LIFE: Year One Visit to the USA 2017

Part of our vision, when we decided to become expats, was to visit the States once a year while we could. We felt like it was necessary for our sanity, to receive some refreshing cultural break, and most importantly the relationships with our families, especially the nieces and nephews.

I even wrote the EXPAT GOING HOME SERIES as a result of our stateside experiences in hopes that others could use it for their return visits as well. As I write about our experiences, I truly desire that it helps others to be intentional in their expat living. It’s not easy, but with some work, you can make it easier!

After our return to Turkey, the fall season took over and our work and language schedules pushed everything else to the side. While I know this is selfishly just a post for us to remember out travels to the states, I am glad to write about our visit finally! Hopefully, you will enjoy it too!

There were two parts of our visit; Louisiana (my home state) and Iowa (Jason’s home state and our ‘home base’). Since we had spent a month in Asia, we decided flying one way into Louisiana would be best. And thanks to our United Airlines miles, we also flew one way out of Iowa back to Turkey. After arriving in New Orleans, we picked up our pre-booked rental car with National (major points to them for not having a one way drop off!), and we were on our way.

LOUISIANA:

Almost two years had passed since I last visited Louisiana, it was nice to go back to my first ‘home.’ The place where I was born, raised and graduated college. There are parts of me that feel I have betrayed the town and people I grew up with because I live so far away now. But most of my close friends have moved on or back to their hometowns, but there are still a few folks that will always be there.

Louisiana wasn’t just a family visit, one of Jason’s clients is based out of South Louisiana. After working together for a year, we decided it was high time for us to meet them face to face and build a little bit of a personal relationship with them! The team there took us out the best Chinese restaurant in town and then to a nearby gator farm. A favorite moment of the visit was when Jason held a 50 pound alligator for the first time. I was super proud!

Here are just a few highlights:
– Spent some great time with my brother and sister-n-law. I even celebrated my brother’s birthday with breakfast just before we left for Iowa!
– Ate some famous Cafe du Monde beignets in New Orleans with one of my favorite ‘Katies’ and even made it by to see her mom and sister on our drive up to North Louisiana
– Had some of my favorite Johnny’s ‘Sweep the Kitchen’ Pizza with one of my other favorite ‘Katies’ and her hubby and their little girl
– Had OrangeLeaf frozen yogurt with my college roomie
– Sat by my old music teacher and friend at my old church

(Apparently, in Louisiana, I revert back to my old ways and never wear shoes…)

14 HOUR DRIVE UP TO IOWA:

Jason and I are no strangers to the long 14-hour drive between my hometown and ours in Iowa. And it was fitting that we drive this route again. Flying is ridiculously expensive, and one-way tickets are the same as roundtrips.

A couple of highlights:

– Stopped in Fayetteville, Arkansas to see some other college friends and their three kiddos! Before having kids, they traveled to Turkey the first time I lived there (Y’all will always be our perfect half-way stop between Iowa and Louisiana!)
– Met up with the Ranks (definitely, check out his history in 5 minutes podcast!) and another one of my bridesmaid, Jodi in Kansas City – both have lived in Turkey before!

IOWA:

Iowa is the states Jason and I fell in love. It’s where he proposed to me, told me he loved me, kissed me for the first time, and where we decided to get married so our spiritual support could be there to witness what they had so graciously mentored.

While I still do NOT like the winters, I love the summer. The beauty is different than the tall trees and winding roads of the south, but I have grown to love the vast fields of corn and blue skies that can be seen for miles.

Here are just a few highlights:
– Went to the zoo with some cute nieces and nephews on the Funk side!
– Spent some time explore a city in Iowa I had never been too with our friends Hitesh and Mannali’s family and my sister’s family
– Beat Jason’s mom and her husband in a grueling game of corn hole
– Went bowling and to the Farmer’s market in Cedar Rapids with Jason’s sister’s family and took some impromptu family pictures and 1-year pics of youngest niece
– Celebrated our niece’s first birthday with family
-Enjoy a Christmas dinner with Jason’s dad and his wife
– Finish a cross stitch for said one-year-old niece, Ayla (but not until after her birthday party)
– Lunched, dinner, surprise visited and coffeed with lots of people (thanks for the invites everyone! You know who you are! It is so much easier when you reach out to us!)
– Worshipped with our old church with a new name, Keystone Church of Ankeny
– Read three books! Go, read the Rising Red series RIGHT NOW.
-Spent many more morning with the nieces and nephews.
-Spent a few days resting and Jason for sure did a lot a working!

