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on January 10, 2014
I should probably mention upfront that my husband and I are both 39, so we're probably older than the majority who would gravitate to this book. Twentysomethings and fortysomethings will experience this book very differently. As ones who are about to turn forty, we chuckled a little at points in his book. Does Ken seem self-absorbed? Obsessive? Preoccupied with what he feels entitled to? A little commitment phobic? Does he seem to have all the answers in such a way as only a youngling in the world does? Absolutely. Because we were reading this aloud to one another, we both couldn't resist the urge to laugh at points by his largely self inflicted angst. Maybe we were laughing at ourselves, because we married at nineteen, and after college we bought an Airstream and lived in it for two years, seeing the country, so we saw something of ourselves in his journey. But unlike Ken, we came from very poor families, and those who grew up truly poor will always smirk or laugh at those with money who find life so…hard. Despite his very age-appropriate outrage, angst and inclination to preach, we surprised ourselves by how much we both enjoyed the book.

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.
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on January 7, 2018
Thank you, Ken, for writing about your adventures. While reading this book I found myself imagining adventures of my own. I now have plans for future long term road trips and realize that life is too short to live within imaginary constraints.
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on February 27, 2016
I've read the negative reviews, and quite honestly, I'm baffled. Maybe it has to do with expectations. I read the synopsis and editor's review and expected a first person account of an American male born in the mid 80s who found himself with a college degree, and a lot of debt, who clawed his way out from under it, in part, by looking at the world in different and unexpected ways. That's what I got. Kudos to Ken for recognizing the situation he was in and cobbling together a successful plan to get out of it. Then he put together a plan to pursue a graduate degree without incurring further debt or delaying his degree. He learned a lot about the world and himself along the way. Now he shares it with us via this book.
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VINE VOICEon December 24, 2015
This well-written book tries to do many things. There’s a personal finance book in here, telling young people how to get out from under their student debt. Better still, avoid that debt in the first place – maybe by living in your van while going to grad school. Those two ideas give us half the title and half of the subtitle - but what’s Walden doing in the title? And what does he mean by the “freedom” of the subtitle?

Those topics take us to the more interesting parts of the book. It’s all well and good not to have any debt, but obviously most Americans take on debt for their college education, for their home, their cars, and (unfortunately) for various consumer goods. Ilgunas uses debt to talk about consumerism, and how both debt and materialism trap people in a life they don’t really want and never intended.

That concern brings him to a central theme in his memoir: the importance of autonomy in life. At first, autonomy simply means not having any debt. But Ilgunas slowly comes to see, as have many wilderness writers before him, that autonomy is a form of wildness. Ilgunas learns this in wild nature, when working in Alaska’s Brooks Range and other places. Appreciating wildness brings him to a different critique of consumerism.

That’s a lot to hold together in a memoir, and Ilgunas mostly pulls it off. I think his writing about autonomy, wildness and civilization work better than his musings on debt and consumerism. Each are familiar ground some ways, but criticisms of consumerism lend themselves to stock treatment, while writings on wilderness tend to be more personal. That said, the connections he makes from debt to the freedom of the hills give him a novel spin on these topics. Well worth a read.
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on February 28, 2018
A fascinating prod in the flabby belly of the modern man who has resigned himself to the pointless tail chasing of "moving ahead" in society, in the unthinking ways everyone does just because that's what everyone does. While Ilgunas and I appear to be polar opposites on certain things such as religion and politics, that hardly matters, as he has tapped into the wild inner man in all of us that yearns for freedom through the quiet desperation of life consisting of working to pay bills interspersed with numbing diversion.

Even though I read this book for free with Kindle Unlimited, I turned around and bought the book anyway, so that I could read and reread some of his more profound observations at my leasure. He is an excellent writer, and many highly quotable passages run the length of the book. Get it.
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on January 15, 2018
A really interesting read. Even though I know I couldn't do the same thing - just not built for it - the story was engaging and made you wonder "what if".
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on November 19, 2017
What a wonderful book by a young man with great wisdom, creativity and courage. I am 70, have among other grandchildren, a 27 year old grandson who is facing the same world. He too is a writer and aspires a writing life on the road. I have shared this book with him. I highly recommend this book to anyone living a young or vintage life in our current country. I suggest you will find this an enlightening read. Enjoy-- I certainly did and am a better person for having this story touch me.
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on April 5, 2018
Ken provides a fresh, honest look at the life of a recent college liberal arts graduate with a frighteningly large student loan debt who needs to come up with a way to pay it off as quickly as possible in a tough job market. Unlike many others, he has given his financial future serious thought while still in college and has been working summers and after classes but still faces significant red ink mostly from his first year at an expensive liberal arts school. The author is unusual in that he both recognizes the significant benefits in a liberal arts background and the problems inherent in large student debt. He comes up with an interesting plan to attend graduate school without going into debt-read it for yourself!
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on June 27, 2017
It took me a while to decide to buy this book...I went to Ilgunas's blog and found out we have somewhat similar preferences for books and authors. Walden on Wheels carries all the marks of the first book of an inexperienced writer.
yet, the honest recount of the events more than made for the writing style.
Or maybe I am getting old and starting to forget what it was like when I was in college.
Any way, I caught myself disagreeing with Ilgunas on numerous occasions, not subscribing to his point of view, but really appreciating the different perspective he offered.
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on November 19, 2016
Ok, I am 50 and although my politics are opposite of Ken's, I enjoyed his adventure and more importantly his writing craft. He is an excellent writer. Goes to show how a liberals art's education is still valuable, not to mention a major in English and History. I could not put the book down and I recommended his book to a co-worker and my 83-year-old mother. (I bought a 2nd copy to send to my mom) Both of them absolutely loved his story. Now my sister is reading his book. I highly, highly recommend this book, especially to students coming out of college. Read this before you start to put your life plans in place. I am married with 2 daughters and wish I could take off and get a job for $9 an hour in Alaska with room and board. That is all I would need.
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