2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

EXPAT YEARS: Our First Year Abroad (Year 1 Part 1)

‘You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again.’ — Azar Nafasi

4 checked bags, 2 carry ons, and 2 people boarded a 5 a.m. flight leaving 2 sets of parents behind at the airport in the U.S.A.  Excitement, nervousness, and surrealness flooded our thoughts as we traveled to Spain where our other 4 packages were waiting for us at our cousin’s home. Our original destination was Izmir, Turkey, the place that we hoped would be our home for the next 3 years. But with the coup taking place just 2 short weeks before, we detoured to Spain for a month.

Leaving the states!

Instead of spending one more month in the states we stuck to our original departure date – determined to move overseas. We felt that delaying our move would make it harder to leave, and believe me, it was sad enough leaving family and friends behind. So 20 hours later with a very lengthy layover in the Chicago airport, we found our (very tired) selves on the sunny beaches of Rota, Spain.

Since then, these 2 people have….

FunkTravels Podcast Episode017
Sailing Trip in Turkey
FunkTravels Eski Foca
Exploring Eski Foca, Turkey with new friends

And the truth? There have been MANY times I have regretted moving those first few months, especially while we were settling in.

BUT the great reality?

REGRETS and ‘second guessing’ are COMPLETELY NORMAL. And in all honesty, part of the deal. The disagreements between Jason and I about what and how much to buy, having to research and learn what to do here before you can make 5,000 decisions, deciding to budget high for travel although we had just moved, investing money into our language learning when it could be easier not to learn it at all, having to deal with having surgery in another country, the days where you don’t want to deal with culture or think about how every way you act.

REGRETS and 'second guessing' are COMPLETELY NORMAL. And in all honesty, part of the deal. Click To Tweet

And when those thoughts of regret happened?

Tears, sadness, loneliness, reflection, prayers (lots and lots of prayers), and choosing joy and happiness. I remember it is WORTH it. I remember how long we planned and dreamed for something like this. I remember the list of gratitudes I started in my prayer journal. I remember how sweet our neighbors, church, and friends are. I remember how far I have come for the ‘not so easy learner.’

I remember it is WORTH it. I remember how long we planned and dreamed for something like this Click To Tweet
Cyprus

And even now? ONE year later?

I am SO VERY THANKFUL we made the move. The decisions, awkward start of friendships, and transitioning from one life to another have had even more happy moments to accompany them. We have walked through our Turkish friends’ wedding, sang songs in another language, loved on Turkish and expat kids that are not our nieces and nephews, and celebrated life with those around us!

The decisions, awkward start of friendships, and transitioning from one life to another have had even more happy moments to accompany them. Click To Tweet

And you know what?

Year 2 is already starting off to be an even better year!

 

Questions for you!

Do you live in another country other than your native one? If so, where?

What emotions did you feel your first year abroad? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

Do you have a funny story to share? I would love to hear it!

New Years in Prague

 

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FunkTravels Expat Abroad Podcast Turkey


P.S. – Stick around for part 2 and 3! I can’t wait to share even more about our first year abroad and what it taught us!

EXPAT YEARS: Year 1 Roundup Series – Our First Year Abroad (Part 2)

EXPAT YEARS: Year 1 Roundup – The truth about living Abroad

 

 

2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

Expat Life vs. Full-Time Travel: Why we decided to become full-time expats

Let’s start off with how much we all LOVE travel websites! The amazing  photos, the adventurous spirits, new cultures, food, and scenery. Full time traveling SEEMS like it really has everything going for it.

In fact, as my husband and I were planning our move from the States to Turkey, I was convinced we could do it. I could not, however, convince him that it was a good idea as well.

Now almost a year into our move, we are settled in the sunny, 4 million large city of Izmir, and I could not be happier with choosing to settle in one location as an expat and then travel out from our cozy home.

2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

 

Here are a few reasons we decided to be expats instead of full-time travellers:

1. WORK: Not everyone is made to work and travel full-time. Fortunately, if we wanted to, we have that option. But there are so many other international full-time jobs that provide a steady income, housing allowances, insurance, and vacation time. It’s truly the best of both worlds! Consider becoming a language tutor, teacher, tour guide, airline attendant, or find an international job location via your current company.

