REVIEW: 2020 – COVID, YouTube, + Turkey Travels

Living in Turkey has some great benefits but when come to COVID, they are (semi) serious about their restriction and lockdowns. Due to those restrictions Jason and I shared our sushi and reflection questions with Sofia this year.  I am now sitting here on a 4 day New Year weekend lockdown writing out our 2020 REVIEW for this week. It will be the earliest I have gotten out a review. 2019 Review took me until April 2019. 2018 Review was in February 2018.

FIRST OFF: ADOPTION

Everyone always wants the updates of Sofia’s adoption. So instead of making you search for it, I have put it first on the agenda.

2018 was ‘technically’ the year we became parents. In 2019, custody of our daughter was legalized. We hoped our surprise private adoption would be finalized in 2020, but unfortunately it is delayed until 2021. Thankfully nothing can be ‘undone’, but we are just having to wait longer until everything is finalize.

If you are just joining in … you can find our adoption information here: Announced our adoption plans! (Adoption video #1 on our YouTube channel, but you can view the adoption playlist here.) Decided we had to move to America for said adoption plans….Then decided not to move to America because of an unexpected but exciting private adoption opportunity that came up here in Turkey!

SECOND: COVID

2020 has been an odd year for all. Turkey did not miss out. We had 3 months of strict restrictions and lockdowns last spring. In June, they started lifting and we ventured to a seaside town for a few weeks to get out of the city. We have cautiously made the most of our freedom and are thankful some family came to visit.

Unfortunately, as winter is approaching the covid numbers are rising again. We are already back on some partial lockdowns, and it looks like the winter will bring even more restrictions once again.

THIRD: YOUTUBE

Due to our adoption, we have placed almost all travels outside of Turkey on hold until all of this adoption stuff is complete and for 2019, we stuck close to Izmir. We SAID we were going to share these travels but it wasn’t until COVID that I got back into my website work and editing videos for myself! I hope you have found our content to be more all-encompassing of our lives as the Funk family – balancing life, work, expat living, mini-travels, and parenthood.

Our recap of 2020:

I did something a little different this year to share our year via our Following The Funks YouTube Channel. I started back on our FollowingTheFunks website and videos this year and it has been so rewarding!

This video has a TON of pictures and videos we have NEVER shared before with you (if anyone has been around since 2018, you would have noticed I took a crazy amount of time away from Instagram with all the transition going on in our lives). This April/May I finally buckled down and started producing content again – if not for you, then for our family to remember our lives here in Turkey.

Since there is not much explanation for anything in the video. So I did want to write out a quick recap of some of our memories over 2020!

  • January was normal life – work, Catie with her projects, and Sofia learning to walk more steadily. I think the most amazing part of this last year is watching Sofia grow from baby toddler to full on toddler child. (Is that a thing?)
  • February Sofia took her first airlines flight and we visited some friends in Istanbul. She then came down with the flu and we spent the rest of our week in the tiny airbnb apartment.
  • Jason also took a trip to the USA. It had been over a year since he had seen his family (remember I went 2 times in 2019?). He was able to visit our 3 new nieces and nephews and celebrate with his family at his Grandpa’s 90th birthday party.
  • Meanwhile, Catie took a solo trip with Sofia (on her second airline flights) to see her friend in Adana, Turkey. Sofia did unfortunately throw up all over me at the end of our arriving flight.
  • In June, most of the restrictions started lifting. We stayed closer to home but we thankful to take Sofia out daily at this point! Let’s just say that reentry into semi-normal society in a global pandemic is a lot like culture shock.
  • In July we decided to give ourselves a break from Izmir and skipped out to a little beach town called Kalkan. We stayed 3 weeks and enjoy each week with a different family/friends. The freedom to move around was refreshing (yes, we were cautious and wore mask). You can see a playlist from some of our summer here and what travel was like during COVID-19 in Turkey).
  • August was low key for everyone but Sofia. Jason changed out her crib to a toddler bed, gave up her Paci completely, and was potty trained. Oh and I am sure there was always coffee involved!
https://followingthefunks.com/category/black-sea-road-trip/
  • October came and went in a blur – literally… as I write this, I can’t remember what we did. I did a pumpkin decorating workshop and macaroon workshop with friends. Otherwise, it was a lot of normal life, Turkish breakfast every Saturday morning, and a lot of friend time. Oh and Sofia’s first fall party.
  • At the end of October, our city of Izmir was hit by a 7.0 earthquake. We were at home and experienced 15- 20s of strong shaking, which was very scary. Thankfully our home is fine but there are areas in Izmir that were devastated. Around 20 buildings immediately collapsed, over 100 people died, and 500+ buildings are scheduled for demolition.
  • November – Sofia turned two! This is the turning point for Sofia language! She started making sentences, and by the end of the year we were have two-way conversations (not just yes or no stuff!).
  • As well, a couple of Jason’s cousins came to visit us and we took them to Cappadocia and Istanbul. We are so thankful the new COVID restrictions and lockdowns didn’t start until after our cousins left.
  • In November, we had high hopes that our adoption would be finalized. We waited almost a year for this court date. But it was disappointing that it will be delayed until 2021. Thankfully it does not undo anything that has taken place. It is so surreal to think that we announced her to everyone in May of 2019!
  • In December, we enjoy filling our lives with advent activities to celebrate Christmas. This also included a last minute plan to spend a weekend out at a farm with friend. Sofia’s was able to ride a horse which is a daily topic of conversation still.