Special thanks to Tim and Darlene for the housing and the Funks for the car and for the Bradleys home to mail everything too! We did ask to take the nieces and nephews back with us but were told “no” by their parents… gesh.

RETURNING ‘HOME’ TO TURKEY:

After a long overdue silence and a very long 20-hour journey back, yes, we did make it back to Turkey with all our bags and very weary! Jason and I have very happily settled back into our lovely little apartment in Izmir, Turkey.

It can be hard to say we are ‘home’ here. At times I have a tinge of guilt for calling another country and culture home while we have left our other loved ones at our first ‘homes.’ At times I wonder if our families feel as if we have betrayed them as well…

But that is life right? Moving to another state on the other side of America would have the same effect.

I mention these issues as well in our first year abroad part 1 and part 2 and the 10 things I learned about living abroad.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

If you are a friend that lives near a place we visited, we are so sad that we didn’t get to see everyone we wanted and are sorry if we missed you! Of course, you are always welcome to the beautiful city of Izmir, and we would be happy to host you!

Also, even though we travel quite a bit, we still would love to see more of the states. We both talked about how we would like to spend a week exploring a new part of USA when we return home.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip back to the states to visit our family and friends. And thankfully, while we will miss them, Jason and I were happy to return to Izmir, Turkey!

Here is to year 2!

 

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!

Funktravels Spain

WRITING: 5 Tips For Overcoming Culture Shock

Culture shock can happen and will happen to everyone. And yes, I will argue against well-seasoned travelers and long time expats that it can happened to them as well! Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it below.

 

 

Culture shock affects everyone differently: some people withdraw from others, other may become sad or depressed (homesickness can hit hard during this time- even if you don’t have a home!), some become angry at all the little differences, and others struggle to find meaning in their world and the relationships around them.

I recently wrote a little article for a website, Expat Women in Turkey, titled 5 Tips For Overcoming Culture Shock: When The Excitement Of Moving Wears OffAfter 2 summers volunteering abroad, 3 countries of residence (both singled and now married) and numerous university study abroad students to prep and debrief on this topic, I shared five ways I have found helpful to process/shake off the culture shock and get back into ‘normalcy’.

 

Here is the start of the article:

Spring is gorgeous here in Izmir, Turkey. The sun shines and the weather is just the right temperature. Recently, I went out for a few errands and just basked in the rays of sunlight peeking through as I weaved in and out of the shadows made from my neighborhood buildings and trees. In a split second, I went from gloriously praising MY lovely city to cursing the stinky rules of THEIR culture. Because, for the almost 1 millionth time, I barely missed stepping on fresh dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk….

Click over here to read the rest of it!

I would love to hear what helps you when culture shock hits.

FunkTravels Spain

 

 

 

HOLIDAY: Celebrating Christmas in Izmir

huge tree in one of the Istanbul malls

This wasn’t my first Christmas overseas, but it was OUR first Christmas overseas. Within 4 months, we moved to Turkey, rented an apartment, and furnished it(mostly). So this year, our Christmas decor was a little meek. Ikea pretty much has everything you could ever need, including some Christmas decor. SO, while I would have loved to keep with holiday tradition of buying a real tree, we settled for a cute little fake one!

 

In anticipation of our 2016 move, Christmas 2015 ended with one big packed Christmas box for storage and one small box labeled ‘Christmas stuff 4 Turkey move.’ Thankfully, we didn’t have to open it again until we had our Christmas in Turkey!  Below is one of my old turkish ornament I bought from my old single days in Turkey. It has made it many places with me!

And this is our new turkish ornament we bought during our sailing trip along the Aegean coastline.

Some traditions aren’t hard to keep, here is our annual Christmas tree decorating time lapse!

 

Right before we left town, we did see ‘New Year’ trees – REAL ones – at a local grocery store! Next year we may have a real tree!

 

We may not of had a real tree, but we did do our 2nd annual advent calendar! 2015 was long year for my job, and Jason was a champ through all of it. By December, I was finally was coming out of the work fog, and I wanted to do something special for him to look forward to Christmas. Jason loved it. Every morning he woke up, check the back of the card and had something to look forward to for the day. This year was no different. And – since we had planned our #funkchristmas2016 tour, it made some of our advent activities really interesting!

