It has been a few days now since I have found out. And I just can’t take it out of my head.
Maybe by writing about it will help healing. At least I am hoping it will help.
You see, Social Media changed the world in so many ways – many positive and many less positive. But one of the best things is that it connects people in a precedent way that the oldest generations struggle to understand. I personally can tell that I started making friends online at the age of 15 and some of them remain, still, as some of my best friends… people from ICQ, Orkut, Denden, MSN, My Space etc … YES, there was social media going on way before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat ….
Justin Alexander Shetler was one of these new friends that social media brought to my life.
The Instagram travellers. The “retired” vagabonds. The misfit nomads.
Thing is, there are a lot of people out there doing what I did. Travel on a long-term basis… get into crazy adventures and Instagram proves it. So, through the years I have found like minded travellers as we would share hashtags and similar pics.
Justin contacted me probably a couple of years ago… and I instantaneously felt in awe by his charm. He had this personality and attitude that was exuberant and unique. You could tell straightaway that he was a very special individual. Kind, adventurous, activist, passionate, worldly, in a nutshell, my type of person. We also shared a very similar story… the corporate slaves that broke free. And so our Instagram friendship was born. Was mainly liking each other pictures and the odd comment here and there
Justin also had a blog and Facebook page, so every once in awhile, I would check on his adventures as he would very often go to the same places I have been, but to be frank, his explorations were often way more exciting than mine. Shortly after the Natural disaster in Nepal, Justin organized this particular project to help on the constructing of a school and I honestly considered to join him and help out on such a noble venture. Eventually I end up giving up and rely on the fact that at least there was incredible people out there like Justin turning the World into a better place.
Anyway, time have passed and as my trip started to come to an end, was becoming more and more clear that Justin was taking his adventures to another level. His Instagram pictures became more and more less self-centred and he took his spirituality and humanitarian side more serious but always being a true vagabond and wanderlust.
Even though, I would hear daily how brave and adventurous I was from so many people, I honestly didn’t feel that I was, at least not when I would be looking up to Justin, he truly inspired me and the way he travelled would often make me feel boring and would also make me feel like I was missing out on my journey.
I was already in Portugal by the time Justin finished the construction of the school in Nepal and started his new journey through India. Now, I did start my trip in India and I thought I was quite brave traveling the entire country in the good old trains, eating street food and adventure myself in the deserts and slums. But, Justin proved me wrong by taking it to the next level once again. He wanted to live in caves, hang out with Babas (Holy Men) and do extremely difficult treks in the Indian Himalayas.
I remember looking at his pictures and think how cool he was and if someday I would be this brave and take my travels to the next level.
During all this time, and even with limited internet access, Justin still had the time to drop the nice hello occasionally and like my latest pictures on Instagram.
And then it stopped.
At first I didn’t even notice. After all, travellers know how internet access can be a luxury sometimes, we all have been there. And I did remember the last pictures Justin posted were always very remote and he was constantly warning that he had very limited access to internet – or civilization per se.
He wrote a very interesting piece on his blog about his experience living in a Cave and how he met this Baba that was teaching him how to meditate and do some special types of Yoga.
Justin also announced he would be doing a very long trek and could spend weeks without internet and has informed us to not expect to hear from him until September.
But days have passed. Then weeks. And then months and there was not even a like from Justin.
Until one day I just couldn’t take my mind of the fact I haven’t hear from him for so long and haven’t seen any update.
After a few hours following up all the updates on his page from his mum and family, it was with a very heavy heart that I realize what happened. And it is still very difficult to accept.
All this time I thought he was just away meditating and experiencing Baba life in some cave, Justin has gone missing and very sadly it seems he has passed away.
It was so difficult to just write these words…. “Justin apparently has passed away…”
Apparently because his body hasn’t been found but after all the efforts from his mum, family, friends, police and search teams, that’s the conclusion. Unfortunately there’s a bit of a story behind that involves the Baba that he was passing time with that eventually became a suspect and end up suiciding, which is extremely frustrating and unsettling.
Even tho I have never met Justin face to face, and we weren’t real friends, it hurts. Like for real. I felt so inspired by him. I would often seen myself in him, in his pictures, in his words, in his actions. And makes me truly sad he is no longer around to share his incredible stories and wisdom with us.
However, in a positive note, Justin will live forever, in the hearts of those that loved him and on all of those he touched, like me. And I am happy he has passed away doing something he loved, while being free. Living his dream. Truly living life.
And that, no one can take away from him.
RIP dear Justin. Thank you for being such an authentic vagabond and for inspiring me to go a little deeper in my quest to see the world.
If you would like to know more about this incredible human that lighten up my world, please find some of his social media channels that I have been following for the last years. Hope they inspire you too.
Justin last video, probably only a few days before he went missing, while living in a Cave in the Himalayans