey trick, honesty and openness being something backpackers pride themselves on, but it is definitely one way to stop yourself from starving. The Motorcycle Diaries contains many others humorous stunts and tales that happened along the way; from Che taking a dump out a window onto someone’s orchard to accidentally shooting the dog of a stranger that was kind enough to give them a bed for the night.

Being able to look back on the adolescence of one of the 20th Century’s most iconic people in this manner allows us to realise that he was just a normal human being like the rest of us, but a human being that decided to make a change. Through martyrdom, humans can be seen to hold god-like status, when truthfully we are all cut from the same cloth. In the words of the late Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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One Comment on “The Anniversary Routine: Che Guevara’s Travel Technique for Free Food and Drink”

  1. […] the dog of a stranger who had been kind enough to give them a bed for the night; to the infamous Anniversary Routine trick they deployed to get free meals, The Motorcycle Diaries shows life through the eyes of this […]


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