Our advent calendar is nothing fancy, I printed a card template and wrote the dates on the front with activities on the back. Ikea once again came to the rescue with Christmas theme washi tape!

 

 

Along with our advent calendar, we had a few other decorations around our living/dining area. Ikea also had some fake garlands, and I grabbed one knowing it would look fabulous over our fireplace. Every year, I usually find a few free Christmas prints online. A couple I put in frames, others I just taped up with washi tape. Those few new items, plus our small box of treasures we brought from the states, made up our decor this year. And you know what? It was perfect! Simple and perfect.

 

One of our advent calendar events was baking Christmas cookies. This was three-fold.

1. Decorating (my favorite)

2. Eating of course (Jason’s favorite)

3. Gifts for our neighbor goodie bag!

 

By December, we had met most of our apartment building neighbors. Since Turkey is a majority muslim country, Christmas is not a celebrated holiday, but it is somewhat present. You can see Christmas trees, decor, lights and sometimes snowmen. ‘Christmas’ is more of a new year celebration and sometimes Santa even makes it by. 😉

For us, Christmas is our whole reason for life, and we are so happy to celebrate it. Part of our Christmas traditions is giving gifts to one another – family and friends alike. As a little gift for our Christmas celebrations, we shared little goodie bags with them! Along with the homemade Christmas cookies, we filled the bag with all the Christmasy foods – gingerbread cookies, chocolates, and a homemade hot chocolate mixture with a bag of marshmallows.

 

The goodie bags were a huge hit! (Plus, they were super fun to make.) Christmas touring in Europe was a blast. And I spent most of our December, and January mornings enjoying this view….

2016 Review FunkTravels Blog

REVIEW: 2016 – You were a big year

2016 Review FunkTravels Blog
(photo cred to libbyasaystudio.com)

While it is safe to say that we are happy to see the new year, 2016 will always be one to remember for our family!

Several words come to mind as we think back to our year: Anticipation, preparation, happiness, sadness(Both the sadness of mourning and the joyful kind that comes with change), transition, struggle, identity, finishing, loneliness, longing, dreaming, adventurous.

As I was considering how to write about 2016, it truly centers around one major event….

BEST AND MOST CHALLENGING THING THAT HAPPENED IN 2016: 

Jason and I (plus our 8 bags) moved to Turkey.

WHICH ALSO MEANT THAT:

Before moving we made the most of traveling to the states (mostly via my work conferences) and spending time with family. These little side trips took us to Minneapolis, Manhattan(Kansas), Chicago, Washington D.C. and Denver. Somewhere in there we celebrated our 2nd Anniversary! (Click on the links to take you to the podcast episode.)

I ran a half marathon in Chicago with my sister and mom.

 

Over the course of 6 months, we sold/gave away most of our household and then stored the rest of it. (episode 11)

(photo cred to libbyasaystudio.com)
2016 Review FunkTravels Blog
(photo cred to libbyasaystudio.com)

Jason found his first client that hired him KNOWING we were going to be living internationally (and it has worked so well!).

After 3 years as a study abroad program assistant Iowa State, I moved on so that, together, we could pursue this move.

In July, we moved out of our first home together.(Episode 14)

In August, we left our 6 (now 7) nieces and nephews behind. Oh and the rest of our family. (jk, we love ya’ll too!) Which also meant that we missed meeting our new niece born 3 weeks after we left the states.

In August, we also left an amazing church and community of people.

Due to the coup in Turkey, we delayed our entry into Turkey and had the unexpected joy of spending a month with Jason’s cousins in Spain. While in Spain, we took a road trip through the Andalucia Region and spent the night in Morocco. (episode 15 and episode 16)

From the end of July to October 5, we lived in someone else’s home, hotel, Airbnb, apartment, or tent (yes, we count those 2 nights!).

In October, we signed a year long contract on a newly renovated apartment (episode 18) in Izmir, Turkey. You can listen into our podcast episodes to hear more about the long saga of acquiring gas for hot water, dropping a 10 foot pipe down 6 stories, and the leaky roof… (episode 19, episode 20, episode 21, episode 22)

In the Fall, we took a course about language learning and then implemented our plans towards slowly learning Turkish (and figuring out how that will work for us).(episode 19 and episode 20)

(photo cred to April Woodbury)

We visited Ephesus with friends from Iowa living in London. (episode 20)

In November, we spent Thanksgiving in Istanbul with old friends.(episode 22)

In December, we enjoyed some time away on our #funkchristmas2016 tour in which we made our way through Switzerland, France, Germany, and Prague (episode 23 and episode 24).

