The story of a student who went to extraordinary lengths - including living in a van on a campus parking lot - to complete his education without sacrificing his financial future. In a frank and self-deprecating voice, memoirist Ken Ilgunas writes about the existential terror of graduating from college with $32,000 in student debt. Inspired by Thoreau, Ilgunas set himself a mission: get out of debt as soon as humanly possible. To that end, he undertook an extraordinary 3-year transcontinental journey, driving to Alaska and taking a series of low-paying jobs. Debt-free, Ilgunas then enrolled himself in a master's program at Duke University, using the last of his savings to buy himself a used Econoline, his new "dorm." The van, stationed in a campus parking lot, would be an adventure, a challenge, a test of his limits. It would be, in short, his "Walden on Wheels."Ilgunas went public in a widely read Salon article that spoke to the urgent student debt situation in America today. He offers a funny 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."
©2013 Ken Ilgunas (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
I am an English teacher in China and can now read and write some Chinese.I have been to 13 countries on 4 continents.I am an avid audiophile
The first half of the book is about a young college students pursuit of a less than ordinary life after plunging into significant debt.He has some great ideas and moves to Alaska for a summer,where he works for small money,but has a free accommodation.He manages to fulfill his travel lust and pay down his loan with a year of work there.His cohorts were not the pillars of society,but he stuck it out and paid down his debt.Next he goes to Mississippi to work for the forest service.Again he meets lots of strange people.Except for one special girl.The two of them fall in love and when work is up after the second round of 3 month stints they hitchhike to his parents home in Niagara Falls,New York over the course of a month.The author having read Theroeau decides to return to graduate school and is accepted at Duke.Having paid off his debt completely after a second summer working a pretty good job for the parks service in Alaska.He decides he will live in an inexpensive van so as not to incur additional debt.He manages to keep this a secret for two years.In one of his final courses on creative writing he reveals his secret in a paper.The professor recommends he publish the well written paper.He even gets a three year writing job offer from a magazine which he declines.He seemed to have learned a great deal from this arduous living and there are many other moments I have left out here.Buy the book and support this guy.I realize I am perhaps a fellow misanthrope like the author I too have been trying to discover and alternate kind of happiness living abroad for the last 4 years.
I loved a lot about it. I could appreciate Ken's passion about paying off his student loans, about not wanting to live in debt, his frustration over the job market and the passion with which he came to embrace the wild. He has a tremendous amount of passion for life.
None that I can think of. I never read Walden so I can't make that comparison. Maybe I will read it now.
I thought he read it very well. He's a little weak on female voices but overall he was smooth and brought out the emotions felt by Ken, his buddy, his mother and so on. Good choice to read the book.
The entire book was enjoyable, can't think of any particularly dull moments.
Great book and I highly recommend it.
"An adventure that lacks ... something"
Here, Ken Ilgunas recounts his adventures as he seeks to pay off his undergraduate debts in the first part of the book, and, in the second, how he lived in order to secure his post-graduate degree at Duke University. This book appealed because I have my own unsecured debts, and a desire to return to university.
Although this book lived up to its synopsis, it was not exactly what I hoped it might be, but it though Mr Ilgunas's experiences did provide food for thought, though I now realise I could not follow in his footsteps.
Ken Ilgunas worked in in a remote outpost in Alaska to pay off his original college debt, then undertook a canoe journey with a group seeking to replicate the experience of the Canadian voyageurs of the 18th and 19th centuries; before doing his post-graduate degree all without going back into debt.
Although there are some interesting anecdotes about the adventures, and details of his budgets are provided, overall, I was not overly enthused by this book. Some sections I felt I was being preached to,in others, the narration became too wordy in describing feelings about places and/or people. As much as it appeared Ken Ilgunas went into detail, I’m not sure I really know just how he did cope on a day-to-day level under the strict, self-imposed budgetary, and living conditions; I always had the feeling something was missing from these recollections.
The author seems to berate the normal path people take through life, consisting of (in his opinion) getting and education, working in a job they may dislike to paying off the debts they accrue getting that education, getting a mortgage, continuing to work in a job they dislike to pay off the mortgage and other consumer debts, then retiring without having really lived. It’s a point-of-view held by many who seek the simpler life, but others may disagree believing it is more about “dropping out” of humanity, something which Ken’s mother hints at in the book.
The narration by Nick Podehl was quite well done, though I did query the pronunciation of some words, but this might have been accounted for by the difference between American and UK English. The audio edition I downloaded from Audible was crisp, clear and without any faults.
I would recommend this to anyone contemplating university via student loans, but I'm not sure it would be all that helpful to those that do want to take the corporate path.
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