Cool story. One amazing millennial dude.
The complete story with pictures is here;
He wrote a book. Here;
The Duke university graduate student who spent TWO YEARS living in his van so he could avoid more student loan debt
Ken Ilgunas paid off a $32,000 student loan and finished a second degree with money to spare by secretly living in his van for two years.
By braving roadside public toilets, a bean-heavy diet and mice scampering where he slept, the native New Yorker gained a masters degree at Duke University and a lifetime of incredible memories.
But one of the many downsides was that he couldn’t tell other students, in case they reported him to security who would have kicked him off the campus parking lot.
Ilgunas made the dramatic decision after he graduated with ‘unmarketable’ English and history majors in 2005 and was rejected from 25 paid internships.
Fearing his $8-an-hour job pushing carts at Home Depot wouldn’t help him pay off his $32,000 University of Buffalo undergraduate degree loan, Ilgunas became ‘frantic’.
‘That was a wake-up call,’ he told Business Insider.
‘I had no idea what I was getting into at the time.
‘I didn’t even know what interest was when I was 17.
‘I just think that’s awfully indicative of the incredibly poor personal finance education young people have at that time in their lives.’
Instead of asking his parents for the cash or declaring forbearance, he moved interstate, enrolled in a liberal arts graduate course at Duke University and bought a $1,500 van.
Determined to get his degree debt-free and inspired by the frugal philosophy of Henry Thoreau, he lived out of his 1994 Ford Econoline van – fitted out like a dorm-room – on the campus parking lot.
While he saved a lot of money, van-dwelling had its drawbacks.
‘Mice would move into my ceiling upholstery, washing pots and pans became so inconvenient I stopped washing them altogether, and the bathroom was a quarter-mile sprint from my parking space,’ he wrote in his book, Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road from Debt to Freedom.
Freezing winters, hovering campus police and living in a confined space tested Ilgunas’ limits over two years.
He survived by cooking in a makeshift kitchen, eating simple meals of beans and cereal, and showering at the gym.
He kept his van-dwelling a secret from fellow students and security, and took a range of casual range of jobs.
But Ilgunas said his simple mission became a life-changing experience.
And he got his degree, debt-free.
‘But people adapt, mice are flattened with frying pans, and bladders grow firm and strong,’ Ilgunas wrote for the Huffington Post.
‘In the end, living in a van would prove to be a life-altering education – in personal finance, in the resiliency of the human body, and in how we can turn our wildest, weirdest dreams into realities – an education arguably more valuable than that which I’d receive in the classroom.’