File Size: 6908 KB
Print Length: 319 pages
Publisher: Amazon Publishing (May 14, 2013)
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
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.,This was a different read for me. I am usually reading mysteries, etc. This young man did accomplish good things in his life and kept his focus throughout the hard times. It was amazing to read how he "found" himself and what he really wanted to do with his life. He was able to accomplish his goal in life through very trying times.,"He was many things -- a surveyor, a naturalist, a handyman, a pencil-maker -- but I thought of Thoreau as a writer more than anything else. And his greatest story wasn't one of his essays, or 'Walden.' His greatest story, I thought, was his life. He knew that anything is possible when you wield the pen and claim your life as your own. . . . [F]or those of us who can, should it not be our great privilege to live the lives we've imagined? To be who we want to be? To go on our own great journeys and share our experiences with others?"
It's interesting that Ken Ilgunas describes himself, repeatedly, as a slacker: apathetic and indolent throughout his high school and undergraduate career, he finished college with a degree he didn't particularly care for (though he had found some inspiration in the last year or so of college, some thirst for knowledge, some interest in writing) and ,000 in debt. But a slacker would never have done what Ilgunas did: he found work during a recession and despite the enormous surfeit of college graduates with degrees but little passion, he worked at crappy jobs in ugly circumstances, worked extra hours (60, 70, 80 a week) as much as possible, he saved every penny he could, he bought almost nothing for himself -- and he paid off his debt. And then, he went back to school. But to ensure that he did not go back into debt -- a promise he had made to himself while chipping away at the mountain of his first batch of student loans -- he chose to live in a van.
Ilgunas calling himself a slacker reminds me of a favorite quote from Lech Walesa, the Polish union organizer who brought his country from communism to democracy in the 1970's and 1980's: "I'm lazy. But it's the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn't like walking or carrying things." And just like Walesa, who couldn't rationally be considered lazy, Ken Ilgunas cannot rationally be considered a slacker.
What both of these men are -- and, arguably, Henry David Thoreau before them, who served as Ilgunas's primary inspiration for his simplified life -- is dedicated. Because Ilgunas is dedicated, focused only on what was really important, he didn't spend time or effort, or money, on things that were unnecessary -- and Ilgunas has a very definite and narrow idea of what was necessary. It was only one thing: freedom. To achieve that, first he had to escape his suburban boredom, which he did by going to Alaska, and visiting one of the last truly wild places left in America; and then he had to escape his debt. Then he had to go back to school, where he discovered a new purpose -- and the answer to that new purpose was this book.
Mr. Ilgunas succeeded in this last purpose as well. Because he has inspired me, and, I have no doubt, many others, too.
It's a good story. It's an Everyman's memoir, though Ilgunas does what most of us never bring ourselves to do, to our own loss. I thought it would focus more on the actual vandwelling that features so prominently on the cover, but the first two-thirds of the book is not: it tells the story of his war with his debt. It's a good story, and a necessary one to understand the vandwelling. It's an especially good story for people today to read. I'm glad I did. I will be sharing this book with my college-bound students (I teach high school) and I will go on my own great journey, and I will share my experience with others. Yeah. I'll go for it.,The story really spoke to me. With an impressive ability to communicate through his writing, Mr. Ilgunas wrote about his life during his age of discovery with such candor and insight. I loved how he portrayed his love for his parents and how much he valued their love for him. His life in Alaska was richly described and his love and awe for the region was obvious and infectious. His life in his van was portrayed with humor at times but also showed how it can be problematic. The way in which the author adhered to his beliefs and his principles should be noted and appreciated by all who read the book. I downloaded it to my Kindle last night and just finished it. I saw no issues at all with the formatting of the book for Kindle and I highly recommend it.,Obviously the title is what I used to give this book a chance. Having just read Walden, I wanted to see what a person's experiences who lived in a van was like to the great pond of Thoreau. Now as other's have pointed out, Ken did not get the van until later in the book (my Kindle indicated 66% before the Van was introduced), but I dont think that deters from the worth of the book.
The book is a journey of a young man who not only wanted to pay off his students debts, but live simply enough to not incur more debt. Though the story is the world views of someone in their 20s, his feelings and observations are no less worthy of inspection. Overall I felt Ken's journey was inspiring, even if it didnt have the depth of its namesake.
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