Last but not least! Our new contributor at Nia’s Corner:

Nia, a fellow expat living in Izmir, Turkey, joins Following The Funks as a contributor writer back in the spring. I am SO thankful for her insight, knowledge and thoughtfulness she puts into every post she writes over at Nia’s Corner! You haven’t seen her post these last couple of months because the earthquake effected where she was living. She has had a lot on her plate finding a new home and moving. I am hopeful you will get some more content this 2021.

You can find the complete list of her writings here. I think you will find more than a couple that will entice you! Thank you Nia for all you have share here on FTF!

WRAPPING IT ALL UP:

It is crazy to think we are in our 5th year of this journey. We are hopeful that 2021 will bring finalization of Sofia’s adoption as well as her USA immigration paperwork. If all works out then by the end of 2021 we should find ourselves in the states finalizing Sofia’s citizenship!

If anything I am so thankful I did this to remember all the GOOD 2020 held in the middle of a crazy global pandemic and restrictions and lockdowns in Turkey.

Thanks for letting us share our lives with you and being part of our 2020.

Jason + Catie + Sofia

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • What is your best thing about 2020?
  • What was the hardest?
  • How did you grow for the better this year?
2019-Review-2019.FollowingtheFunks-Review.Turkey

REVIEW: 2019 – Adoption, Rebranding, + Visitors

What better way to get back into the game. I said this last February(2018) when I finally published our 2018 Review. I am breaking my ‘how late can a year review be recorded’ by publishing this 2019 Review halfway through March *cough* April!

Jason and I forwent one of our favorite traditions of grabbing sushi and go through my list of year-end questions. Instead, we celebrated with our friends at their new home across the bay. It was a fun night of good food and some game-playing, topped off with entering the new year while on our drive back into Izmir.

FIRST OFF: ADOPTION

2018 was ‘technically’ the year we became parents. In 2019, custody of our daughter was legalized. Our private adoption will be finalized in 2020. 2019 started in weariness, uncertainty, and trusting the Lord for His plan; it finished with a celebrating with certainty that we have a beautiful 1-year-old daughter, Sofia Marie.  Due to our adoption here, we will be around for another 2 years in Turkey to complete the necessary paperwork.

If you are just joining in … you can find our adoption information here: Announced our adoption plans! (Adoption video #1 on our YouTube channel, but you can view the adoption playlist here.) Decided we had to move to America for said adoption plans….Then decided not to move to America because of an unexpected but exciting private adoption opportunity that came up here in Turkey!

SECOND: REBRANDING

Due to our adoption, we have placed almost all travels outside of Turkey on hold until all of this adoption stuff is complete and for 2019, we stuck close to Izmir. We SAID we were going to share these travels but it just hasn’t been practical right. There are so many parts of our lives that just don’t revolve around travel even though we are ex-pats! Also, because our status in Izmir is a temporary one, I hope this website will eventually be more all-encompassing of our lives as the Funk family – balancing life, work, expat living, mini-travels, and parenthood.

Hence the change of name from FunkTravels to FollowingtheFunks! We hope you will stick around longer than what Izmir, Turkey has to hold for us. (Don’t worry, we are still here for another couple of years!)

THIRD: VISITORS

One of the BEST parts of 2019 was all the visitors we had. While Jason and I would love to think it was due to us, we know it is because of an adorable little baby. Several friends came down from Izmir or ‘popped by’ for a night on their way somewhere. Thank you all for coming to see us!

