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.
Like Alaçatı or Urla, Foça is an easy day trip from Izmir. We visited Foça for the first time with Turkish friends. This last summer we enjoyed a day boating with friends off the coastline near there. (Make sure to check out our video from our long day of boating!)
Several local companies offer boat tours that will take passengers closer to the island of the seals for approximately 50 Turkish Liras which includes lunch. While our recent tour was a private one, it was no less fun!
Most people go to Foça for the day mostly to walk along the u-shaped bay area crowded with fishing boats. The town is known for it’s clear, cold waters that can be enjoyed in the town near all the restaurants.
Another well-known past-time is choosing a water-front restaurant among the 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 Foca.
One of these days I will update this post with all the things to do in Foça, but for now, enjoy our lookbook and picture yourself in this town on a beautiful, sunny day!
If this is your first time living in another country, you maybe find yourself going through reverse culture shock when you return home. It is possible that feelings of frustrations and bitterness towards friends and family who may not have kept up with your life abroad. You may also find it hard to explain the culture and life you have lived in for the last year. Because culture and questions about everyday life usually overshadow the conversations, the harder it will be sharing the deeper more meaningful moments that happened to you. In addition, personally, I have found the longer you live abroad, the less you want to talk about the small details of culture anyways.
If you are just wanting to prepare for a better return trip to your native country, preparation is key. Know that you are returning back to your native home where life has moved on without you. While you may consider your transition to be harder or greater, remember that your friends and family have also conquered their own battles. And if they have never visited your new home (or traveled much), the questions may be harder to form. Generally, the offense is unintentional.
With preparation, expats can adjust their expectations of their friends and family back home. With even more prep, they can adjust expectations of themselves and how to help the conversations move toward the direction they need as well.
Here are 6 ways you can help those back ‘home’ understand better:
Much to Jason’s sadness, I am a reflector and evaluator – see here and here (link to review post). I love setting goals even if I can’t achieve them. I like to see what we have done over the past year. All this means that we do a lot of questions answering ourselves about the good, the bad, and the ugly. In turn, it has made going home much easier because we don’t have to think about the answers to the question others will ask us!
And now, much to your advantage, I also wrote a list of them here. Take these questions and work through them alone or as a family. If your friends or family are thoughtful with their questions, your answers should be respectfully thoughtful in return.
Short answers that answer the questions swiftly.
A friend of mine spent a summer in Africa, and in 6 short weeks, she grew into such a different person. Upon arriving home, she spent the next 48 hours (minus sleeping hours) talking about all that happened and what she learns. Unfortunately for her (and us), we probably tuned out about 1 hour into it. Your friends and family are capable of lengthy discussion, but sometimes without the context to understand all you are sharing, it could be hard for them to follow along. So instead of talking about what the 30 types of olives are at the weekly market, consider talking about the market and that there are olives there. Help build a base so later you can go deeper.
Sometimes you only have 5 minutes with friends. Those passing meeting can be some of the most rewarding conversations if you prepare for them! The usually questions begin: “You’re back! Where are you living now? Do you like it there? and how are you?” Instead of just saying “Ummm… good. It’s great”, consider a different approach.
The company I was a part of my first international move shared a great tip for expat returning home. For more meaningful short interactions, prepare 4-5 3 minutes stories that have grown you over the last year to year. Your friend says, ” How are you?” You may say, “ok” OR you can say “Actually, I have a 2 minute story to tell you about how I have learned to…. in the past year. Do you want to hear it?” Then proceed with your story.
Plan to visit people before you get to the states.
When we first booked our 4 weeks in the states, I thought, “oh, we have plenty of time!” The first week in Louisiana felt too short, then halfway through the 2nd week in Iowa, I melted down about how we didn’t have enough time! Our problem wasn’t enough time. Our problem was not planning ahead and we assumed people would contact us or make time for us. Remember: Your friends, while they want to see you, are busy with their normal lives! If you really want to meet with people, reach out to the most important ones first. Then if there are others, meet them in groups or with other people as well.
Make a mini photo book and have it ready to show people
Walgreens ran a free mini photo book (maybe 40 pictures) sale right after our wedding and I bought one for all the parents in our family and ourselves. That first summer we traveled to Turkey together for the first time and saw old friends. That photo book was so handy and I whipped it out every time we talked about our wedding. I regret to tell you I did no such thing this last visit to the states. We assume this day in age, that our social media lives are followed by everyone and that all should know what we did during our expat year. But unfortunately, that is not the case and honestly, people just forget. Having a photo book is a natural and easy way to share your lives visually with others. (Read more ways to document your time abroad.)
