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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 3-year transcontinental jour¬ney, 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 fol¬lowed. 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.”

Editorial Reviews

"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." 

"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

Product details

  • File Size: 6908 KB
  • Print Length: 319 pages
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing (May 14, 2013)
  • Publication Date: May 14, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B77UDWU
Language English
Author Ken Ilgunas