2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

EXPAT YEARS: The Truth About Living Abroad (Year 1 Part 2)

“There is a puddle of water in here!” I gasped in horror at the floor of our extra bedroom. Just 1 month into our rental, our landlady was checking over some final projects on our apartment renovation when she randomly checked the extra room and discovered a layer of water. “This is not suppose to happen your first year living abroad…” I thought to myself.

I honestly don’t know why she checked that room, but I am so thankful we found the puddle of water on the floor upstairs. After a few hard rains in November, the newly replaced roof from summer was now failing the leakproof test. The room upstairs is not one that we use a lot just yet, but it is important that we fix the leak. Winter season is mostly rainy season for the Izmir area.

As November ended, we hoped and prayed our apartment neighbors along with our landlord could figure out a solution. Three weeks later and many confusing conversations… we finally learned that that section of the roof is our landlords responsibility and the warranty is not going to cover it. Our landlord disagreed about the timing and importance of fixing the roof and suggested a tarp be laid down to catch any water over the next two weeks that we would be gone on vacation.  And a part of me was wishing we would have decided to be full-time travellers instead of full-time expats

As new tenants, we politely but firmly requested the roof be repaired. We played the game of refusing to pay rent,  deducing the cost from the rent for the repairs and paying ourselves, but in the end she did have the roof fixed and paid for it too. (We secretly may have had issues with figuring out the rental transfers via our bank, and it could have looked like we were not paying because of these problems.)

Two days before our two week departure for Germany and our Christmas market tour, 2 men lifted 4 steel beams up 6 floors via a rope on the side of our apartment to resupport the roof and I just prayed it wouldn’t rain until they finished.  And one day before we left, the fixers told us they would need another day. One the day we departed, our Turkish tutor, who had helped up through the process, stayed at our home so that the men could finish the roof.

Thankfully, since returning, we have had no major issues!

As you can tell and much to our disappointment, living in another country has the same issues wherever you live. What makes them slightly more frustrating is figuring out how to solve them… what method they use, who can help you, what is a good price, and how to say it in another language. BUT just like living in your native country, living in another country brings lots of other fun adventures… going to the market, travelling because things are closer, and going to the seaside for a walk.

living in another country has the same issues wherever you live. Click To Tweet

FunkTravels Podcast Izmir Turkey Expat

So in the spirit of reflecting, here are questions we have been asked about our first year living abroad:

What has been your favorite part?

Neighbors and friends – Little did we know that our neighbours would be this awesome! I have really been able to connect with the ladies in our building and in turn they have invited me into their home. Jason has been able to meet some men through a coffee shop he works at and an expat meeting we went to just once. Investing in the people around you is never an empty endeavour. 

Investing in the people around you is never an empty endeavour. Click To Tweet

Neighborhood- We love where we live, the neighborhood, parks, seaside. The large weekly market is just 10 minutes walk; Starbucks is about 5 minutes. I run along the exercise path lined with the deep blue waters and parks with benches just 10 minutes from our apartment. Our neighborhood has multiple grocery stores, restaurants, and shops that have everything we could need. Hop in a taxi and the megamall is just 10 minutes away.

Travel is always a plus! While Turkey isn’t in the EU, it is still a popular destination for Europeans’ vacation. This in turn, makes inexpensive, frequent flights more available to major European cities!

What has been hard?

Yes, we have traveled a lot and I am sure it looks like it is perfect. Don’t let us fool you! It has been one of the harder parts of our marriage. Nothing has taught us how different the ‘Saver(Jason)’ and the ‘Adventurer’ are than when we travel. This actually extends into most of our marriage too. But we have also learned how to work together better because of it.

I struggled to find my balance and identity after working full-time at a university for 3 years. Jason and I had to find new systems for working and living too. Once we got use to that, it helped us manage our schedules better.

FunkTravels Podcast Switzerland Expat

FunkTravels Podcast Spain Expat

What does a day look like for you?

Daily life is fairly normal and what you would consider typical. Jason works most of the day just like he did back in the states.  And just like back in the states, he works from home, or a coffee shop, breaks for lunch or turkish study time. He is generally more at ease with being by himself than I am.

When it comes to living in another country and culture, I have had to learn what works best for me, and some weeks I am still figuring it out. I will usually exercise, have Turkish lessons, study Turkish and do homework, write, photo edit, and visit neighbors or friends to practice my Turkish.

When it comes to living in another country and culture, I have had to learn what works best for me, and some weeks I am still figuring it out. Click To Tweet

What does community look like for us?

