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In 2006, Ken Ilgunas graduated from the University of Buffalo owing a shocking $32,000.00 for student loans he took out to finance his education, and found he had very limited prospects for paying it back. Ashamed at finding himself so deep in debt, he resolves to pay the debt back as quickly as possible, and in order to do so, takes a summer job cleaning motel rooms in Coldfoot, Alaska, a tiny truck stop on the Dalton Highway. The pay is lousy, but room and board is included with the job, so by living as cheaply as possible, Ilgunas is able to put all the money he makes towards paying down his debt. Thus, he embarks on a mission, somewhat informed by Henry David Thoreau's Walden, to live as simply (and frugally) as he can, which leads to a bout of 'van-dwelling' while a graduate student at Duke University.
Ilgunas is frequently somewhat clueless, occasionally crass, and distinctly prone to navel-gazing, but that is unsurprising, considering that the events of the book take place when he is in his early 20s. However, the thoughtfulness, humor and relevance of the book's topic outweigh the few weaknesses. It made me laugh out loud, but also made me consider the sky-rocketing cost of education and living in this country, the amount of debt Americans incur, and how we could change the way we live.
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