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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walden on Wheels
The author graduated with over thirty thousand dollars of student loan debt. He decided that before he could do anything about graduate study he needed to clear the debt because it felt like a millstone round his neck. He took jobs which included free accommodation and food so that he could use all his wages to pay off the debt as quickly as possible. He worked as a tour...
Published 23 months ago by Damaskcat

versus
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars so American
Entertaining but does at times spend a little too long being introspective and sounding like a mixed up American student.
Published 13 months ago by Susan Holland


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walden on Wheels, 26 May 2013
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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The author graduated with over thirty thousand dollars of student loan debt. He decided that before he could do anything about graduate study he needed to clear the debt because it felt like a millstone round his neck. He took jobs which included free accommodation and food so that he could use all his wages to pay off the debt as quickly as possible. He worked as a tour guide in Alaska and fell in love with the country and its extremes as well as its people.

He writes in an amusing evocative style and really brings to life his surroundings and the various jobs he did while he was steadily reducing his debt. He writes about spells as a cook, tour guide and garbage picker among other jobs. Later when he was studying at graduate school he took part on medical experiments including spending hours in an MRI scanner - anything which would bring in the money and enable him to feed himself.

Once he'd paid off his initial student debt he set about finding a way to fund his next spell of study and decided to live in a van. This involved a certain amount of subterfuge as well as being economical with the truth as far as his parents were concerned. The author wanted to study without ending up in debt again. In the process he learned more than he could have ever learned by studying.

This is a fascinating book - amusing, down to earth and practical as well as philosophical in content. If you enjoy reading about alternative lifestyles then you will enjoy this book which makes you think twice about the things many of us take for granted
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the two best books I have read this year, 31 July 2013
By 
Mister G (Bristol) - See all my reviews
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I saw this book as the Daily Deal on 25th July, downloaded the free sample, bought it as a result and couldn't put it down. I finished it on 29th July.

I reckon this book just happened to hit the spot for me (I have no idea if it will for you). I found the combination of the beauty of Alaska, the quality of the author's prose and the story behind the van fascinating. It's enough to make you want to take a trip to the Arctic - but to work there, not to scratch the surface as a tourist.

I did question the authenticity of the story early on where the author goes for a hike alone, without basic supplies. It just sounded so foolish that I wondered how accurate it was. But I did not get that feeling again.

The same day as finishing the book, I started doing something that I have procrastinated about for ages - having a clear out. If you read the book, you will understand why (though that is not the point of the book - it is incidental). I just feel that my possessions own me.

This is one of just two books that I have read this year which have left me reflecting on them after reading them.

A few sample quotes, partly to give you an idea of the author's prose:

"...In the arctic, winter stands like a barbarian horde on the edge of town one day and ravages it the next. Winter moves in without warning, grabs summer by the belt loops of its cut-offs, and throws it out of the door.."

"...With chattering teeth and fingers as hard and stiff as icicles, I struggled to get a grip on my sleeping bag zipper. Within moments, though - now burritoed in my own body heat - a warmth radiated across my arms and legs and torso, as if my bag were stuffed with sunrays..."

"...As a country, we marched from one unpaid-for purchase to the next in a quest for fulfilment that fades long before the bill arrives..."

"...We need so little to be happy. Happiness does not come from things. Happiness comes from living a full and exciting life..."

P.S. When someone lavishes praise in an Amazon review, you should be suspicious. This book simply hit the spot for me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Free Spirit, 8 Sept. 2013
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Brett H (Brighton) - See all my reviews
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This is quite an unusual book and one which I greatly enjoyed. The author is burdened with a student debt of $32,000 when he finishes college and I mean burdened. The weight of the debt weighs so heavily upon him that he feels he has to move heaven and earth to remove it. However, this is not just a tale of the menial, low wage jobs he was prepared to take to make a dent in his indebtedness. Ken is clearly something of a free spirit and Alaska and the wilderness greatly appeal to him so he manages to have a lot of fun and do the things he wants to do whilst still accomplishing his prime objective.

When he finally pays off the debt one senses that he did not achieve the release he was expecting and was in something of a dilemma as to what to do next. Along the way he has achieved a taste for learning and manages to get a post graduate place at Dukes, a prestigious university. However, this time round he is determined not to end up with any sort of debt. This involves him in something of a solitary and spartan existence living in his camper van in the utmost secrecy as he suspects the college authorities would take a dim view of his lifestyle.

