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.
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!
Here are a few reasons you might consider going to the next INFLOW Travel Summit:
You are an influencer.
You want to learn more about become an influencer.
You are a brand or company looking for online promotion through influencers.
Why did I go?
We have a podcast about our journey as an expat in Turkey and our travels. Make sure to check it out here.
I have enjoyed travel writing and I would love to do more with it.
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!)
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!
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.
[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.]
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?
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)
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)
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.
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!