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.