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Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road from Debt to Freedom Paperback – May 14, 2013
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*Starred Review* Most college students these days take burdensome, long-term loans for granted as the obligatory cost of earning their degrees. For recent University of Buffalo liberal-arts graduate Ilgunas, however, the sight of $32,000 printed in black and white on a Sallie Mae loan statement yielded a life-changing epiphany. Instead of remaining shackled to his low-wage job at a Niagara Falls Home Depot and rooming with his parents to better whittle away his debt, Ilgunas struck off to remote Coldfoot, Alaska, to get a taste of wilderness living while working as a cook and sometime nature guide. Many years, odd jobs, and escapades later, including hitchhiking across the U.S., paddling a canoe as a “voyageur” across Northern Canada, and joining a cleanup crew in Katrina-ravaged rural Mississippi, Ilgunas was finally debt-free. Yet a new epiphany led him back to college for a master’s degree. Inspired by Thoreau’s example of low-impact living, and determined to minimize housing expenses to avoid another mountain of debt, Ilgunas spent the last of his savings on a used vehicle he variously dubs the titular “Walden on wheels” or “a creepy red van.” Replete with colorful anecdotes and disarming wit, Ilgunas’ account is both a goad for chronic debtors and an irresistibly engrossing true-life adventure tale. --Carl Hays
"Walden on Wheels [is] a remarkable memoir that manages to stay light on its feet while saying a great deal about the state of modern American society. Ilgunas is a rare and wonderful travel companion. Along the way, he describes natural phenomena so skillfully that you might be compelled to flee your desk and head for the hills, walking stick in hand." —Washington Post
"Ilgunas penned the most readable of the tomes on education this year. Ilgunas lives [the educational crisis] and tells quite the adventure tale. His education – flawed and expensive as it was – pays off." —The Globe and Mail
"[Walden on Wheels is] searching and ambitious—one of the best books I've read this year." —LA Review of Books
"Walden on Wheels is a funny and poetic tale of personal growth, suburban angst, and beef jerky." —A.J. Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy and The Year of Living Biblically
"A thoroughly endearing account." —The Wall Street Journal
"Replete with colorful anecdotes and disarming wit, Ilgunas’ account is both a goad for chronic debtors and an irresistibly engrossing true-life adventure tale." —Booklist, Starred Review
"Walden on Wheels should be required reading for every student, not to mention every elected official and candidate for office." —BizPac Review
"[Ilgunas] tells a good, refreshingly honest story about one young man’s quest for freedom, a story that has something to say to Americans, whatever their age." —Greensboro News and Record
"Walden on Wheels is essential reading for liberal arts majors because it will inspire you to follow your dreams." —LiberalArtsSurvival.com
"Walden on Wheels, a remarkable memoir that manages to stay light on its feet while saying a great deal about the state of modern American society. Ilgunas is a rare and wonderful travel companion" —Tampa Tribune
"Ilgunas' radical approach to life and unique sense of humor is what makes Walden on Wheels a great read." —Metro
"A funny and poignant take on debt in America, education, and making the most out of life." —Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine
"This enthralling account …is richly layered with both humor and deep circumspection. Thoughtful and well-crafted, [and] inspiring to read, Walden on Wheels, reminds one that life is made up of the little things, the experiences gained, the adventures survived, rather than the consumables acquired." —Summit Daily
"Ilgunas heroically (and often comically) maps out a life beholden to no one. Standing against the madness of conformity, Ilgunas offers what could be the Walden of our age." —Andrew Steele, former head writer of Saturday Night Live and creative director of Funny or Die
"Wrapped in a powerfully told, often self-deprecating travel memoir, Walden on Wheels delivers important, even life-changing, insights into navigating your way to a saner life in a sometimes insane, debt-driven, consumer culture." —Jeff Yeager, author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches
"Walden on Wheels is a powerful narrative that puts a human face on the problem facing too many college graduates these days as tuition prices and student debt continue to climb. Ken Ilgunas' humorous coming of age story should be a warning to any student who doesn't worry about how taking on excessive debt might impact them." —Jeffrey J. Selingo, author of College (Un)bound
"Give him anger or give him tears, but nothing's going to hem in the energy force that is Ken Ilgunas." —Daniel Asa Rose, author of Larry's Kidney
"Loved this book — and was both entertained and encouraged — from page one to the very end." —Backwoods Home Magazine
"Among many other delights, Ken Ilgunas offers a fresh, provocative perspective on the student debt debate in his rollicking coming-of-age memoir—a funny and inspirational debut." —Robert Twigger, author of Angry White Pyjamas
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This book is not a favorite, but I am glad I read it because of the understanding it provided.
There are two themes: Student Debt and Alternative Lifestyle. At some point, the alternative lifestyle got old. In my case, my age provides me with a perspective a recent graduate won't get until later in life. I enjoy owning a home, being dry during the rainy season, warm during winter, getting medical care, having pets, having children, etc.
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Listened to the narration while driving for work and suddenly it's Friday...Read more