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.


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!


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!)


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!


  • 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!)


  • 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.


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!


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


EVENTS: INFLOW Travel Summit 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey

Have you seen those Instagrammers with like 4.9 million followers… or even 50k followers? Shoot, I’m impressed with 1k folks out there! Or maybe you follow a popular YouTube channel or website like this. They are travel bloggers, luxury lifestyle writers, or even just someone that records their life riding around on a motorcycle.

For a long time, Facebook was ‘my jam’! That was how I connected with others and I loved it! (I also admit that moving overseas for 4 years at a critical social media boom period was terrible for my tech savviness…) But now-a-days people have found ways to share their story through almost every kind of media out there!  And their growing popularity has given them the ability to work as online influencers with brands, hotels, and other companies seeking this type of promotion.

Last week Turkey held its first ever INFLOW Travel Summit. The INFLOW team created this Brand-2-Influencers (B2I) summit to bring brands together with leading influencers on an international scale! This 2 day event started with sessions by leading influencers from YouTube, Instagram, and Travel Bloggers with presentations from Turkish Airlines and Switzerland Tourism. The 2nd day was full of B2I meetings.

While most of the speakers and popular influencers were flown in (courtesy of Turkish Airlines) as part of a FAM trip, paid tickets were available for different levels of the conference. Tickets started with the 1st day of speaker sessions, and then you could choose up towards to a full 3 day regular ticket.

A few extra perks of the full 3-day ticket was 3 nights accommodations at the Swissotel in Besiktas, opening welcome dinner sponsored by Swiss Tourism, after party at the 360 Istanbul night club, closing dinner at the Divine Hotel, and more intimate time with other influencers after a busy day!


Our room at the Swiss Hotel
Cozy cozy bed!
Welcome dinner sponsored by Switzerland Tourism
Amazing menu – The lamb just melted in your mouth!
Best place to wake up at!

Here are a few reasons you might consider going to the next INFLOW Travel Summit:

  1. You are an influencer.
  2. You want to learn more about become an influencer.
  3. You are a brand or company looking for online promotion through influencers.

Why did I go?

  1. We have a podcast about our journey as an expat in Turkey and our travels. Make sure to check it out here.
  2. I have enjoyed travel writing and I would love to do more with it.
  3. Great opportunity to network with others.

BONUS: It was my birthday! Who doesn’t want to spend their birthday with a bunch of fun people! (Actually, I know Jason would not choose this for his birthday! Love you honey!)


Conference time! Day 1
INFLOW Welcome
Planet D and OurAwesomePlanet
Representing our home state of Iowa and our current country of residence, Turkey!
Day 1 Interview Sessions
Little excited to meet the Turkish YouTube Food star, Idil Tatari
Great start to a birthday morning with the view of the bosphorus from the Swiss Otel
Birthday tradition! Cake #1 for breakfast! My love is so thoughtful!
Food was on point at the Swiss Hotel
Celebrating my birthday at lunch – Cake #2 😉
Dinner Party at the Divan Hotel – Land of Legends Theme Park characters
Dinner Party at the Divan Hotel

My thoughts:

Overall, I really enjoyed the INFLOW summit. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the presentation, videography, and graphics were very well done. They had a translation system as well for both Turkish and English speakers. I only saw a couple of areas that could be improved; such as having the summit schedule sooner, and knowing more information about how to prepare for the B2I meetings.

This summit gave me a great motivation for moving forward with my website and encouraged me to continue pursuing my dreams. Since I live in Izmir, it was helpful to have a meeting in Turkey. I loved representing other expats at the B2I meeting, and it was helpful to start conversations about future representation with them!

Update! Enjoy a short video of this conference here!

Questions for you:

Would you attend something like this near you?

Have you attended a summit like this before?


Resources and Articles about the event:

Dolmabahçe Palace near the Swiss Hotel
Beşiktaş Soccer Stadium



TRAVEL: Weekend in Cappadocia – Castle Inn Cappadocia

The area of Cappadocia is covered in rock formations that were created from erosions of lava rock. This erosion created MILES of natural gorges and fields of dips and peaks in the land. Later on, communities carved into these formations to create rooms for their homes, churches, and stores. Up until the 1950s, the people continued to live in most of these areas, but time started to slowly destroy some of the structures. Plus, newer commodities like indoor plumbing and electricity was not so easy to run through the rock houses. Now, more and more of these homes are being restored into stores, restaurants, and hotels.

Castle Inn Cappadocia in Ortahisar is one of these cave B&Bs! This smaller one-of-a-kind boutique hotel was renovated from a 150-year-old cave house. While it could have easily been 10 rooms, Suat decided to keep it intimate with only five uniquely designed rooms.