We somehow managed to be right on budget with our moving fund which has allowed us to rent an apartment, set up accounts, get our visas, buy furniture, and take some language.  Now we are back to our monthly budget!

Crazily enough, that international move means we spent about a 3rd of our year living outside of the U.S.A.!

HARDEST THINGS THAT HAPPENED:

Leaving my job. I will say that my job at the beginning wasn’t all roses, but over time it grew into a job I really loved. I enjoyed my co-workers and miss that community dearly.

The failed coup in Turkey (episode 12 and episode013). While we did make the most of this, the events that have been happening in Turkey made the 2 months leading up to our move MUCH harder for people to celebrate with us about.

Being the better of our 2 vehicles, my car’s transmission went out 1 week before our move overseas. And with that, so did about $4,000 of moving money we hoped to have as a little extra backup. However, we are thankful that our car at least made it to the end! (episode 14)

BEST DECISIONS WE MADE:

In January, I convinced Jason that we should have a shared project of podcasting our way through our move(episode 1). One year later, our little side hobby of podcasting about our life changes and international move is still going strong. The first four episodes talk about our past travels to San Francisco, Boston, Italy, and Dubai. Our most listened too, Episode 9 announces our move and explains our decision to move overseas. Episode 13 premiers our first guest speaker!

In March we had a crawfish boil… in IOWA. Our long time friend, Mandy ‘B’ and her husband hosted a group of friends at their home, and we somehow managed to store a massive box of overnighted crawfish into our refrigerator (which then leaked into the rest of our fridge… but #WORTHIT).

In April, I took a day photography workshop with Alex+Val Education, and it was SO helpful. It has really given me more confidence in how to use my DSL camera on manual settings. I also purchased a new 50mm lens which I LOVE.

We both agreed that spending our first week in Turkey sailing was one of the best decisions yet. It is definitely NOT something we EVER thought we would do. Ok, maybe I thought I would, but Jason had no plans too. This experience was even better because Jason celebrated his 30th birthday on a catamaran on the coast of Turkey. Our sailing buddies, the Rowells and the Parrots, helped us share the experience via epsiode 17.

(photo cred to www.ericandashley.com)


JUST FOR KICKS: 

Best Purchase: Hands down, my GAP overalls.

Similar ones here.

Favourite TV Show: We went through a quite a few tv shows, beginning with Grimm and finishing the year with The Blacklist. But by far, I would say that Broadchurch is a MUST watch.

Catie’s Jam: Can’t Stop the Feeling! by Justin Timberlake

It is the new Happy by Pharrell Williams song of 2016, and song is better to watch with the video while you listen, at least the first time!

HOW ARE YOU DOING NOW?

I will be the first to admit that our year could look pretty and perfect to outsiders, but as you can see above there was some really hard moment. I found myself more than once crying. Some times it was from the deep loss of identity and community. Other times it was over my nieces’ invitations to come play, but having to say no because we are choosing to live 3 plane rides and multiple time zones away.

While it has been extremely hard to leave family and friends back home, this change has also been so growing for our marriage. While it is exciting to fulfill our dreams of living internationally together, there were a lot of hard conversations due to missed expectations and frustrations which thankfully followed with many more opportunities for grace and forgiveness. God is faithful to continually supply grace and love towards us, and we too much extend it towards one another. He has also given us new friendships, a new home, strength and support every step along the way.

SO WHAT NOW?

I am busy making our home cozy and studying language as well. Now that we have hot water and a dry roof, it seems like 2017 is starting off wayyy too smoothly. Jason continues to work with his U.S. clients via his software consulting business, Tough Space. So far it has been working well, but it is also a balancing act as we try to set up our home and learn Turkish as well.

The podcast will continue into 2017 on the same schedule! Other thank that, we have been looking into some other online entrepreneurial projects. Maybe you will see some of that down the road!

But for now, THANK YOU for being part of our 2016 move and following along on our adventure. We are excited to see what 2017 will hold!