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Language Barrier Caused a Flight To Be Revoked | Travel Bug

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Travel Bug is a monthly blog series centered around sharing real-life stories on finding and receiving care abroad.

Picture this –– you’ve just wrapped up your trip abroad with your six best friends and are officially on your way to the airport to head back home. Everyone’s stomachs may have been hurting over the last few days of your trip, but no one’s hurt quite as bad as yours. It’s no surprise then that the moment you arrive at the airport, you find yourself throwing up outside of the taxi and being wheeled into the airport hospital. Without a second glance, you’re given a certificate proving you’re unfit to fly. Just like that, you are forced to watch as your friends pass through security and board their flight home without you, leaving you stranded in a foreign country all by yourself.

This was the unfortunate reality for Chang Liang, a self-employed worker who was forced to adapt his travel plans in Bali, Indonesia, after contracting a stomach flu from contaminated water that prevented him from leaving the country.

After being wheeled into the doctor’s office at the airport, Liang attempted to communicate with his provider about his symptoms, but was unable to get his points across clearly since the doctor couldn’t understand him.

“There was a huge language barrier,” said Liang. “I think if the doctor would have spoken English, I might have been able to explain my symptoms better to not get issued a certificate. Had I been able to communicate better, a lot of this would have been prevented.”

Liang’s “Bali Belly” didn’t just set him back a plane ride home, but forced him to have to pay for a new flight to Hong Kong, another from Hong Kong to San Francisco, a hotel for his extra night in Bali, and taxi fees to and from the airport. Not to mention the fact that the next flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco wouldn’t come for another week, meaning Liang now had to incur an additional weeks worth of expenses abroad because of this delay.

As if things couldn’t get worse, when Liang officially arrived in Hong Kong, he was confronted with Typoon Mangkhut, the strongest typhoon to hit the area since 1983. Still bedridden, Liang watched as water leaked into his bedroom and glass shattered outside.

In hindsight, Liang wishes he would have taken the time to see a doctor while in Indonesia capable of providing medications stronger than the Advil he had packed along with him.

“I really wish I had seen a doctor the morning prior,” said Liang. “But all my friends also felt unwell and we didn’t have enough energy to even try to do our own research. Our flight was so close that we decided to just take whatever medicine we had with us to see if it would help us get through another day.”

When situations are as severe as Liang’s, you should never have to rely on what you have to make it by – it’s important to have a support system ready to take that load off of your back. Wander Health is here to provide you with a vetted list of local, English-speaking healthcare providers and house doctors who can meet your needs, no matter where you are. “Bali Belly” will surely become a thing of the past with Wander Health on your side!


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