2. HOME BASE: Let’s face it, some of us are homebodies. We like our routine… our morning coffee in the same comfy chair with the same perfect blanket… ok, maybe I have found out from my now 3 international expat moves, that is just who I am. And there is no shame about it.  From a work perspective, my husband does best when he has a routine and a home office to work from during the day. We do best as a couple when we know what is expected and how we can best help one another.

3. COMMUNITY: Since our families live in the states, finding closeness to people here in the local community is important to us. Our online community is a huge support, but we also find that it is so helpful and encouraging to have a local group of friends to depend on in a foreign country.

 

2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

 

4. DEEPER CULTURAL IMMERSION: Cultural is my favorite reason to live somewhere else long term. There is so much I am learning now, almost 3 years into Turkish culture, that I am constantly surprised by the complexity of culture! Plus, cultures evolve and changes just like the people that comprise it. Watching it change from when I first lived here 8 years ago has been even more interesting!

5. SLOW TRAVEL: It’s funny that I wrote ‘slow travel’ because I am actually a fast traveller by nature, but my husband is the definition of a slow traveller. Meaning that when we plan a vacation, I know that we will take half the day to rest, read, and sleep for him and the other half to explore what we can for me. It usually means that we decide to stay longer in one place in order to truly experience all it has to offer. It also means that we may just go to 1 city instead of 5 cities in one week.

 

2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

6. SANITY: While some people are great at moving, touring, transitioning and maintaining emotionally consistency, others need time to process. Whether you are single, traveling with a friend, or married, it takes work to make sure you are communicating well and are emotionally healthy. Staying in one place teaching you to reflect, adapt, change, and learn who you are in one culture, one country. You learn to thrive in a place you are not a native for longer than a few days/weeks. While it is hard, it is one of the biggest rewards!

From the few reasons listing above (and many long conversations we had before our move), we were able to really see who we are and not what we wanted to be. Our intentionally dreaming and reflecting made our lives as expats much easier and less stressful through the transition to internationally living. Hopefully, you will be able to do the same and make the best choice for you!

Which one are you?

Would you consider yourself more apt to being a full-time traveler or does expat living sound like it could be the better option for you?

2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

 

FunkTravels Expat Living Izmir Turkey

EXPAT LIVING: 5 steps to help you when the unexpected happened

Most people hate adulting.

However, I kinda like the challenge of it. I enjoy being independent, making decision, moving to another country, traveling…. My husband and I like coming together to figure out what dreams we want to pursue and how we can make those dreams happen together (even though it’s not always easy!). It is fair to say that my life has been somewhat easy and I believe that God has protected me from a lot. Even then, adulthood is not really about easy or hard… it just is part of life.

Recently, I had some health issues. It was one that actually required us to have surgery. In the states or your home country, a native has years of knowledge and context built up in order to make a good medical decision.

But as an expat in a foreign country ….with foreign language ….with foreign medical systems… We had a lot of questions floating around our heads for a month.

    1. Do we wait?
    2. Do we do the surgery?
    3. How bad is it really?
    4. What if we waited?
    5. What are other problems lurking around in there?
    6. Is the hospital we chose good?
    7. Is the health care sufficient?
    8. What will insurance cover?
    9. How much money does it cost here?
    10. etc, etc, etc???

Sometimes you have so many questions that you aren’t sure where to start. But since we had so many answers to seek out and we were able to, we waited. But instead of being idle, we waiting actively.

Here are 5 ways to help you  when you have to make decisions about the unexpected.

  1. Talk with your global insurance company – Like most other full-time expats, we have a global insurance. Our company already has an established relationship with the hospital near us. (Unfortunately, it took 3 visits to finally get it all sorted out.) Our company has been great to work with and has taken care of extra logistics/reports directly with the hospital.  We found out that our insurance provides extra services for expats to help them make the best decision.
  2. Ask for a second opinion – Unfortunately, we had heard here that a lot of doctors do unnecessary surgery just for the extra money.  We went to one of the best hospitals in our area, and felt it unnecessary to go to another hospital. However, our insurance provide a 2nd opinion via their services. Not just 1 doctor, but 3 doctors reviewed our case and helped talk through what could be done in our native language
  3. Research – I had heard about my cyst before, but I really was not overly familiar. As I didn’t have the normal systems, I didn’t know how important it would be to jump into surgery. (We were on a time crunch since we are leaving to travel for 2 months this summer.) So take some time and just google about your systems, the medicine, suggested protocols for how to deal with your diagnosis…. There are so many videos out there of medical experts that simply explain a problem and talk through solutions.
  4. Seek advice from other locals, expats, and friends back home – I am an experience information gatherer. I will buy products and change lifestyle choices because of how others. This was no different. Ask other expat about their local experiences with doctors and surgery. I have found that most people are happy to share and help others!
  5. Pray – Not religious? Neither am I. But I believe in a living and loving God who created me and wants good things for me. Because of that, I prayed a lot and we had a whole group of people praying as well! Maybe you don’t believe that, but do you know others who do? From my experience, those who do pray want to know how to prayer for others. And what could it hurt to have others praying for wisdom, health, and healing?

