Insights: news and views from the International Center

International Center

University of Missouri

“National Lampoon’s European Vacation”: A pre-departure reflection

Filed in Blog, United Kingdom by on January 6, 2014

In anticipation of my impending departure for Lancaster, England, my mom and I decided to watch “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.” Neither of us had seen the movie before, but we imagined our screening would be a comical celebration of the traveling I will be doing over the next six months while I am abroad. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it’s basically about the escapades of a bumbling man named Clark Griswald, his bumbling wife and their bumbling offspring, and is filled with jokes written to play off stereotypes or be otherwise offensive (think 1980’s “Airplane!”). The Griswalds win a game show, and their prize is said European vacation. Hilarity, chaos and carnage (yes, carnage) ensue.

Before I go any further, I should probably first declare and explain that I have decided to make this a “bullet-point blog,” which is exactly what its name implies: a blog that consists mainly of bulleted points describing my experiences. I’ve seen another blogger use this format and I love it; it’s succinct, (hopefully) easy to follow and affords me the freedom of including unrelated thoughts in the same post without having to worry about [shudder] transitions.

So without further ado, here is my bulleted reflection on our “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” viewing experience:

  • We only made it through the first 26 minutes.
  • If you’ve seen any of the National Lampoon movies, you might completely understand this.
  • If you’ve seen the movies and you love them, I’m sorry.
  • Luckily for me, the Griswald’s first stop on their vacation is England, so I didn’t technically need to watch more than the first 26 minutes. These short moments alone imbued me with many valuable lessons about what not to do when traveling to England and the continent, such as:
    • Don’t let yourself believe in false dreams about meeting the queen, being the star at a French discothèque, or giving a flawless rendition of “The Sound of Music” whilst frolicking in the Swiss Alps. THESE WILL NOT COME TRUE. (Pre-viewing, I shared a non-disclosable one of these three dreams, so this was a good reality check.)
    • Don’t enter traffic circles. Just don’t do it.
    • Don’t believe strangers when they instruct you to take your shoes off and stand in a fountain. They are likely trying to steal your camera.
    • Don’t call home too much. It is expensive.
    • If you do call home, don’t hold when your love interest has to leave the phone to engage in mundane activities such as eating dinner. In addition to losing your money, you will also lose your dignity.

This was what I had learned by the 26-minute mark. Whether we turned the movie off because we were feeling overwhelmingly deluged with useful information or because it wasn’t our brand of humor, I’ll leave up to you to decide, but I can say this: What the first 26 minutes of “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” really confirmed for me is that 1) cultural stereotypes are very real — it is alright to see the humor and ridiculousness in them, but mainly it is just important to get past them; and 2) I will experience challenges as I travel, both because of my own decisions and because of bad luck. Though the Griswalds were often portrayed as oblivious to their own misfortune (again: bumbling), I like to think that they psychologically triumphed over every mishap with an incomparable combination of wisdom, positivity and Zen acceptance. Thus, when I depart tomorrow, I will be departing with Clark Griswald, leader of the Griswald family democracy, as a shining beacon in my mind and in my heart. It’s amazing what 26 minutes of movie can teach a person. Thank you Chevy Chase, thank you 1985 and, most importantly, thank you “European Vacation.”

Comments are closed.