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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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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Letting Go

I am losing my hold on those things of theirs I insisted on keeping -- the armoire, the secretary, the furniture shipped from Germany to Uruguay to Caracas to Tampa, the things that surrounded me in my childhood and that I wanted to hold on to, to keep close.

Their dying was not unexpected but unplanned for. My father had always taken care of everything so we hadn’t had to but he hadn’t thought what to do about their things when the time came. Their treasured things. The things he said he didn’t care about any more in his last...

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Trimming the Fat

Riddle: I'm trying to lose weight, but I'm not on a diet. What am I doing?

If you answered "preparing to pack out," you're right! It also probably means that you too are a veteran of many an overseas move...and have experienced the anxiety of trying to pare down your belongings. Arriving at our current post in Kuwait two years ago precariously close to our family's weight limit of 7200 pounds of worldly possessions (as mandated by our employer, the U.S. State Department), we are preparing now to move back to our own Washington, DC home, which is about the...

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Karen van der Zee, expat writer

Tell us a little about yourself

Hi! I am Karen van der Zee aka Miss Footloose, expat writer. I hail from the Netherlands, land of windmills and tulips, where I grew up eating lots of Gouda cheese, rode a bicycle to school, and never owned a pair of wooden shoes.

As a teenager I spent a year in the US as a high school foreign exchange student. After I returned home I met my future husband in romantic Amsterdam, in an unromantic office where I was working part time. An adventurous American, he joined the Peace Corps later...

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Houseguest Rules We Wish We Could Post

Dear Houseguest,

Thank you so much for your kind (and unsolicited) offer to come visit us. We are quite certain we’ll have a great time, and you should know that we never, ever tire of seeing the same sights over and over again.

To completely optimize your stay with us, we’d like to offer a few basic guidelines:

Planning your visit:

We realize that traveling can be a hassle, but we would like to make the unusual request that before you book anything, check with us to see if your visit is convenient. We know you might find this surprising...

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Post Report of the Day

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Not good at all in the winter. People with respiratory issues may want to think twice about this Post.
What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
The Embassy does a lot of events. There are also lots of festivals around the country, lots of bars, hiking, camping, and outdoor activities available.

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Latest Post Reports

Latest School Reports

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

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