No matter how long you spend visiting your home country, time escapes all of us. There will always be places we did go, things we didn’t do, and people we didn’t see. And in fact, I would suggest that you do have that list of what you did and things you are thankful for while you visit. Your time home also needs to refresh you and help you process your time living in another country. So be ok with saying no and instead, resting for a day, going out to a movie or just staying home to spend time with your expat family.
Do you live in another country other than your native one? If so, where?
What ways do you prepare before going back to your native country?
Which one of this 6 tips stuck out to you?
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P.S. – This is the first post of a 6 part series called EXPAT GOING HOME SERIES. Stay tuned for the following articles:
Currently, we are working to re-apply for our visas. Our 1 year visas are coming to a close, and we are submitting our visas to live in Turkey for another 2 years!
As I wrap up part 3 of our EXPAT YEARS Series, I share 10 things we have learn our first year as expats.
Try to stick with your original plan. (Which we did not do…)
Jason and I agreed before we moved that renting a furnished apartment would be the best option. We could potentially pay more for our home but save money the first year. It would give us time to make sure we were in the right location and look for a more permanent rental that we knew we really liked.
Having great neighbors is worth your apartment rent and location.
Brightside to #1 is our #2. One of the main reasons we love our place is our neighbors. It took a while to get connected with our neighbors, but it is worth all the effort in the world to have good relationships with them. Our neighbors have had us over for tea, invited me into their women’s group, brought us food after my surgery, and even watered my flowers while we were gone for 2 months this summer.
Humans are created to be in community, and while you may not need a large community, it is still important. Married 2.5 years when we moved, Jason and I were comfortable with just being with each other, but we both knew it was not healthy. Community brings a network of helpers and advisors that can support you. Community creates friendships which, while they can’t replace your best friends back ‘home’ it can help ease times of homesickness and loneliness. Lastly, community gives you belonging and identity which is crucial to thriving long term in another country. All is important when moving to another country.
When I moved to Istanbul, Turkey as a single gal, it was also the first time I moved outside of the U.S.A. I found that celebrating the little accomplishments helped me see growth. I would celebrate the number of months living in a city of 20 million people much like newlyweds celebrate each month of marriage until their first anniversary. Make a list of things you will have to learn, and check them off as you learn them. Or write down things you have learned since moving such as buying furniture, refilling your transportation card, or have the air conditioner fixed.
This is so important! Taking a break every once and awhile is good! We were in Turkey 4 months before heading out to Germany for Christmas. After moving, living in an airbnb for a month, buying furniture, fixing issues with our newly (yet not truly lived in) renovated apartment, starting language… needless to say, we were ready for a break! We actually left our apartment in the hands of a Turkish friend for one day after we left so the leaking roof could be replaced. A break was important and usually is needed in the first 4-6 months. So whether it is just outside the city or another country, get out of town for a bit and relax.
Reflect and evaluate
While celebrating and taking a break are both great things to do, one of the most helpful tip is to reflect. We reflect together every new year, sometimes over our anniversary celebration, and even when other friends ask us questions. If you are learning a language it is helpful to reflect on what works and doesn’t work, and especially what you have learned to see progress. Scheduling time reflect on your work, personal like and projects is more helpful than you think and can encourage you as you in times of need.
Unless you are an English speaker in an English speaking country, learning the local language is always a good choice. (Although I do hear France is brutally unkind about new french language learners).
Is it easy? NOT AT ALL. But have I found (the second time around, and with a longer term vision in mind) that the more I try to speak, the more others appreciate it.
Will it take time? ABSOLUTELY (that was more for myself). With other projects on the burner, Jason and I are working part-time to learn Turkish and it has been worth every hour.
Keep up at least 1 hobby that you loved back home
Sounds weird but this one little task can make a bad culture day look brighter and mellow out sadness. Like to play guitar? Bring yours or buy one as soon as you can. Enjoy crossstitching, bring your needles and threads. Love to run and exercise, join a gym. You will not regret investing into the hobbies that bring you joy.
