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 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!

2016 Review FunkTravels Blog

REVIEW: 2016 – You were a big year

2016 Review FunkTravels Blog
(photo cred to

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….


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


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
2016 Review FunkTravels Blog
(photo cred to

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.!


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)


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


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!


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.


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!