FIRST time author Libby Southwell visited Orange yesterday to launch her book 'Monsoon Rains & Icicle Drops'.
The semi-autobiographical book tells of the death of her fiance Justin in a climbing accident in New Zealand, and two other close friends 10 months later, events that compelled her to travel to the ends of the earth to deal with her grief.
"The memories in Australia were too heartbreaking and powerful," she said.
"There are certainly parts of the book that are autobiographical, but I have positioned it as more of a travel book.
"It particularly focuses on the last five years, which were the most adventurous but also the most painful of my life."
Libby spent five months in Colombo, Sri Lanka, cooking and organising elephant polo contests, before heading to India's Rajasthan, Ladakh and the Indian Himalayas.
From there she travelled to Nepal and far western Tibet, where she hoped a three-day pilgrimage to Mount Kailash would provide inspiration.
She stayed in a monastery for three days and received a special gift from a Tibetan lama, a small pink crystal.
"The crystal seemed to have curative powers. That was the turning point for me," she said.
Libby travelled to Mongolia, where she spent three months with nomads, before heading to a 10-day silent retreat at a Buddhist meditation retreat in France.
She then went back to Sri Lanka where she got caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami.
"It was absolutely frightening," she said.
"What I heard and saw, I will never forget."
Since then, she has helped to establish the Adopt Sri Lanka program, which has raised more than $4 million to develop initiatives for the people and villages affected by the disaster, and has also found a new home.
"Sri Lanka is where I'm supposed to be," she said.
Monsoon Rains & Icicle Drops is number five on the Sydney Morning Herald's bestseller list.