Explore all the local food … and maybe even cook it
These Funks love trying new foods, and even though we had both lived here before, I have found there to be so many foods I had never tried. Food opens a whole different door into the culture and locals you are learning about it. Be adventurous, and order that food you don’t know how to pronounce. Try and then record it in a book and either note how great it was or wasn’t!
Your family and friends won’t forget you, but it usually looks different.
You may find it challenging to connect when you return, especially if they aren’t able to come visit you. However, they will still love you! Returning home could require some preparation on your part and you find learn more about that in our next EXPAT SERIES: Going Home.
Are you looking for a summer day trip but want something out of the usual summer sun and sea? Doğanbey is a perfect option and cultural experience as well.
Doğanbey… I had never heard of it before the international women’s group I belong to decided to take a day trip there. It’s totally not surprising that I have never been before though. Being a foreigner and newcomer to Izmir, I have a LOT learn about the beautiful southwest coastline of Turkey.
An adventurous group of local and expat ladies loaded up in a hired mini bus at 9 am and made the 2+ hour drive from Izmir to the little town of Doğanbey. I will cover the history, what to see, the stone houses, and other various info below!
History of Doğanbey
Doğanbey Village dates back to the late 9th century. The first name of the Doğanbey village was Domatia (orDomatça), which means ‘rooms’ in Greek and comes from the name of the square shaped courtyard. Domatça eventually became Doğanbey and then Old Doğanbey and is settled in the district of Söke near Aydin.
The last Ottoman Sultan, Abdülhamit Han, re-established this area as a commercial center on top of the ruins of the Aegean islands. There was a lot of trade between the areas of Greek, Cyprus, Crete, and Samos . During WWI, there was a lot of fighting between the Greeks, that sided with the Brits, and the Turkish militia. It is said there are still empty cartridges from those days that can be found in the area. When the Turkish army entered Izmir in 1922, the Greek Cypriots abandoned it. There are only a few families left.
In 1924 during the great Turk/Greek exchange, Turkish citizens from the larger Ottoman Empire, which reached into Bosnia and Thessaloniki, were brought in to settle here. From many other ruins I have seen, it seems the Greeks enjoyed settling inland into the hills while the Turks prefered to be on the flat lands or closer to the seaside. With Doğanbey it is no different, the people literally settled in the middle of a mountain surrounded by serenity and nature.
The Turks abandoned the mountainous, stony, barren, and windy area of Doğanbey and established Yeni Doğanbey near flat area by the farming fields. Eventually, the villagers began to sell ruinous houses that were too much trouble to repair. The lecturers, artists, and architects from Istanbul bought many of the ruins of Greek houses and have lovingly restored the village. There has been a great effort to retain the education and historical significance of this place with the public schools, the German dignitaries, the writers, the artists, and the collectors.
The town is for the artist and architects who bought the ruins of the Greek houses at reasonable prices and carefully and lovingly restored them. Together they are like one big family as they organize, plant flowers, and beautify the area. They want to set an example to others who also want to restore other older historical areas.
This tiny little town is not searching for tourists or money and ironically enough, they have no desire to commercialize. Even some residents do not want people to flock to the streets to take photographs of the cobbled pathways of the homes. Signs are hung on the window reading “Please respect our private property with silence and do not take photos.” (which makes me love the town even more!)
What to see
In the middle of this quaintness is a costume museum which features carefully preserved Ottoman and Turkish dresses. As part of our pre-arranged day tour, the costume museum directors Nevzat Bey and Emel Hanim greeted us kindly and sincerely. Their home has the second largest collection of Ottoman clothes in Turkey.
Having once moved from country to country for work, his wife would organize Turkish Fashion shows for locals. She personally shared how she started and organized the shows. Since our group was much larger than the museum could accommodate, we took turns listening to the history of the city given by the Nevzat Bey, and the history of the costume show given by his wife, Emel Hanım.
While some of us were touring the museum, others explored the village. In the heart of the area, there are 2 small cobblestone paved streets which are too small to be called a village anyway. If you need a break from touring around, there are a couple of cafes. While I didn’t personally have time to try them, the Mola Cafe and has been recommended to me. There is a guesthouse (Mola Pension) and two boutique hotels (Domaça House and Casa Luna) as well.