Finally, here is our recap of 2019:

  • My parents stayed for 10 weeks with us here in Turkey and saw Sofia grow from 6 weeks to 16 weeks! That is a lot of growing they got to be a part of! We took them around Izmir, down to Ephesus and up to Pergamon.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Ephesus Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Pergamon Turkey

  • Spent a weekend showing my parents Pammukale, Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Sardis.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Pamukkale Izmir Turkey

  • February we said goodbye to Catie’s parents and started ‘solo’ parenting again. 
  • In March, we celebrated year 5 of marriage in Kusadasi with our sweet Sofia. We took her to the beach for the first time. 

FollowingtheFunks-Review Anniversary Izmir Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Izmir Turkey

  • In April we took Sofia for her first major roadtrip to Istanbul to meet some of our old friends there. We also had the honor of hosting the Keil family in Turkey!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Istanbul Tulips Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Izmir Turkey

  • In May, our friends, the Bradley family, came to visit for a few days.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Ephesus Turkey

  • Also in May, we celebrated adding twins to our nephew and nieces clan and another nephew joined in October!
  • But most importantly, we finally received legal custody for our adoption of Sofia and we announced her to everyone! We felt like we could start to breathe normally and relax more.
  • At the beginning of June, our friends the Rowells (our South East Asia traveling buddy) came for a week and we literally rented a house in Bodrum for a week and did nothing. It was AWESOME. And we spent a weekend in Alacati with the Cruz family. The flowers were in full bloom!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Bodrum Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Bodrum Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Alacati Turkey

  • June brought some sad news that one of Catie’s friend(definitely considered family) passed awake. She went to the states for a dear friend’s funeral while Jason was a rockstar at solo parenting. She also got to see the twins!

FollowingtheFunks-Review

  • A few weeks in the summer we passed it like a true Izmirlian with some friends at a summer house. Sofia took her first trip out to sea.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Izmir Turkey

  • Sofia’s also had her first major sickness which left us taking her to the hospital for a fever.
  • In September, we finished our 3rd year living in Turkey. Sofia went to her first Turkish wedding.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Turkish Wedding Turkey

  • At the end of October, Jason’s parents, Wanda and DeWayne came to visit! We took them to Ephesus and Pamukkale!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Izmir Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Pamukkale Izmir Turkey

  • November – Sofia turned one!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Sofia First Birthday Izmir Turkey

  • Again Catie left Jason for a wedding of one of her bestie’s in the states. (Don’t worry Jason has just made a trip to the states!)

FollowingtheFunks-Review

  • In December, after a lonnnngggg 5+ years, Catie got to snow ski once again in Uludağ. Our family spent a few days together enjoying a cozy ski lodge friends and lots of snow!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Uludag Skiing Turkey

Some other random thoughts:

If you are wondering:  We still think our car is the best purchase of 2018…. about all the modes of transportation we used in Izmir, and then (finally) bought a car at the end of the year in 2018! (Maybe we should do a video about it and allllll the things that comes with owning a car in Turkey one day…)

If you haven’t had a chance, you can still read about things to do IN IZMIR and day trips from here.

Several words come to mind as we think back to our year: parenting, hurdling over all the legal hoops, hardship, but so much more joy. It is fair to say that our lives have now been rotated to revolve around Sofia! But now that she is a year old, we feel there is some ease that is coming back into our independence.

WRAPPING IT ALL UP:

When we started this expat journey, we committed to 3 years of overseas life. As we enter our 4th year living in Turkey, we can’t wait to see what God does next. He has been so good to show us how great of a community we have here in Izmir especially in this season of change and unexpected blessings.

2019 finished out in a blur and all of a sudden it’s April 2020 (even though I started this post a month ago!). While we have not been overly present here on social media in the last few months, it does not mean that we’ve been lazy! We have so many good things to share as we are finally adjusting to the work/parent life balance.

THANK YOU for sitting around when our posts have lulled and being part of our 2019.

Jason + Catie + Sofia

REVIEW: 2018 – Unexpected changes to say the least

2018 finished out in a blur and all of a sudden it’s February 2019. While we have not been overly present here on social media in the last few months, it does not mean that we’ve been lazy! We have so many good things to share (especially one monumental one, that we CAN’T share fully yet).

One of our favorite traditions is to grab sushi and go through my list of year-end questions. There’s always WAtooto many questions, but it’s good for conversation.

