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Travelling around the world during COVID-19

Story by Lungpinglak Domtta, Edited by Rajeev Kumar.

Lungpinglak is a pilot from India, serving with MAF International.

If I were to ask you if you have travelled overseas recently or if you have any travel plans to visit another continent in the near future, you will probably dismiss that as a bizarre inquiry or may even possibly doubt my sense of judgement! And rightfully so, because in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, non-essential travel is still deemed a risky proposition. As the skies have re-opened, international travel has become excruciatingly strenuous with new aviation restrictions and stringent visa formalities.

It so happened that in November 2020, I was planning to visit India to be with my family for Christmas. In light of the COVID-19 cases being exponentially high in the country, I wasn’t entirely sure if this was a good idea. However it had been more than 14 months since I’d seen my family and I was craving to be with them during the holiday season. So, I made a few phone calls to seek advice and then decided on visiting home.

I had a wonderful time of fellowship with my friends and family back in Nagaland. As I reminisce the good times I had with my family, I am indeed thankful to God for making this trip happen. Time flies whilst you’re on a vacation because soon it was time for me to pack my bags and return to my second home in Uganda. My journey back to Kampala was fraught with minor inconveniences like flight cancellation and missing an onward connection but despite these, I arrived safely.

Before we knew, the New Year 2021 dawned upon us and I was aching to get back into the cockpit. I had a great first flight of the year after not having flown for six weeks and was looking forward to the rest of the year. Since I was just back from my recent vacation to India, I wasn’t really expecting any more long international travel any time soon but God had a pleasant surprise in store for me. I was scheduled to fly a Cessna Caravan aircraft to Liberia and back. This kind of a long distant mission was something I had desired and now it was finally happening.

On 3rd February 2021, my colleague, Rembrand and I took off from Uganda heading for Liberia. This was a long flight for a mission aircraft as we flew over 11 countries covering a distance of 9820 kilometers in 37 hours with lay overs in Congo, Cameroon and Ghana. It was an enriching experience for me professionally as an MAF pilot. Looking back, I travelled approximately 25650 km in 2 weeks!

My travel tales do not end there as God has opened yet another door for me to continue my exciting adventures. Recently I was asked if I would re-locate to Timor Leste to help with MAF flying operations for a short duration. Being someone who is always is up for new adventures, I said yes! In two days I was able to pack my bags and was soon on my way to this beautiful island nation situated in South East Asia. I arrived safely in Dili, the capital of Timor Leste. I just finished quarantine and cannot wait to begin serving the isolated people of Timor Leste with MAF.

As I look back at the past ten weeks, I travelled a total of 38580 kilometers touching nine countries. This is a personal record for me to fly extensively in such a short period. The interesting thing is that I got to accomplish this feat during a time when it seems almost impossible to travel overseas due to COVID-19 restrictions. I cannot help but thank God for His protection and provision over my life. I had no clue that amidst fear of the pandemic and uncertainties, what began as a vacation would mark the beginning of an intercontinental adventure of a lifetime.

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