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 Dubai UAE

LIFE: Jason’s first ever race

Jason has to be the best husband ever (proud wife bragging rights). We for sure have our multiple disagreements about how to most everything – yep, we are complete opposites for the most part. BUT he is definitely the one who adapts and shifts his desires to suit us way more than I seem too.   Maybe because I like everything? 😉 jk.

Last fall Jason started running – for me. The last 4 years of our marriage, he has seriously and politely denied all my attempts to start running with me consistently. But he saw how happy it makes me to run with someone and decided that, with my other running buddy eventually moving away, he would fill the void.

Plus, running/exercising is good for him – the hard working, computer engineer that he is.

It was tough at first, but he pushed through. By December, he was able to do a 5k without stopping. Every other day we went out and did his exactly 5k route while listening to a podcast(mostly to distract him from the fact that he was actually running).

And Christmas 2017, he gifted me with a 10k race that we would run together in February 2018 Dubai Desert Road Run in the UAE! IT WAS THE BEST SURPRISE.

We started to train together and did a few longer runs to prepare for the 6.4 ish miles to come.

And in February, JASON RAN HIS FIRST RACE EVER.

Y’all, I was GIDDY with PRIDE! You see, I grew up running with my family. Heck in 2016, before we moved to Turkey, my family based our get-together around the Chicago Half-Marathon with my mom and sister. Jason by that point had learned how to find us multiple times on the route to take pictures of us and cheer us on, all happily from the sidelines.

But this time, we ran with me!

And the race was HOT and SWEATY and the course was NOT SO FUN. But we both finished it!

You can LISTEN to our experience via Episode047 of our podcast.

The following are pictures from a proud wife loving every minute of this first race with her hubby:

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

So proud of you babe! (Jason, if he reads this! That would be creepy if I was talking to you the reader!)

Questions for you:

What is your favorite way to exercise?

Have you done something you didn’t like just because you knew it would bless you significant other?

IZMIR: 5 Day Trips from Izmir, Turkey

Note: This article was originally guest-posted for Yabangee.

Izmir offers plenty of local sites within the city of four million people, but it is also known for its access to easy day trips nearby. If you have time, plan a few excursions outside Izmir. A longer trip inland to Ankara, Cappadocia, or the Black Sea can be tempting but don’t miss the coastal towns along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.

Here are some of the best day trips you can take from Izmir:

FunkTravels Eski Foca

Şirince
Little exceeds a well-prepared Turkish breakfast. Şirince, once a Greek village of a mere 600 inhabitants situated north of Ephesus, is famous for its mesmerizing white houses and red-orange clay rooftops. If you are not there in time for breakfast, visit shops known for local fruit wine. Entry is free and you are treated to many free glasses of wine.

Ephesus (a.k.a. Efes)
Ephesus boasts of its 3000-year-old Greek city ruins. Most famous is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemis. The area seduces history lovers with its flavorful tales. Entry is 40 Lira (and an extra 15 lira for the newly excavated covered hillside homes) but if you are interested in history, Ephesus is a must see.  If you have time, trek out to the home of Mary, mother of Jesus, renown and highly visited by Catholic tourists.

FunkTravels Eski Foca

Go North to Eski Foça
Northwest of Izmir along the Aegean coastline, Eski Foça is named for the now endangered Mediterranean monk seals which also are the town’s mascot.  Several local companies offer boat tours that will take passengers closer to the island of the seals for approximately 50 TL which includes lunch. Otherwise, enjoy a meal by the seaside lined with renovated historical, yet charming, Ottoman-Greek houses. While all Turkish food is delicious, the meze, or appetizers, and fish are the best options to get in Foça.

Visit a Greek Island
Lesvos, Chios, and Samos, the closest Greek islands from Izmir, ascend from the sea disrupting the majestic view of Aegean Sea from Turkey. With the right visa, start early for a day trip (or stay overnight) by catching a bus to the ferry port and hopping over to the island of your choice. Chios is the most popular among travelers and is easy to access via a visit to Çeşme. Alongside its rich history, including adventures with Saracen pirates, and the Turks during the Greek Revolution, Chios also claims to be the birthplace of the poet Homer. Enjoy local wine, explore the ruined Byzantine village of Anavatos, and relax in the shade of a cafe or park. (Rhodes is a little out of the way, but well worth a visit!)

Cool off at the Beach!
While it’s not possible to swim in the bay in Izmir, beaches line the coast both north and south of the city center. Çeşme comes in an easy first with its pure white sand and crystal clear water, but it also draws a crowd to the much-enjoyed shopping district and nightlight. Take one of the many private buses from your neighborhood or a dolmuş to Çeşme center from the Izmir Otogar.

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or on the video answering one of the following questions:

  1. Have you visited Izmir?
  2. Did you take any day trip? If so, where did you go?

Like this post! Save it for later!