Ken is inspired by the example of Thoreau, who demonstrated that it was possible to live a frugal existence and wrote a book on his experiences which have inspired the title of this book since he was living by Walden Pond. I was wondering as I went along how this was all going to turn out. If the author achieved a debt free graduation which was his aim, would he continue to be a free and spontaneous spirit or would he settle for a more conventional existence. I will leave you to read it for yourself and discover the outcome. This is an absorbing real life tale which I personally found a great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking but easy to read., 28 Aug. 2014
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I believe anyone could benefit from reading this book. I used to think our UK student loan system was problematic but have learnt that it's much worse for students in the US. I found the author an amiable and intelligent guide to his world and his worldview. I have learnt about Alaska and the Niagara Falls. I hope I have learnt to value freedom more and consumption less. All from a download costing pennies, how fitting!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A riveting tale of adventure and fulfilment, 30 Dec. 2014
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From a self confessed lazy, thoughtless childhood he drifted into his undergrad education where he accumulated tuition and student living loans amounting to over $35k. His dream was to travel and experience adventure, his nightmare was to continue drifting to become a conventional, suburban, cubical dweller. Fate found him a life of hard work and life experience in the least likely end of the road, tourist stop Alaskan outpost where he was to earn enough to start to clear the debt that weighed so heavily on his mind. His co-workers were a scary bunch of alcoholic, psychologically challenged misfits. Somehow through good luck, hard toil, determination and bloody mindedness he plotted his route to not only clear the monster debt but to pay his way to complete his post grad degree. His experiment of van dwelling sustained his debt free living and paved the way for his entry to the writers club. A good read, much to interest nature lovers, alternative lifestyle types and anyone wanting a book to escape into for a day or two.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Adventure!, 1 Sept. 2013
By 
Mrs Ann Burrows (Weybridge, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I am writing as a slightly disabled (walk with a crutch) 72 year old grandmother who found this book grabbed my attention and held it until the end. I found myself smiling quite often as I read it. I loved the honesty, idealism and total dedication to the task. As this was something I would never have had the courage to do when I was young, it really fascinated me, especially living in Alaska. I keep thinking that I would like to visit there now but, as that probably won't happen, I feel that I saw it through Ken's eyes. So I thank him very much and look forward to any other book and adventure he might take me on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars FASCINATING JOURNEY, 25 Sept. 2014
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White Hart Dame "Legally_Lillywhite" (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
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A fascinating account of Ken's journey, literally, from owing thousands of pounds of student debt to being debt free. His story of working jobs in the back of beyond that provided him with food and board so he could pay all his salary towards his debt is nothing less than inspirational. Although I probably wouldn't have the strength to work as a ranger in the mountains as he did! Then, as he wanted to go back to college, he lives in a van to avoid student rent. This seems like hell to me but he did it, and managed to get through without incurring any more debt.

A really good read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring story, 23 Nov. 2014
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While sometimes a bit self satisfied in style, this is an entertaining need. Curiously the van dwelling is probably the safest thing he does. The hitch hiking in particular, while working out for him might of ended up very differently. I am a retired police officer and would agree wholeheartedly that the vast majority of people, whatever their circumstances,are basically good. However some are not and perhaps following Ken's advice here might not work out so well for everybody. Of course, maybe I haven't totally got the message of the book!!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable escape from modern life, 8 May 2013
By 
Steven (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
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I was attracted to this book for a few different reasons; I love adventure travel writing, I'm interested in minimalist lifestyles, I (enviously) follow the 'tiny house' movement online and - most of all - I've harboured fleeting dreams of buying a campervan and hitting the open road for a life of off-grid freedom. Anyway... I loved this book.

The title "Walden on Wheels - On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom" is a slight misnomer. The "on wheels" section takes up perhaps a third of the book, with the preceding sections outlining how the author acrued his debt, his thoughts on the matter, a sea-change in attitudes about society and modern life, and a succession of adventurous-sounding jobs. I enjoyed these bits just as much as the "van-dwelling", and it all pleasingly came together as a coherent and intriguing story.

Ilgunas has a great writing style. He's generally engaging and amusing, but occasionally slips into quite a literary voice. With the sometimes deep and meaningful topics this book covers it fits perfectly, and has the feel of hard-fought wisdom. I've noticed some reviews complaining that he's in his 20's, as if that disqualifies his words as pretentious. It doesn't. He's walked the walk and is talented enough to describe his experiences in a diverse and expressive way.

Highly recommended.

I'll be keeping an eye out for his follow-up.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A useful and entertaining book, 3 Nov. 2013
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I read it in three days which indicates that it caught my imagination. It is a thought-provoking look at our western culture with a focus on higher education and debt. You do not need to be either a student and/or in debt to find this book instructive, refreshing and inspirational. Moreover it is very entertaining. Yes, there is a bit of over-repetition but it does not damage the story or the message. Go for it.
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Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom
Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas (Paperback - 14 May 2013)
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