All Greek houses are under SIT board protection and can only be restored to the board’s standards. The goal is to preserve the historic nature and style. Each of the gardens is very well-kept and tasteful with cactuses, colorful flowers, fruit trees and pines, and historical artifacts. In the middle of the cobbled streets there are channels for rainwater to escape downhill.
Since our group of ladies were headed to the seaside for lunch, we toured the town by foot for the time we had, and then headed on to Karine Restaurant. The restaurant had organized a fix menu of mezes (appetizers), fish, dessert, and tea. After lunch we headed back to Izmir, but not without a quick stop by the ancient city of Priene.
How to get there:
By car, follow İzmir-Aydın motorway (E87) to the exit of Söke. From Söke, go towards Didim-Milas-Bodrum. You will continue towards Güllübahçe and onward to Didim. Follow the signs indicating Tuzburgazı-Doğanbey and eventually Tuzburgazı, you will see the sign for Doğanbey. After 5 more km, you will reach Doğanbey Köyü.
Doğanbey Köyü step by step: (Our 20+ group rented a minibus from Izmir)
Hotel/Guesthouse recommendation: (I have not stayed here.)
Mira Cafe & Pension
Casa Luna Guest House
For those who are tired of city and beach and for those who want to experience the nature and calmness, this is your place! It forces you to stop and be still – take a walk or a restful hike, breath in the fresh air, read a book, sleep in, rest and recharge. The village practically draws you to take a break from the rest of the world with its offers of simplicity and charm.
Questions for our readers:
Have you been to Doğanbey? What did you think?
Do you have any suggestions for this visit?
What other interesting facts do you know about this area?
Ephesus, or Efes, is well known all over the world for its architectural marvel. It can easily be explored in a day. If you plan to stay in the western area of Turkey or if you live nearby, consider exploring other ancient nearby cities: Miletus, Didyma, and Priene. Priene is the northernmost of the three ancient sites.
After our visit to Doganbey and lunching by the sea with the IWAI ladies, we made a quick stop to Priene Ancient City on our return to Izmir. Priene Ancient City is less visited but arguably one of the more beautiful archeological sites, especially on a sunny, cool day. The ancient city of Priene is famous for its panoramic view and the steep rock of Mount Mykale behind it. Plus, most of the ruins are shaded by tall mature trees.
Just like Ephesus, Priene use to be a port city for the Aegean Sea. Overtime time the waters recessed and left a fertile plain land. This popular city on the hill that once overlooked the sea eventually died out. The ruins included a well-preserved amphitheater and council chambers, gymnasium, and even an Byzantine church. The layout of the city shows it to be one of the first grid-plan cities. More impressive are portions of the still standing great city walls measure 7 feet (2 meters) thick. The gymnasium and stadium were on the lower slopes of the hill, below the table land. The acropolis was farther up the slopes of Mount Mykale.
Priene was around long ago as a Hellenistic city in 8 BC and part of the Ionia League because it held the League’s central shrine, the Panionion. Later it became a holy city for Greeks because of the temple of Athena, and it was thriving with activities by 550 BC. So much so that in 545 BC it was captured by Cyrus of Persia. The city was under control of the persians until Alexander the Great and later became a Roman city.
Then during the Byzantine times, Priene had a large Christian community during and was the seat of a bishop. The decline of the sea and silting of the Meander River, plus the later captured by the Turks in the late 1200s eventually led to the abandonment of the city on the hill and settled in the present day city of Güllübahçe. Interestingly enough, Priene never had a large population and maxed out around 5,000 people.
How to get there:
From the town of Güllübahçe (54 km/33 miles south of Selçuk city near Ephesus), drive up a ramp to the parking area near Priene Ruins. While it is easiest to drive to, there are always buses to the nearby city of Güllübahçe then a taxi from there.
After purchasing your ticket, walk uphill for about 10 minutes either via the steps or along a stone-paved street by the city walls to reach the main city.
Entrance tickets are 5 TL per person (or use your muze cart if you have one).
How much time to allow:
Set aside at least 2 hours here because it is a very large area. Don’t be deceived by first appearances, make sure to explore beyond the theater and church area! We definitely did not spend more than 30 minutes there and missed a lot of the cities ruins.
Toilets and simple snacks are usually available by the parking lot. Down the hill from the parking lot are several shady tea houses, simple restaurants and a few small pensions.
Questions for the readers:
Had you heard about the ancient city of Priene before?
Have you been to Priene? If so, what did you think?