Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Wed November 04 2015

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  • Shannon Wolf | November 4, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    Europe: 25 Life Lessons

    Europe: 25 Life Lessons

    PHOTO: One of the hidden gems we came across in Plav, Montenegro! (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    Seven months in Europe, 18 countries and I have lived from one extreme to the other. I have lived in my own apartment in Italy, done wild camping under stars and in gas station parking lots. I have surpassed my budget and I have lived off of nothing. I have eaten lobster in Venice and stale bread for days. I have seen beautiful things and the worst of things.

    But most importantly, I have realized there is no better teacher than experience. Below are the 25 life lessons learned while backpacking Europe!

    1) When traveling, be aware — not defensive. When you experience life firsthand, only then can you form a proper opinion on places, people and things. 

    2) Smile often. Like attracts like!

    3) Hitchhiking in Europe and Turkey is incredibly easy and a fantastic way to experience a country for what it truly is.

    4) Most people are genuine and want to help you if you let them.

    5) The cuisine in Europe will change how you view food. TRY EVERYTHING — especially local/street food!

    6) After doing a social experiment where we traveled across Europe without a cent in our pockets for two months, I found that you could in fact travel the globe without money as long as you have a tent, a positive attitude and water.  

    7) The Balkan countries are often overlooked while traveling and are actually some of the cheapest and best hidden gems, such as Plav, Montenegro and Lake Ohrid in Albania.

    8) It is a misconception that Turkey is cheap to travel. Buses range from $40-plus one-way while hostels cost from $15-$30 a night.

    9) You are what you eat. For example, if you consume pizza and gelato every day in Italy, eventually you will resemble its shape.

    10) Traveling without money will restore all of your faith in humanity; you will see the world for what it truly is and all the extent of human compassion.

    11) There has been so many moments on my trip where I have had the opportunity to share my experiences with other like-minded travelers and we all agreed: “happiness is only real when shared.”

    PHOTO: A glimpse of some of the wonderful people I met while on the road.

    12) No matter the country, long distance buses are always freezing cold or boiling hot. Make sure to layer up.

    13) Always carry small change to use the toilets in Europe (Typically 50 cents).

    14) Florence is one of the safest cities in the world with the BEST gelato.

    15) Portugal is one of the best budget countries in Europe and offers everything you could want or need.

    16) If you plan to travel onward to Asia from Europe, the cheapest country to depart from is Istanbul, Turkey.

    17) In Europe, hostels always cost more on weekends. Couchsurfing will save you a fortune!

    18) Earplugs are essential for a good night’s sleep.

    19) Everything in life is all about balance.

    20) In the Balkan countries and Turkey, toilet paper goes in the trash, not the toilet.

    21) If you want to island hop in Greece, use Blue Star Ferries for the best prices.

    22) The best espresso you will ever drink is at General Coffee Shop in Naples, Italy!

    23) Places are like people: they either inspire you or drain you.

    24) It is perfectly okay to change paths if the one you’re on no longer serves you.

    25) Change is inevitable, growth is optional. 

    PHOTO: A prime example of human kindness as Jonathan and I traveled without money on our hitchhiking race. In less than 20 minutes we got our first two beers!

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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