Walden on Wheels
In this 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 journey, 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 followed. What had begun as a simple mission would become an enlightening and life-changing social experiment.

Walden on Wheels Details

Book TitleWalden on Wheels
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Walden on Wheels Reviews

  • Erik
    Jul 25, 2016


    I saw mention of Ilunas' most recent book, but wanted to read this one first. I'm glad that I did. This is his story of graduating from college with $32,000 of debt, and dedicating himself to becoming debt-free. Each chapter begins with a tally of his level of debt as he slowly chips a...

  • MyACPL Athens County Public Libraries
    Jul 11, 2016

    MyACPL Athens County Public Libraries

    from Laura:This is a worthwhile and inspiring story, but...eh. The writing style didn't really grab me. Iglunas' metaphors and scenarios were overdone and distracting, as when a mouse got into his van: "I imagined one of the bolder members of the colony slinking into my sleeping bag at...

  • Carmen
    Mar 28, 2016


    My goal was simple and straightforward: get the fuck out of debt as fast as humanly possible.This book was excellent. Ilgunas is funny and also asks some very important questions about life and civilization. He works tons of odd jobs to work off his $32,000 debt for undergrad, and late...

  • Cher
    Mar 25, 2016


    I enjoyed this memoir very much - it appealed to my consumer misfit and minimalist tendencies, as well as my love for the environment, particularly wilderness areas and the Alaskan frontier, and finally, it was a love letter for those rooting for more self-sufficient and independent fu...

  • Jody
    Feb 10, 2016


    It's not often that a book changes your whole outlook on life. Reading Walden on Wheels was a transformative experience for me. I no longer have any desire for material things or for career success. Instead, my main goal in life is to find Ken Ilgunas and punch him in the frigging face...

  • Happyreader
    Jul 21, 2014


    This is a book about panic. Kid mindlessly plays video games through his teens, mindless about school and other interests. Mindlessly follows his friend to a second-rate, overpriced private college just because. Didn’t really like or pay attention to school. Doesn’t think abo...

  • Aaron Ash
    Mar 11, 2014

    Aaron Ash

    Why I decided to read this book:I like memoirs where people take a unique approach to life, to become more self-reliant, and overcome various obstacles.Why did I give it the rating: **(It was okay)The story and the author are compelling. There are several good lines and insights. The a...

  • Juli Sharratt
    Feb 27, 2014

    Juli Sharratt

    RekindleJust before my 18th birthday, I dropped out of college on the east coast, sold everything I owned and purchased a one-way Greyhound ticket to California for $50. There I shared a 3-bedroom house with 12 other people. And I gave birth to my son. He and I lived in a mail truck in...

  • Denise
    Feb 9, 2014


    I debated giving the book 2 stars because I actually liked the book and the main character for the first third of the book or so. It made me a little more sympathetic to the millennial generation -- coming out of college, faced with debt. Not because I think their situation is really s...

  • Dominic Tiberio
    Feb 9, 2014

    Dominic Tiberio

    Vapid. That sums up the entire book in a single word. Walden on Wheels is a complete letdown in almost every respect. 90% fluff and whining and 10% life, and the most interesting aspects of Ken's life are either glossed over or skipped entirely. 3/4 of the way through the book and you ...