While these tips may not be new to you, they may help give you someplace to start if you are just paralyzed by how to make a decision. Expat living is challenging enough, but having to make medical decision in that environment as well can seem defeating. But be strong, push through fear, and figure out what will work for you!

 

 

Questions for our readers:

Are you an expat? Have you had surgery in a foreign country before?

If so, how did it go?

What story or tips can you share about your medical experience in a foreign country?

 

WRITING: 5 ways to document your expat adventures

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I LOVE talking about expat living. Not a traveling digital nomad, but a ‘we found a county and stayed put’ type of digital expat. Before I moved, I had this jumble mix of what I loved writing about and I had a hard time narrowing it down to one specific area. But over the last 8 months of living in Turkey, my 2nd time to move abroad, and writing this article about culture shock, I think I have found my niche!

Even more than chatting about expat living, I love sharing the ways I have documented our expat adventures. *Spoiler* The most interesting way is through our FunkTravels Podcast! I recently wrote an article for Expat Magazine at Expat.com titled “5 Ways to Document Your Expat Adventures.” In the midst of moving, traveling, and adjusting to another culture, documenting our memories can be the one thing that is thrown to the way side. It also becomes one of the biggest regrets by those when they journey onward to the next phase of life.

Here is the start of the article:

You know how a deep, sound sleep can disorient you? I woke up one morning and asked myself: Where am I? Something in the room made me think I was living in Turkey on a chilly fall morning — maybe it was the sunlight streaming in through the windows just so, or the smell of the crisp morning air coming in through the open window. Reality quickly set in — I was no longer living in Turkey, but instead I was in my bed in the States. It’s funny to remember that now because my husband and I now live in Turkey once again. The smells and sounds of the neighbourhoods are ingrained into my memory, and I know this is our lovely Turkey.

I’ve spent five of the past ten years as an expat — both single and married — and I love to keep hold of the memories of the journey and adventures that come with every expat experience. I know that when my husband and I are back to the States, I will enjoy retrieving the different ways I used to document our time abroad and reminiscing and sharing the stories.

Continue reading…

 

 

I would love to hear how you document your expat adventures!

WRITING: Summer Activities in Iowa

While we do live in Turkey, this Louisiana+Iowa couple still calls Iowa their home. (So sorry to all my Louisiana family and readers out there!) This is where Jason and I fell in love, got engaged, got married, and learned how to do married life together in our first little 90 meter duplex together in a small town of 3,000 people.

Fast forward 2.5 years, last summer in that same little duplex we were in the process of packing up our first home and determined to make the international move to Turkey together. It was stressful, sad, exciting, and all the rest of the feelings that come with transition! In the process (because we didn’t have enough to do!), I was also determined to see a few more sites in this beautiful state that I had come to love. Over at the The Coastie Couple I wrote a short post titled Summer Activities in Iowa

Here is the start of the article:

Being a Southern gal, I didn’t think there could be anything better than a windy road through a tall pine tree forest. But… after marrying my sweet Iowan man, I have found beauty in the square grid of roads lined with golden corn fields and blue skies that span for miles. I had a lot to learn about giving directions using N,S, E, and W, driving in the snowy winters, familiarizing myself with names of all the small towns, and discovering what to explore. 

Over the last 3 years we have definitely had our share of adventures including the World Food and Music Festival, Corks & Caps, Boone Scenic Railroad, the famous Iowa State Fair, and most recently the Pella Tulip Festival. But there is still a lot to see! Here are the 3 places I want to go this summer: Continue reading…

 

I actually only made it to 1 of the 3 activities mentioned. But I hope other America readers will take advantage of some of the fun summer activities Iowa has to offer. Click over here to read all the activities I wrote about on the blog post.

I would love to hear what activities you like to do in the summer month- no matter where you are located!