Living abroad is ... exciting - bewildering - fascinating - confusing - eye-opening - infuriating - self-confidence-building - self-confidence-destroying ...

Thanks for visiting Tales from a Small Planet,, where personal essays, Real Post Reports and Real School Reports tell you "what it's really like to live there."

We're non-profit, and our mission is to share uncensored and honest information about both the delights (new cultures, fascinating people, unique opportunities, exotic foods) and the challenges (loneliness, loss of identity, struggles to accommodate special needs) of living abroad.

Call for Essays!

How has the global pandemic affected your life abroad this year? What has gotten you through these crazy changes and times of uncertainty? Any moments of laughter or insight you'd like to share? We're always looking for personal essay submissions.

Check out our writer’s guidelines or contact us for more information!

What It’s Really Like To Live There

Tales from other countries

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Why We Want to Return Abroad - Regardless of the Pandemic

2020 changed everything. It’s understandable that people may reconsider moving or going abroad, for a number of reasons:

Not wanting to get too far from family and friends (or wanting to come back closer)
An unstable job market
Wanting stability after a year of lots of (unexpected) changes. When we returned to the U.S. almost three years ago, we knew returning abroad was in our future. When the pandemic started, we wondered if the way things were going would make us change our minds.

It didn’t.

Living and working abroad as educators have definitely influenced our mindset and our...

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My Children And Other Animals

Here in Italy, where I live with my family, the cockroaches are small and crafty things. You almost never see them.  They stay well out of sight, and their only desire is to be left alone with those microscopic fragments of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that they might be so lucky to gather here or there.  I mean, who could blame them? They’re shy creatures, and frankly, kind of cute.  

And yet my kids are terrified of them.  Now teenagers, my children are far smarter and world-wise than I was at the same age.  Nevertheless they won’t even approach certain corners...

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Adjusting the Culture Shock Curve to a Pandemic-Era Move

It’s December, which in my world usually means I’m settled and making plans for the holidays, or I’ve recently moved to a new country and I’m worn-down and melancholic. This is the eighth international transfer my family has made, but moving in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic is a game-changer.

In a ‘normal’ move

I’m an analytical thinker, even in my personal life, so I tend to rely on the culture shock curve to make sense of my emotional state after a move. According to this model, most expats begin life in their new country climbing...

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My Scarves

The global pandemic has made me reflect on my years of adventures overseas, my entire sixteen years’ worth of journeys that I was fortunate enough to experience at such a young age. Now, due to the pandemic, adventuring is something that I can no longer do anymore. During this trying time, in attempting to stay positive, I flip through my tangible memories. In order to do this, I look at my favorite items from these journeys, my favorite trinkets that bring me joy. My most precious possessions are in a drawer, and it’s a drawer full of scarves. Yes, scarves....

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Pip, the (Pandemic) Hamster

It seemed like my kids had been asking for a pet for as long as they could talk! But, as an expat family schlepping our belongings around the world every few years, adding the logistics of a pet to the mix had not been an option I was willing to entertain. Well, yes, there is the upside of having a consistent confidante for the children as they settle into a new home and school in yet again another country. However, the nightmare stories told by expats about dealing with expensive last-minute vaccinations and vet visits before jumping on a...

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New Book Launch - Extraordinary: Experiences Tales of Special Needs Abroad

Dear Adventurers with Assorted Abilities,

The Tales from a Small Planet team is proud to announce the launch of our second book. "Extraordinary Experiences: Tales of Special Needs Abroad."

It's a collection of 20 heartfelt, inspiring and insightful personal stories from expats all over the world dealing with their own or their children's challenges, including sudden illness, depression, severe allergies, Down’s Syndrome, autism and "invisible" disabilities.

Read how our authors coped with international moves and found the support and inner strength they needed to carry on.

The book is now available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle versions...

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Dislocation, Dislocation, Dislocation

This classic "Lost Luggage" reprint first appeared on Talesmag in 2003.

One day you're sipping a warm frothy mocha cappuccino with your best girlfriend in a Starbucks on a cozy Saturday morning; your hands wrap around the warm mug and you huddle together. The next day you're gulping down a tepid instant Nescafé (the grains don't even melt) alone, in a dank kitchenette 3,000 miles from home, watching army ants march across your countertop. Nothing is right with the world.
I know whereof I speak. Although this is my sixth move to Africa as a development worker (and third as...

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'Twas the Night Before Packout

(with apologies to Clement Moore)

'Twas the night before packout
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except for the spouse.

The stockings weren't washed yet,
The fridge not yet bare,
But still, in 6 hours
Men with vans would be there.

The children were nestled
Like cubs in their lair
While their mother picked Lego blocks
Out of their hair.

When down from the wall
There crashed with a clatter
A large jigsaw puzzle;
But what did it matter?

For all the spouse...

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Living in Amazing Thailand

I moved to Thailand in 2001 as part of my job at the time and immediately fell in love with the country and its people. I thought that if I tried hard enough to adapt, I might even think about becoming a Thai citizen. As it turns out I was both naive and downright wrong.

It is theoretically possible for a foreigner to become a Thai citizen, but it is practically impossible culturally. I thought that having a Thai wife would make it inevitable that I would become a Thai citizen, but I was wrong. Having a Thai wife did...

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To Switzerland with Love, from the Watchmaker’s Wife

Dear Helvetica,

I think I’ve finally figured us out. It took long enough!
Three decades, more or less. I know, I know,
you being the quiet type means I have to go first. And I will.
But only because I’m so in love with you.
How’d THAT happen? you wonder.
Well. Since you asked, first of all,
you have the sexiest watchmakers in the world, but there’s more:

Because instead of scissors, you gave my kids knitting needles
in Kindergarten to punch along dotted lines so they’d learn
precision, perseverance, and patience.
Because you made them walk to school.

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Post Report of the Day

Kabul, Afghanistan
Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The embassy will give you a (crappy) cell phone. If you want a fancier phone, you can bring your own and swap out the SIM card.
What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Home base is DC.Travel to Kabul is two days:a late night flight from Dulles to Dubai, followed by an overnight in Dubai and a noon flight to Kabul. Travel from Kabul to DC is 1...

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New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

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