CatieFunkTravels Lesvos Greece Greek Island

TRAVEL: 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece

For a less touristy feel, Lesvos, or Mytilini, is your best choice to experience real Greece. This lush, green island has been virtually unaffected by the mass tourism. For the do-it-all traveler who likes to stay busy, Lesvos is the perfect destination with fantastic food, beautiful beaches, pine and hardwood forests, and rivers and over a million olive trees. 

(Don’t forget to check out our 8 Tips for Traveling to Greek Islands from Turkey!)

From Ayvalik, take the 1 hour and 15-minute ferry ride to the port city of Mytilini. Similarly to Chios, visitors can find enough to do in Mytilini by touring the massive castle and several museums, breaking for lunch, coffee, and ice cream. 

However, our road-trip took us in one large loop Northwest across the island over (VERY FULL) two days with a rental car. Here is your 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece:

The incredible Chios Mastic Museum pressed us to see other PIOP museums such as the Olive Oil Museum on Lesvos. After renting your car near the harbor, an hour drive west from the port city of Mytilini will take you to the Olive Oil Museum situated in the middle of the island. While it does explain olive oil production, this museum is more about the exemplary restored communal olive press of Aghia Paraskevi, which you can see in action daily at noon except on Tuesdays. The exhibits share the history of the community property and the effect it had on the region’s social fabric and economic structures.


Fifteen minutes from the Olive Oil Museum, the bay city of Skala Kallonis won’t make it on anyone’s tourist list, but stopping here is our favorite memory. Sitting at the shaded beachfront restaurant of Dionysos Fish and Meat Restaurant, we took our time eating our weight in Greek salad, fried cheese balls, and grilled meat plate, while our friend’s kid played in the sand and water.


The next stops on our journey took us to 2 seaside towns on the north side of the island, Petra and Molyvos (also: Mithymna).

Petra’s cliff-top church can be seen from miles away. Stop here for ice cream and stretch your legs from the 35-minute drive with the 114 stairs climb to look at the Orthodox church and panoramic view of the red, clay top roofs lining the north shore.


Molyvos Castle sits on the top of a weaving hillside town and claims first place for city’s attractions. For families, this venture requires steep uphill walks that are not kid stroller friendly.  Although it was built by the Byzantines, apparently there are stones here from a previous castle during the Trojan War. From the Venetians to the Catalans, to the Genovese and the Ottoman Turks, this castle has seen it all.


A close second is the winding, narrow walking streets of the town. Springtime means all the hundred-year-old vines draping over the passageways were blooming fragrant, purple wisteria, providing shade for the owners and visitors.

From our morning tour Molyvos, we started our 1.5-hour drive back to Mytilini. Sundays on the Greek islands usually mean many shops and businesses close, but near the still active Moni Agios Taxiarchis Monastery, a small separate cafe sets outs around 100 tables and chairs under the shade of trees. You must order their specialty of fried doughnut-like sweets, called lukumas, dipped in a simple syrup, similar to the lokma you can find on the streets of Izmir. For a little extra flavor, ask for a drizzle of white or plain chocolate with nuts sprinkles.


On days other than Sunday, the port of Mytilini is a thriving city to visit. The castle of Mytilene, one of the biggest in the Mediterranean is located on the top of a hill in the northern part of the town. Visitors can walk around the castle and visit, the cistern, the Ottoman baths, the Crypts and the Queen’s Tower among others. The view of Mytilini town from the castle is magnificent.


From the castle, head towards the main shopping street, Ermou. Start from the Yeni Tzami, a 19th-century Turkish Mosque and walk down Ermou towards the Agios Therapon Church. Take your time window shopping along Ermou street lined with lovely buildings, shops selling souvenirs and traditional products of the island.  If time, take some time to learn about the island’s history at the Archeological Museum.


Sundays put a general damper on most of the city for tourists. Outside of the seaside cafes and restaurants, most shops close. However, we made the most of our day by walking and enjoying sweets from multiple little pastry shops we found along the way.

Where to stay:

Our group of six (four adults and two kids) opted for an apartment style rental in Mylos via booking.com. Apartment style rentals are prevalent in this area for more extended vacation stays by the beach.

What to buy:

Near the Moni Agios Taxiarchis Monastery is a small handicrafts town, Mantamados is known for its pottery. Even though its popularity, the handmade ceramics workshop, Stelios Stamatis, remains a small shop packed from floor to ceiling with pottery. Bright flower designs or olive branches adorn all types of dishes to plant holders. All reasonable prices, you need to bring cash as credit cards are not accepted. While photos are allowed of the shop, ask before taking pictures of the ceramic painters.

Olive oil products. The island not only offers olive oil, but also olive oil products such as natural soaps, lotions, bowls and other items made from olive oil wood, and souvenirs with hand-painted olive branches.

I hope you found my 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece helpful! We will definitely return for another weekend and explore other parts of the islands! There is so much more to see!

We want to hear from you!

Did you enjoy this 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece? 

Have you been to Lesvos, Greece?

What did you love when you traveled to Lesvos?

Like it? Share it or pin it for later!

Read more information about other islands we have visited:

8 Tips for Traveling to the Greek Islands from Turkey

Chios

Rhodos