Ever since we arrived in Latvia, into the ease of the EU, I’ve started suffering from a somewhat malignant case of what I can only describe as Lonely Planet Syndrome.

It’s completely weird. We’ve just travelled for months relatively unassisted by guide books, wandering the abyss on the whiff of cheap diesel. And yet as soon as I got my hands on Joe’s 2005 Eastern Europe on a Shoestring I’ve been spouting from it insufferably like it’s the pinnacle of modern thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Lonely Planets are a godsend, I’ve bought heaps of them over the years (read: stolen them from unsuspecting friends under the guise of ‘borrowing’) and my issue isn’t with their nifty information strung together with politically correct witticisms, my issue is with the FOMO* that they’ve all of a sudden instilled in me since I arrived in Europe and things became decidedly more expensive, and time to the end of the road more scarce…

(FOMO = Fear of missing out)

I came to this realisation last night over dinner, when we were trying to discuss and decide a route through Poland. I didn’t really know much about Poland except that it was full of poles. But as soon as I started reading LP’s Poland chapter I was instantly persuaded that I had to go here, there and everywhere or miss out completely, suffering detrimental consequences eternally, and possibly being made a laughing stock of at swanky dinner parties when people asked me what I thought of the Tyniec Abbey or if I managed to ride in a dorożka.

It was that first little morsel of painless information that tortured me the most: the top 3 things to do here in a week. We only had a week, surely those were the things we should be doing! I thought, mindlessly. I set about scaling up google maps and realized distressingly that the LP route of choice would take us twice as long… I wept.  

I decided, resignedly, that galavanting around the country chasing these sights was never going to be the best use of our time. We’re on a roadtrip, after all, and the Lonely Planet just isn’t targeted at that small, strange group of people who’ve brought their own truck from Australia. The pages of exciting destinations seemed somewhat unattainable, I lost. Where would we go now?

I put the lonely planet down, depressed, and went back to my pork knuckle. I’d grown morose and unadventerous at the prospect of not having concise and accurate information and nifty maps. I think the syndrome had me. Whatever the prognosis, one thing was really clear; if this was the worst of my problems, I’d probably been travelling too long.