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Courtesy: IndieGoGo

All alone, yet sur­rounded by 12 million people, a 22-year-old man began to immerse himself in a foreign culture while teaching English at a local school in South Korea.

This young man is Ben Liebing, a 2008 graduate who will self- publish a book “How to Get Gone” through Amazon Cre­ative this spring. The book will encap­sulate his travel expe­ri­ences and his reflec­tions on trav­eling as a whole.  

“The book is about the art of trav­eling and what people are really looking for,” Liebing said. “It’s more than just going some­where dif­ferent.”

Liebing first traveled abroad his junior year at Hillsdale.

“We went on a Habitat for Humanity trip to Nicaragua with Hillsdale College, which was my first time out of the country in a mean­ingful way,” Liebing said.

His expe­ri­ences in Nicaragua kicked off a spirit of adventure that even­tually led to Liebing’s accep­tance of a teaching job in Seoul, South Korea, fol­lowing his grad­u­ation in 2008.

“Ven­turing into the unknown was a concept new to me,” Liebing said.

Liebing didn’t always possess an adven­turous spirit.

“When he was younger, he was not the adven­turer of the family, even though he was the oldest. He was more of the shy one, not really wanting to try new things,” Ben Liebing’s sister, Hillsdale freshman Abigail Liebing, said. “Then he had this flip in college when he wanted to try more things, becoming more out­going.”

Hillsdale History Pro­fessor Tom Conner, Liebings’s advisor during his years in college, said, “He was a prankster, a prac­tical joker, in a loveable way. He lived the whole Hillsdale expe­rience to the fullest.”

After spending almost two full years abroad, and running out of money, Liebing headed home and began to build the framework of what would soon become his book, “How to Get Gone.”

“I took my scat­tered thoughts and old journal entries com­bined with old emails I wrote to my parents, and I began to work through all the old mem­ories,” Liebing said. “It was ther­a­peutic to get those thoughts out, and there were some things that I had never told anyone.”

Living in Seoul fresh out of college was, for Liebing, “like college with even less rules or money.” He remembers the culture shock and going out for Korean bar­becue his first week with a fellow co-worker from Scotland.

Liebing remained in Seoul for a year before heading back to the United States.

“I started feeling a little homesick,” Liebing said. “I felt like a dif­ferent person, which created within me the idea that I wanted to see more.”

Trying to settle down, Liebing came back to an office job but he quickly realized that his adven­turous spirit could not be tamed.

Liebing then landed another English teaching job in Saudi Arabia, which pro­vided yet another culture change, quite dif­ferent than the shock he expe­ri­enced in South Korea, mostly due to major cul­tural dif­fer­ences such as no booze and no women, Liebing said.

After another year of teaching, Liebing packed his backpack and began to travel around Eastern Europe: Greece, Istanbul, France, England, slowly moving North to Ireland.

Through reflection on his expe­ri­ences, Leibing encoun­tered a philo­sophical twist on the concept of trav­eling.

“There are a lot of dis­il­lu­sioned people out there in the world, many are sad, lost trav­elers, people without a home, out searching for some­thing that they don’t always know what that is, they may have been gone for so long that they don’t know to go back home.”

“Some people become addicted to travel, and it’s fun until you realize that you have no real life mission, you’ve just been jumping from rock to rock,” Liebing said.

Libeling set up an online fundraising cam­paign through Indiegogo, and 128 sponsors have raised over $3,600 in pre-orders and dona­tions so far. Liebing will self-publish the book through Amazon Cre­ative this Spring.

“Several of my family members are reading through the entire book and just cri­tiquing it in every aspect — grammar, style and content,” Abigail Liebing said. “I am really proud of his decision to just really buckle down and write this book.”

Reading through the book, Abigail was touched by one story in par­ticular.

“There are a couple pages where he’s talking about this time in South Korea where he was really homesick and unsure what to do, when he finds a hymn book in his boss’s car,” Abigail Liebing said. “It’s this beau­ti­fully written episode where he describes that he was able to find a little piece of home.”

“If anyone his age might write a suc­cessful book, I would think it might be Ben,” Conner said.

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Josephine von Dohlen
Josephine von Dohlen is a senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota who appreciates the communicative power of journalism and the community that it fosters. A graduate of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., she has previously interned with Catholic News Service and the Santa Barbara News-Press. At Hillsdale, she is a member of the Dow Journalism Program and majors in American Studies. Email: jvondohlen@hillsdale.edu