Review of Ken Ilguna’s Walden on Wheels: From Debt to Freedom

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

Every so often, one can see the news articles talking about student debt. It is a hot topic right now. The average student debt continues to rise in America. People try to concoct a range of different ways in order to minimize it. One guy, Ken Ilgunas, took it to the extreme: he lived in his van to stay debt free.

Photo Courtesy of Colin Ashby

Photo Courtesy of Colin Ashby

Ken Ilguna’s book, Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, details his experiences in tackling his $32,000 in debt, vowing to take out student loans again, and eventually living in a 1994 Ford E-150 Econoline. The book is divided into three parts: Debtor, Living a free life in spite of debt, and the eventual van dwelling part three.

The book starts off with Ilguna graduating from college, no job offers, and 32,000 in debt. He explores what his college degree (in english) is really worth and what it could do for him. No job leads on the horizon, he travels up to Coldfoot, Alaska to work a $9 dollar/hour job as a cook at a truck stop (Coldfoot has the northern most truck stop in the U.S.). The book chronicles the two and a half years after graduation of him working one low paying job to the next. Despite the low pay, through his extreme frugal living he is able to pay off the $32,000 in just two and a half years (hence the title: Walden on Wheels). After paying off the debt, he buys a van off craigslist and lives in it while going to graduate school.

There is something special about this book. It’s a coming-of-age memoir that is more than just chronicling the author’s personal self. In the book, the Ilguna raises questions about his education. Was his degree worth it? Should he have majored in something more “marketable”? He learns by the end of the book that his broad liberal studies degrees (BA in English, MA Liberal Studies) allowed him to dabble and learn in everything. From his frugal living and newfound master’s degree he sees that he is still a student, a lifelong learner. He breaks from the traditional masses view of a college degree and life. College allows him to form his own way of thinking that lead him to have some amazing life experiences.

So yes, even a liberal arts degree has some value.  :

To learn more about Ken Ilguna’s book, check it out on Amazon.

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