You can grab a more simplified worksheet for your next year-end review by emailing me here! I’ll send it your way ASAP!

Several words come to mind as we think back to our year: re-direction, adoption, preparation, joyfulness, and hardship. Sometimes I get to the end of the year and can think about how we have missed documenting our journey here in Izmir, but every year, this recap shows me HOW MUCH WE HAVE!!!!

Here is our recap of 2018:

?Jason and his brother rewrote and relaunch bltn in January.

?Spent a week in Istanbul, the city we met in,  loving on our friends’ kiddos!

?February was rainy in Izmir, so we decided to skip town and head to our friends in the desert. Traveled to Dubai to visit our dear friends then onward to Abu Dhabi. 

FunkTravels Desert Safari Dubai UAE

?Jason ran his first race! I am SO VERY PROUD!

?Celebrated year 4 of marriage in Chios, one of the Greek island just a ferry ride off the coast of Turkey. (We chat about this trip in Episode050 of the podcast.)

?Made it to 2 more Greek islands, Lesvos and Rhodes (blog post series on this with 8 tips for traveling to the Greek Islands from Turkey!) 

?Explored the area of Marmaris, Turkey and a quick pop-over to Rhodes Island, Greece 

?Finished our podcast at episode 50 (here is the reason why) and moved over to starting some videos on YouTube to share our expat life in a more visual way!

?Celebrated adding a new nephew to our clan and rejoicing in 2 more coming in 2019!

?Made our annual visit to the states to visit our family and sneaked in a week trip to Nashville for touring and Catie’s work.

?Finished our 2nd year living in Turkey  (Update coming one day!)

?Spent some time visiting our friends in Adana and took a day trip to Gaziantep (which we hope to share about soon too!)

?Enjoyed a day off the coast of Foça with some friends!

?Surprised Jason for his birthday

?Celebrated Izmir’s Independence Day properly since moving here.

?Announced our adoption plans! (Adoption video #1 on our YouTube channel, but you can view the adoption playlist here.)

?Decided we had to move to America for said adoption plans….

?Bought a house (yep, didn’t really announce that one)

?Then decided not to move to America because….

? Unexpected but exciting private adoption opportunity came up here in Turkey!

?Took a weekend to road trip to less-traveled historical sites near Izmir with some awesome people! (Can’t wait to share this road trip with you all!)

?Didn’t leave Turkey for 6 months which left us with some fun traveled around Izmir exploring a Car Museum, a Cable Car, and a couple of posts I FINALLY published about things to do IN IZMIR and day trips from here.

?Catie’s parents came to visit and celebrated Christmas with us!

?Catie has her first major Travel Writing Publication!

?On the side, Catie started advocating for cleaner, safer beauty products via @catiecleancollection and started a little travel shop @deartravels – both will help fund our adoption! 

?Jason and I both read 29 books each!

?Talked about all the modes of transportation we used in Izmir, and then (finally) bought a car at the end of the year!

DON’T FORGET:

You can grab a more simplified worksheet for your next year-end review by emailing me here! I’ll send it your way ASAP!

THANK YOU for sitting around when our posts have lulled and being part of our 2018. We can’t wait to share our big news with you soon! So, stick around!

Jason + Catie

 

Catie FunkTravels Chios Greece Greek Island

TRAVEL: 3 Day Itinerary for Chios, Greece – Sakız Adası

Chios is the first choice for both expats and Turks in the Izmir area when considering which Greek island to visit first. A quick 20-minute catamaran ferry ride in the morning and returning in the evening makes Chios the most popular choice from the beach town of Çeşme.

Located in the Aegean Sea, the island went through many names such as Pitioussa for its pines, Makris for its long shape, Aethalea for its volcano and Ofioussa for the many snakes. However, the name of Chios comes from the daughter of Inopion, Chiona rooted from the word hioni meaning too much snow fell on the island.

Chios’s Turkish name, Sakiz or Mastic, hails from the local island tree that produces a sappy, natural gum. Mastic is the leading local product. Gums, liqueurs, varieties of sweets, natural soaps and candles are just a few mastic products solely on the island.

While most people make Chios a day trip, a 3-day getaway was the perfect amount of time to explore most of the island while having time to relax. In the morning and evening, we enjoyed the beach near our apartment rental. During the day, we travel via rental car to see other parts of the island.

