Essential Travel Lessons From Eric Cartman, South Park’s Favorite Xenophobe

[Editor’s note: South Park = NSFW.]

[UPDATE: If your server blips out for even a second (I obviously don’t understand how the internet works) the HULU clips might fail to load. We have embedded links in case the videos don’t load on your screen.]

Sometimes the best lessons in life come from seeing what not to do. Witness someone being rude to a waiter? Maybe it will inspire you to be an overly kind tipper. See someone texting at the movies? Let it be a reminder to ignore your phone when it vibrates.

Using this learn-through-the-flaws-of-others logic, South Park‘s Eric Cartman can be credited with delivering almost 20 years of excellent travel advice. That’s right, Eric Cartman — the “big boned,” foul-mouthed, murderous, whining, anti-Semitic, anti-hippy, anti-decency, but inexplicably lovable sociopath.

With South Park‘s season 19 premiere only hours away, this is the perfect opportunity to learn from Cartman’s plethora of very bad examples, alongside lessons from some of the best travel writers on the internet, to make sure your next vacation is the full Casa Bonita experience (without getting a single grain of sand anywhere it does not belong).


Pace Yourself

After months of saving and planning, you have finally arrived at your lifelong dream destination: Florence, Italy. But with so many treasures in the city you want to experience — the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, the Boboli Gardens, the steak mountains, etc. — you feel overwhelmed and try to hit them all in a frenzied rush like a kid at Disneyland. Then, like that same kid at Disneyland, it all ends with a mid-afternoon tantrum and a soothing, over-priced pastry. You can’t bear to leave any treasures behind, and it’s making you miserable.

Instead, try pacing yourself during your vacation. According to Becky at The Girl and Globe:

Rapid travel can be fun sometimes, but it’s not sustainable. Plan some downtime on each day of your travels for anything from sleeping in to emailing home to simply sitting and observing life. Not only does it reenergize you for the next adventure, but it also gives you time to meet new people and make connections.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Not leave any treasure behind, literally.

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And while you have to admire Cartman’s determination, in travel, as in life, there are very real consequences for exceeding your limits.


Stay Fueled

Traveling can be hard work. Besides the mental strain of jet lag, the constant Celsius to Fahrenheit calculations, and trying to remember your three semesters of high school French while an increasingly annoyed waiter taps his foot, there is also the physical exertion of walking for miles to find your hostel, powerlifting your suitcase onto the top bunk, and pushing away drunk Norwegian backpackers at 3 a.m. who have mistaken your bed for their own.

Being that you will be expending so much energy while you travel, it is essential that you keep yourself fueled for the task with nutritious food. According to Andrea Nguyen on The Kitchn:

To prevent getting hangry, I travel with a backup food supply of lightly salted, roasted almonds. There’s usually some in my luggage and my purse. They satisfy and fuel me, help me think straight when I try to do things like find a eatery or street food vendor that a bellman recommended.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Stay fueled in the most assholish manner imaginable by eating all the skin off your friend’s KFC.

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Learn To Game The System

Airline travel is an expensive, humiliating, and generally awful experience. But as a seasoned traveler, you can make flying a slightly less horrible and overpriced ordeal by learning to hack the system. According to Steve Bramucci in his article on Uproxx:

Not only does it matter when you buy, but it also matters where you buy — as in, where you appear to be when you purchase your ticket. This helps for times when changing the point-of-sale is advantageous and can also be used for those ultra-ambitious travel hackers who want to toy with exchange rates. For those desiring the simplest way to save, use the airline’s site or Google ITA to make you look like you are in the country where the flight originates. If you want to go deeper and play with currencies, follow Map Happy’s in-depth guide.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Game the airlines, as well as Disneyland, by exploiting the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Don’t Let the Little Things Get You Down

Travel is full of annoyances, both big and small. But while it’s tempting to lose your temper over lost luggage, misplaced tickets, and that goddamn French lady clogging up the line for the waffle maker in the hotel’s breakfast buffet every morning, it is important to remain calm and keep things in perspective. According to Matthew Karsten from The Expert Vagabond:

Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATM’s out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless…Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Not let the little things beat you down by beating down an actual little person.


Plan Ahead

Unplanned adventures and spontaneous discoveries are some of the greatest things about traveling. But if you want to get a seat at Noma, you have to balance your spontaneity with planning ahead. The experienced traveler knows that knowledge is power and will do enough research to make sure their dream vacation doesn’t turn into a nightmare of Immodium and weird European toilet paper. According to Caroline Morse on the Huffington Post:

Have an adventure! Be spontaneous! Spend the night on the street because there was a festival you didn’t know about, and everything’s booked! We like to be flexible, but we also like knowing that we have a room for the night — and we hate wasting time wandering around trying to find a suitable hotel. Plus, booking in advance lets you check out other people’s reviews, so you know what you’re getting into.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Plan ahead to use your dying friend to change abortion laws so you can use stem cells to replicate your very own Shakey’s Pizza. That’s too much planning. Also, it’s psychotic.

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And as terrible as this is, it’s actually pretty harmless compared to the end results of Cartman’s other schemes.


Immerse Yourself In The Local Culture

Sometimes, even the most adventurous traveler can be overwhelmed with culture shock. And with the proliferation of Starbucks, McDonald’s, and other chains across the world, it can be easier than ever to escape from the many new, strange, and challenging elements of your travel destination with a (mediocre) taste of home. A quick meal is fine (author’s note: there are no tastier chicken nuggets than chicken nuggets that are shame eaten in a foreign city), but it is important that you get over your “shock” by immersing yourself in the local culture. According to Jessica on

I’ll never forget the time I tried to buy produce at an Italian grocery store, or the time I tried to mail a package home from Thailand. Each of those errands turned into a complete comedy of errors as I learned that culture is present even in the most common places. Oddly, even the mundane becomes interesting when you’re overseas, because every country has its own quirks in the way that everyday things are done.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Loudly and repeatedly say the local culture smells like ass. That would be bad.

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Open Your Eyes To A New Way Of Doing Things

Some of the most challenging and rewarding travel experiences come from being exposed to new cultures and different ways of doing things. This can be as simple as eating olives for breakfast in Turkey, or as challenging as mastering the dramatically different toilet habits in India. In either case, your “well of experience” is being expanded. According to Caroline on Road to Epic:

I’m just going to jump into this one, and say that you need to get over the fear of making mistakes, or doing scary unfamiliar things, because the regret of not doing or the voice in the back of your head that always whispers “what if?” will always haunt you. Stop thinking so much and just do. Places change quickly, and if you don’t do it you may not get the chance to later.
If you really have a hard time getting over the fear, realize that in 99% of cases it’s completely irrational. Weigh the benefits and risks, and the impact of the possible outcomes. What’s the worst that could happen? How bad would that really be? As long as you don’t die or get thrown in jail, I’d say you’re good to go.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Open your eyes to a new way of doing things by pooping out of your mouth.

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Learn The Local Language

Ni hao. Grazie. Ashante. These are simple words, but when spoken by a traveler in foreign lands, they can open up a world of friendship and cultural exchange. You don’t have to be an expert — learning just a few basic words will make your experience much more rewarding (and make the locals much friendlier). According to Sam Gendreau on

Learning a foreign language, even as little as a handful of phrases, will make your travel experiences so much better, and I speak from experience when I say this. Not only will the knowledge of the language the locals speak result in warm smiles and invitations for drinks, it might bring you opportunities that you’d never thought could befall you. Best of all, it will enrich your life by offering you a deeper understanding of the culture and history of the people you’ll encounter.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Use your Spanish language skills to hire a crew of painters to smear a house with poop.

(if Hulu fails to load, click here)

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Use The Internet To Make New Friends Before You Travel

Traveling can be a lonely experience. Even when you are traveling with a friend, the long hours on the road, the language barrier, and the unknown cities can often make you feel isolated. You can avoid this, as well as get an insider’s knowledge of your destination, by connecting with locals on the internet before you even leave for your vacation. According to Steve Scott on the appropriately named

Not only is the Internet a great place to do research, it’s also useful for meeting people. For instance, on a site like Virtual Tourist, you can post in forums and find traveling buddies. This is great for those who visit an area on their own but still want to share an experience with another person.

But Don’t Be Like Eric Cartman And…

Use the internet to make new friends, then have your eyeballs assaulted by a forest of penises on Chatroulette.


Know When It’s Time To Go Back Home

The most rewarding journey a traveler ever takes is often the trip back home. Even after months of meeting interesting people, being challenged by new customs, and having amazing adventures, many travelers still feel homesick and ready to return to their “normal” lives (armed with new philosophies and perspectives). Or, more commonly, they run out of money, and need to beg for their old jobs back so they can fund their next adventure.

In either case, it is important for every traveler to know when it’s time to go back home.

So Be EXACTLY Like Eric Cartman And Know When It’s Time To Go Home.