The Motorcycle Diaries: the essence of travel

The Motorcycle Diaries: the essence of travel

I have finally watched the movie The Motorcycle Diaries. And I say “finally” as it has been recommended to me by some in person and, indirectly, by many other on the web.

I know this movie has inspired some travelers to make it to Latin America. In my case, I watched it after we are done (for now) traveling the Americas. It was naturally exciting to re-see some of the places we have recently been too, but more than that, I loved the fact that the movie ignited the travel spark in me… even more!

I have watched the film during a night spent at the hospital, keeping company to my Grandfather who’s been very ill. Sitting inside these four walls, in a place that truly makes you think about life and its ultimate purpose, has probably made me enjoy the travels of Che Guevara and his friend Alberto even more.

As the initial premise of The Motorcycle Diaries goes:



This is not a tale of impressive deeds. It’s a piece of two lives taken in a moment when they were cruising together along a given path, with the same identity of aspirations and dreams.


And that is why this movie is so true, so beautiful and translates perfectly the essence of travel. It’s not about the destination: it is definitely about the journey. And those little things that fill the journey and open up your mind, and make you think even after you’ve moved on physically…

Are you looking for a job?

Are you looking for a job?

No, we are not.

No, we are not.

No? And then why are you traveling?

No? And then why are you traveling?


As Ernesto (aka Che Guevara) and Alberto go on their journey, they meet people who they exchange pieces of life with. This reminded me so much of our stay in Latin lands. You don’t have to remain for a long time in a place, or even make deep connections, to learn something from one another. A simple talk you can make when you purchase something at a grocery, a chit-chat you eventually have with the person sitting next to you in the bus, a kid you play for a few minutes in the street with: all of these simple actions of daily life are full of meaning and lessons to learn. Specially when you are in a different context than your usual and keep your senses open to absorb something that shall somehow make you a better, more understanding person.


You observe, you learn.

You listen, you learn.

You live, you learn.


And when you learn, not only you make yourself a better human being, you’re eventually contributing to make the world a better place. I know this sounds very “Miss Universe” speech like, but I actually believe it. And you don’t even need to travel far to allow yourself to be a part of this: interaction is the key. Interact with those around you, with your surroundings – belong, be a part of something meaningful.

If this trip would have happened now-a-days, I wonder if Che Guevara would have kept a blog. Maybe...

If this trip would have happened now-a-days, I wonder if Che Guevara would have kept a blog. Maybe…


Back to the movie, I am impressed with the subtle yet effective way that it shows how Che started looking at the different realities within his own continent. Although this is not directly shown in the movie, I wonder if he’d ever become a revolutionary if not for his travels. I could bet my right hand that he wouldn’t have had the same visions and the desire to materialize them in what became a movement of empowerment of the truly “local” Latin people.

It’s fairly easy to be an idealist, to have certain values. But idealism without solid actions, doesn’t make much of a difference in the end. Traveling gives you perspective, enlightens you and gives you ideas on how to turn those values into actions that can actually have some sort of impact.

Traveling is the real deal!


Alberto and Ernesto in Cusco, Peru

Alberto and Ernesto in Cusco, Peru


As the characters go and meet native people and villagers who try to make a living from the land, they open up their mind to their problems, as they see how some have been stripped of some basic rights. They go as deep as showing, through Che’s eyes, how the arrival of Spanish colonialism had changed it all. How would Latin America be if the conquistadores had never come and destroyed what had been built (humanly, culturally and materially) on those lands? I can relate to this: until I have visited Latin America, I had never fully understood the effects of colonialism. I thought I did – I studied all of that in school after all. But I didn’t. You have to be on both sides to truly evaluate the devastating consequences of such human actions.

Still from the end of the movie as Che reflects on all he saw during their travels

Still from the end of the movie as Che reflects on all he saw during their travels


It’s not that one lives with eyes closed or doesn’t want to understand. Even if you are culturally and socially aware, and well-read, nothing compares to going to the places where things have happened or are currently taking place. No movie, no book or article could ever compare to visiting a place and experiencing, even if at a superficial level, a reality that is different than yours.

If you haven’t watched The Motorcycle Diaries yet, please do. Don’t expect a road movie full of thrills and exciting sequences. That’s not what it is about. It is full of emotive moments and you will surely get a taste of what traveling is all about. If you had any questions about what makes traveling different than tourism, than vacationing, this film will clear all doubts for you!



That aimless roaming through our enormous America has changed me more than I thought. I am not myself anymore. At least, I’m not the same inside. Ernesto Guevara 1962


Watch The Motorcycle Diaries (English Subtitled)


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