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Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom Kindle Edition
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In this frank and witty memoir, Ken Ilgunas lays bare the existential terror of graduating from the University of Buffalo with $32,000 of student debt. Ilgunas set himself an ambitious mission: get out of debt as quickly as possible. Inspired by the frugality and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau, Ilgunas undertook a three-year transcontinental journey, working in Alaska as a tour guide, garbage picker, and night cook to pay off his student loans before hitchhiking home to New York.
Debt-free, Ilgunas then enrolled in a master’s program at Duke University, determined not to borrow against his future again. He used the last of his savings to buy himself a used Econoline van and outfitted it as his new dorm. The van, stationed in a campus parking lot, would be more than an adventure—it would be his very own “Walden on Wheels.”
Freezing winters, near-discovery by campus police, and the constant challenge of living in a confined space would test Ilgunas’s limits and resolve in the two years that followed. What had begun as a simple mission would become an enlightening and life-changing social experiment.
Walden on Wheels offers a spirited and pointed perspective on the dilemma faced by those who seek an education but who also want to, as Thoreau wrote, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
About the Author
Ken Ilgunas is an author, journalist, and backcountry ranger in Alaska. He has hitchhiked ten thousand miles across North America, paddled one thousand miles across Ontario in a birchbark canoe, and walked 1,700 miles across the Great Plains, following the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. Ilgunas has a BA from SUNY Buffalo in history and English, and an MA in liberal studies from Duke University. The author of Walden on Wheels, Trespassing Across America, and This Land Is Our Land, he is from Wheatfield, New York.
- ASIN : B00B77UDWU
- Publisher : Amazon Publishing (May 14, 2013)
- Publication date : May 14, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 3410 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 319 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #159,738 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on April 28, 2022
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Top reviews from the United States
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This where I diverged from him. I quickly went back to a normal living mode to complete my life while he insists on living a wild and free lifestyle. That is what frustrated me so, his complete rejection of society seems almost pathological in origin. That I do not understand. I can only say that as a fellow non conformist, we must each take our own path.
Overlook his shortcomings - they're largely predictable and age-appropriate. What Ken has to say is worth hearing, no matter your age. Life is lived poorly when lived in pursuit of things. He's right: you can be happy with less than you think you must have, are entitled to, cannot do without. For all your outrage in your youth at how dysfunctional the world is, as you get older, time and experiences will color your view of people differently. You soften. Outrage turns to an understanding and if you're lucky, compassion. If you're fortunate, you'll find happiness in an imperfect world you won't effectively change, but you'll spend your life doing your part. Maybe you'll recycle, bike rather than drive when you can, drive a tiny car, be part of the tiny houses group, farm your food, watch less TV, and never give a moment of your time worrying about what the Joneses have.
Ken was us at nineteen. Ken is many people in their youth. This book is an engaging read. Some of us will be reminded whom we were at his age. You'll laugh. You'll cringe. You'll smirk. You'll be touched. As I write this from our 710 square foot home, I'm smiling because the world keeps producing people like us - Kens - people like many of you. I hope his book touches those who are nothing like us, as that'd be the best result of his book.
Thank you, Ken.
Ken is a very good writer who made me think in new ways. If I have any criticism, it would be that I think he "over-shared" some personal details that could have been left out, but overall I enjoyed the read and learned from it.
Top reviews from other countries
This book could have been funny, informative and enthralling but Ken is just not likeable, sorry Ken, he seems to want to become an internet sensation because he lived in a van but as he's a middle class arts student it is always his free choice to do this, there are may less fortunate people who live rough who do so because they have to, Ken doesn't give these people the time of day. Not for me.
That criticism, is wrong and unfair but equally this book has only a little to do with van dwelling (though Ilguna covers it well) and a lot more to do with a young man's journey through the debt of college and the subsequent enforced participation in 'normal' life. It is a reflection on the United States' structure and an enormous amount about the author's discovery with his own place in the world. He works in Alaska as he seeks to clear his $32,000 student loan and prepares for a post-grad course at Dukes (meant nothing to be as a Brit, but it's a top drawer Uni). He hitchhikes from Alaska to his parent's home in New York state, and returns to Alaska on the Arctic circle repeatedly. Alsaka is cool, Ilguna's reflections on the wilderness and how it equates to his own life experience is worth the price of admission.
I'm old, but I would honestly recommend this book to anyone between the age of 17 and 30. Not because it preaches - which is does occasionally - but because it offers a perspective on your options.
The author is a product of the video age and admits to underachieving as a youngster, as so many of his generation who are used to instant gratification from computers or video games. More importantly, while this book was written in the shadow of the financial crash, with all the implications that held for reducing living expenses, it is surely once again a timely read in 2020 as the world is still unsure of its way out of the impending Covid-induced recession, set to make 2008/9 look like a mere overture.
I enjoyed this book. As I said at the beginning, it was some of the irritated reviews that drew me to it and then I saw the reviewer who wrote he could take a chance for $3.99. That was the clincher and sure enough Amazon UK was offering it for just £1 as an eBook.
Bargain read of the year for me so far. Recommended. If van living interests you, add it to your list, for a glimpse into life in Alaska, also worth it but far more importantly, if you are a youngster trying to find your way in this crazy world, it's worth a read.
This is a down-to-earth great read on how the author tackles his debt and has many adventures (eg cr*p jobs) to cure the debt. The author is a naturally gifted writer, the book is so well written, I was only a quarter of the way through and already recommending it to friends. I am going to look out for other books by this writer.