I have found friends through several paths. My closest friend here is German, and we met on a local Izmir facebook group! Through her I found the IWAI and those women continue to weave more and more connections throughout the city than I could ever hope for. Jason and I have made efforts to know our neighbors and meet people in our neighborhood. We also attended an Internations party one time, and from that Jason has continued to meet with the guys he met there.

FunkTravels Bodrum Turkey Expat

What goals do you have for living abroad?

Our goal is to spend 3 years in Turkey. We are believers in setting up timelines and signing contracts with yourselves. While we don’t have a printed timeline for what the next 3 years look like we do know that we plan to be here 3 years, learn language, build community, and continue Jason’s business in the states.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely, you can read more about that in part 1 – EXPAT YEARS: Our First Year Abroad.

 

Do you live abroad?

What was your best and worst of your first year abroad?

Do you have a funny story to share? I would love to hear it!

 

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FunkTravels Expat Abroad Podcast Turkey

 

———

P.S. – If you missed it, this is a 3 part series about our first year living internationally.

EXPAT YEARS ROUNDUP SERIES:

EXPAT YEARS: Our First Year Abroad (Year 1 Part 1) 

EXPAT YEARS: The Truth About Living Abroad (Year 1 Part 3) – Coming soon!

2017 FunkTravels CatieFunk House Minimalism

EXPAT YEARS: Our First Year Abroad (Year 1 Part 1)

‘You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again.’ — Azar Nafasi

4 checked bags, 2 carry ons, and 2 people boarded a 5 a.m. flight leaving 2 sets of parents behind at the airport in the U.S.A.  Excitement, nervousness, and surrealness flooded our thoughts as we traveled to Spain where our other 4 packages were waiting for us at our cousin’s home. Our original destination was Izmir, Turkey, the place that we hoped would be our home for the next 3 years. But with the coup taking place just 2 short weeks before, we detoured to Spain for a month.

Leaving the states!

Instead of spending one more month in the states we stuck to our original departure date – determined to move overseas. We felt that delaying our move would make it harder to leave, and believe me, it was sad enough leaving family and friends behind. So 20 hours later with a very lengthy layover in the Chicago airport, we found our (very tired) selves on the sunny beaches of Rota, Spain.

Since then, these 2 people have….

FunkTravels Podcast Episode017
Sailing Trip in Turkey
FunkTravels Eski Foca
Exploring Eski Foca, Turkey with new friends

And the truth? There have been MANY times I have regretted moving those first few months, especially while we were settling in.

BUT the great reality?

REGRETS and ‘second guessing’ are COMPLETELY NORMAL. And in all honesty, part of the deal. The disagreements between Jason and I about what and how much to buy, having to research and learn what to do here before you can make 5,000 decisions, deciding to budget high for travel although we had just moved, investing money into our language learning when it could be easier not to learn it at all, having to deal with having surgery in another country, the days where you don’t want to deal with culture or think about how every way you act.

REGRETS and 'second guessing' are COMPLETELY NORMAL. And in all honesty, part of the deal. Click To Tweet

And when those thoughts of regret happened?

Tears, sadness, loneliness, reflection, prayers (lots and lots of prayers), and choosing joy and happiness. I remember it is WORTH it. I remember how long we planned and dreamed for something like this. I remember the list of gratitudes I started in my prayer journal. I remember how sweet our neighbors, church, and friends are. I remember how far I have come for the ‘not so easy learner.’

I remember it is WORTH it. I remember how long we planned and dreamed for something like this Click To Tweet
Cyprus

And even now? ONE year later?

I am SO VERY THANKFUL we made the move. The decisions, awkward start of friendships, and transitioning from one life to another have had even more happy moments to accompany them. We have walked through our Turkish friends’ wedding, sang songs in another language, loved on Turkish and expat kids that are not our nieces and nephews, and celebrated life with those around us!

The decisions, awkward start of friendships, and transitioning from one life to another have had even more happy moments to accompany them. Click To Tweet

And you know what?

Year 2 is already starting off to be an even better year!

 

Questions for you!

Do you live in another country other than your native one? If so, where?

What emotions did you feel your first year abroad? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

Do you have a funny story to share? I would love to hear it!

New Years in Prague

 

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FunkTravels Expat Abroad Podcast Turkey


P.S. – Stick around for part 2 and 3! I can’t wait to share even more about our first year abroad and what it taught us!

EXPAT YEARS: Year 1 Roundup Series – Our First Year Abroad (Part 2)

EXPAT YEARS: Year 1 Roundup – The truth about living Abroad

 

 

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!