Our love for this hotel started with our very first email from the owner, Suat Ulusoy. We mentioned to him in our first inquiry email that Jason and I first met in Turkey and that we love to share Turkey with others. Ironically enough, Suat met his wife for the first time in America and he too loves to share his love for the states. And so this struck a bond between us! The communication from there on out was smooth and made any anxiety about the upcoming snowy travels non-existent. Suat wasn’t just an owner, he cared for us like this inn was his home and we were his close friends, from ordering food for us Friday night when the roads were too icy to drive on, to arranging my ‘surprise’ hot air balloon ride for Jason and then rescheduling it after it was cancelled the first morning!

To further attest to the atmosphere of hospitality we experienced, the hotel is normally open 11 months of the year, and January tends to be the easiest time for Suat to find time to relax and refresh. But even in the midst of his annual ‘leave’, he is willing to open up his inn for special guests. We just happened to benefit from this warm and inviting nature! However, with the very heavy snow the day before we arrived, the plane flights for the other guests were canceled, but Suat continued forward with our stay and offered us an upgrade to the best room available.

In the midst of our wintery surroundings, our stay in the cave room was warm and cozy. Each room has several wall heaters in the bathrooms and rooms as well as slippers and an electric kettle for warm drinks. While the terrace was snowy, the view of the valley was stunning. Complimentary breakfast is served in the what once was the old animal stables of the home. For 2 people, they usually prepare individual plates with the traditional Turkish breakfast, but more guests allow for a larger buffet style arrangement. I think we got the better end of the deal though because all of the ‘buffet’ items were arranged accordingly on the long wooden table within arm’s reach. Once we sat down, we never had to get up for bread, juice, coffee, or fruit. Omelets are made on request as well. Both mornings we ate around 9:30 AM and ended up skipping lunch due to the delicious breakfast!

Since the inn is located in Ortahisar we had immediate access to most of the what Cappadocia has to offer! Red Valley, Rose Valley, Goreme, Urgup, Uchisar, MustafaPasa, Avanos and many outstanding open-air museums and amazing rock formations are only a drive away. While there are day tours (private and group) available, Jason and I opted for a rental car for the weekend since we had been there before and are familiar with the area. It also gave us the flexibility to stop as many times as we wanted (which is a lot when I want to take pictures of everything!). I will be the first to argue that Cappadocia is more beautiful in the winter with a fresh layer of snow adorning the layers of rocks.

If you are concerned about safety during this time, let me be the first to assure you that Cappadocia is very safe. And in the hands of Suat at Castle Inn Cappadocia, there is no safer place to stay. As mentioned before, the ease of communication leaves no misunderstanding for any questions you may have. Outside of email, Suat was able to communicate via WhatsApp about the location of the hotel, last minute changes, and weather updates.  Larger hotels can’t give you the amount attention and dedication Suat gives his guests at the Castle Inn.

Castle Inn Cappadocia

Contact & Reservation

Postal address : Castle Inn, Cappadocia/Turkey
Eski mahalle, Bahce sokak, No:5, 50650 Ortahisar/Urgup/Nevsehir/TURKEY
Phone : + 90 384 343 30 22
+ 90 530 324 45 27 (Cell Phone – Turkish)
: + 90 549 341 00 01 (Cell Phone – English)
Fax : + 90 384 343 30 21
Email : [email protected]




[DISCLAIMER: I was not paid for this post. I did receive a media rate from the hotel as a blogger. After our stay, I trust the owner, Suat, and am happy to recommend this hotel. One of the purposes of our website is to highlight Turkey, the local people, and try to help their businesses. At the same time we take the trust we have with our readers very seriously and will not recommend businesses/activities we do not think our readers will enjoy regardless of the friendship we create along the way.]

Airbnb Article July 2016 FunkTravels

WRITING: Airbnb Published Article

Airbnb Article July 2016 FunkTravels


If you have been following our story for any amount of time, you know we are HUGE fans of Airbnb.

Like MAJOR fans…

Like…. we have used Airbnb rentals in over 25 different locations, 9 different states, and in 9 different countries!

Plus, Jason and I talk about Airbnb in almost every episode of our lifestyle/travel podcast. The advantages of a kitchen, central location, and twice the space for half the cost of a hotel makes our short or long-term stays much more affordable and comfortable.

Last year, an article I wrote was featured on AirbnbGuide.com. This article list 5 ways an Airbnb host can make a rental more inviting for guests. We ourselves have never been hosts, but as you read above, we have been guests many times! If you are interested in be host for Airbnb, here are subtle but quality tips.

If you’re considering Airbnb, you can join the community for free! There is a short verification process for both the host and user, but after that, you are good to go! Also, if you sign up via our referral then we both can earn up to $20 toward our next trip.

Have you stayed in an Airbnb before? What did you think? Would you stay again?

Are you an Airbnb host? What did you think of the tips? Any other suggestions?

Comment below and let us know!