In the vein of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, a riveting work of narrative nonfiction centering on the unsolved disappearance of an American backpacker in India--one of at least two dozen tourists who have met a similar fate in the remote and storied Parvati Valley. For centuries, India has enthralled Westerners looking for an exotic getaway, a brief immersion in yoga and meditation, or, in rare cases, a true pilgrimage to find spiritual revelation. Justin Alexander Shetler, an inveterate traveler trained in wilderness survival, was one such seeker.
In his early thirties, Justin quit his job at a tech startup and set out on a global journey--across the United States by motorcycle, then down to South America, and on to the Philippines, Thailand, and Nepal--in search of authentic experiences and meaningful encounters while documenting his travels on Instagram. His enigmatic character and magnetic personality gained him a devoted following who lived vicariously through his adventures. But the ever-restless explorer was driven to seek out ever-greater extremes, and greater risks, in what had become a personal quest--his own hero's journey.
In 2016, he made his way to the Parvati Valley, a remote and rugged corner of the Indian Himalayas steeped in mystical tradition and shrouded in darkness and danger. There he spent weeks studying under the guidance of a sadhu, an Indian holy man, living and meditating in a cave. At the end of August, accompanied by the sadhu, he set off on a spiritual journey to a holy lake--one from which he would never return.
Lost in the Valley of Death is about one man's search to find himself, in a country where, for many Westerners, the path to spiritual enlightenment can prove fraught, even treacherous. But it is also a story about all of us and the ways, sometimes extreme, we seek fulfillment in life.
About the Author
HARLEY RUSTAD is the author of Big Lonely Doug: The Story of One of Canada's Last Great Trees. His writing has appeared in numerous publi-cations, including Outside, the Guardian, the Globe and Mail, and Geographical. He is a features editor and writer at The Walrus, a faculty editor at the Banff Centre's Mountain and Wilderness Writing residency, and the founder of the Port Renfrew Writers' Retreat. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Rustad is originally from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.