Enjoy our 3 Day Itinerary for Chios, Greece:

Day 1:

Arriving by the AM ferry, the 10-minute walk from the ferry to the car rental is easy and quick. Our pre-made reservation at Hatzelenis Tours (ran by our Airbnb owner’s son) ensured us easy and seamless pick-up and we were on our way! 

By making one big loop by car, you can see most of what South Chios has to offer.

From the Chios city center, head west to the 11th century Nea Moni Monastery and explore the renovated church and the now overgrown former quarter of monks. The 1881 earthquake had devastating effects on Chios, and almost every village has some remnants.  The monastery closes at 1 PM for the day, so make sure to visit it first.

From the Monastery, head another 20 minutes west to explore the deserted hilltop of Avantas. There is not much there besides a couple of cafes, an art studio and lots of old homes. After working up an appetite from exploring, we enjoyed a late lunch, ordering the traditional Mosak, at the restaurant and guesthouse which boast panoramic views of the opposite side of the island.

Because Chios’s Turkish name, Sakiz (Mastic), you cannot go to Chios without making it to the Mastic Museum, a 30-minute drive south of the Nea Moni Monastery located in Mastichochoria region (literally meaning mastic villages).

The Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP) created the Mastic Museum as part of 9 cultural heritage museums throughout Greece, affordable to all for only 3 euros a person. The museum is an architectural beauty with its tall glass walls mixed with natural wood and concrete features. The story of traditional mastic cultivations and the economic value throughout history is creatively explained through multimedia applications, excellent video documentaries, models, and original machinery in functioning order.

Day 2:

Spend a day at the beach. Our favorite beach was the Volcanic Rock Beach, Emporio. The secluded little cove is famous for its black round lava stones and is perfect for enjoying the water and sun without the hassle of sand. Pack a lunch or enjoy lunch at Porto Emporios in the little town nearby. 

Day 3:

If time, the medieval sister cities of Mesta, Olympi, and Pyrgi all have their claim to fame. Go inside Mesta’s castle walls to the center to explore the small streets. The main square has cafes, coffee or ice cream. Olympi has nothing too spectacular except in season (April 1 to October 1) when the caves tours provide an escape from the summer heat. Prygri’s homes are all engraved with the black and white motifs. The cities of Mesta and Olympi have a 1-hour long, well-marked walking trail, 1 of 8 on the island.

OR

Spend this day in Chios town before departing back to Ceşme, Turkey. Our return was on Sunday AND Greek Independence day and quite a few places were closed (Check out our 8 Tips for Traveling to Greek Islands from Turkey for this information). However, you can always walk through the unimpressive Chios Castle and all the museums: the Chios Archeological Museum, Maritime Museum, and Byzantine Museum.

If you are like us, we prefer to eat our way through a city. Below I referenced some places we enjoyed eating at in Chios City!

How to get there:

Check out our 8 Tips for Traveling to Greek Islands from Turkey where I explain more about the ferry system from Turkey to the Greek Islands.

Where to eat:

For pork lovers, the 3 Little Pigs in Chios city makes your favorite Turkish ‘et döner’ but replaced with pork meat. At 2 Euros a sandwich, the price is just as favorable. For an afternoon coffee or cocktail, you must check out No. 44 where a crowd enjoys iced coffees. Make sure to ask for the complimentary chocolate covered donut that comes with your drink order. For ice-cream lovers, Kronos is sure to please with it’s white, diner-like appeal and creamy, gelato flavors.

Where to stay:

Kafas is a smaller beach town that is just a 15-minute drive south of Chios city center. Our Airbnb rental was right on the beach (sign up via our referral code for $20 credit!). If we wanted, we could have skipped the rental car and stayed in this self-sufficient little town which is complete with a market and a few restaurants and cafes.

What to buy:

Mastic products! Whatever you desire, you can most likely find a product made with mastic. The natural, mastic gum is a tourist favorite choice. The natural gum has an irregular shape because it is unprocessed! Lotions, soaps, food flavorings, and even liquors are all available as well. The Mastihashop is a favorite shop to purchase quality mastic items.

I hope you found my 3 Day Itinerary for Chios, Greece helpful! We will definitely return for another weekend! There is so much more to see!

We want to hear from you!

Did you enjoy this 3 Day Itinerary for Chios, Greece?

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What did you love when you traveled to Chios?

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Listen to our 3 day Chios getaway via our podcast!

Episode 50: When you move on to new things

Read more information about other islands we have visited: