Reading Walden on Wheels and Nicaragua, Just Maybe

Lately I have been on a travel and adventure reading spree including  A Walk in the Woods, just finishing up Vagabonding which was recommended by Tim Ferriss, and Walden on Wheels, my personal favorite.(Amazon affiliate for each book, although I would rather have you shop at your local public library, I know I did).

For those of you who have not heard of Ken Ilgunas the author of Walden on Wheels, you may better remember him as the college student who lived in a van while attending Graduate school at Duke University.  At the time when I read the article a couple years back, I first thought of Chris Farley and the famous SNL skit about Nick Foley living in a van down by the river, which is funny enough for me to share it here.


After I got past the SNL skit memory, I moved on to thinking that Ken Ilgunas might be on to something if it meant graduating school debt free.  In fact it brought up something I have said to myself about going to get my MBA, “Unless someone is paying for my all of my schooling I am not going to college to go back and take out more student loans, no thank you”.  That has changed a little over time, mostly because my desire to go back and get my MBA is so low on my priority scale that I have included stipulations including: my employer pays for the full cost of attending the University of Oregon in their Sports MBA program.  So I just have to get my place of employment to hand over $35,000 per year (not including books, housing, etc probably closer to $50,000) to receive a Sports MBA degree that has almost nothing to do with my current career, while picking up and moving just a little over 2,200 miles away to Eugene, Oregon.  I think I have enough barriers to entry to keep me away.  Walden on Wheels takes another approach and looked for a way to attend college and graduate debt free.

I’m certainly not going to give you a book report since I most likely failed summarizing books in English and Language Arts (not reading, language arts) many times, so I will not repeat my failures.  I do however want to share what I really liked about the book in a few bullet points:

  • Debt Journey.  The book is his journey to pay off debt, taking many hitchhiked and low paying roads along the way.
  • Adventure.  If you feel stuck at your 9-5 or can’t stand staring at your gray cubicle wall for one more moment, you might want to give this book a read.
  • Find Yourself.  Learns more and more about himself and what he is capable of.  Hiking mountains, living in Alaska and the wilderness, and of course living in a van to keep a promise to himself that he would graduate debt free.
  • Financial Freedom.  Over time he realizes what is important to him, he thought it was escaping debt, but it became more than that.

I always know when I really like a book, because I will read the book on the train from work to home, then again before I go to sleep, and even on the weekends when I have some free time, I did all 3 of these.  He’s a great writer with a really interesting story that you just don’t read about every day.  I don’t see myself living in a 1994 Econoline van, but I did relate to the freedom he found on his journey, I hope to find that freedom and more on my journey to financial independence.  My recommendation is to grab it from your local library and enjoy!


A quiet weekend was had in the Even Steven Money household, but something did catch my attention that has been swimming in my mind ever since. During our morning walk with our Siberian Husky Angel a small discussion broke out about how much Mrs. Even Steven enjoyed her time living in Nicaragua.  I have briefly mentioned the idea of Nicaragua before, mostly as a travel destination, but this time we talked in more detail.  I always have had the idea we would vacation for 3-6 months in Nicaragua, the mountains and ocean are beautiful along with the cost of living make it an easy sell.  I figured during the winter months or even summer months, we would make our way to an island living location or feel the cool mountain breeze, without the need or desire for a coat.  The idea of a quieter life with less noise and responsibility around us could be captured in a small country like Nicaragua.  What if the price was right, we could even buy an entire house.  The dream and the reality were soon sharing stories, the internet was pushing for Nicaragua.  I mean why not?


Maybe $2,400,000 is out of the budget, but the idea of Nicaragua is still looking out over the views of that house.

The final plan is a few years out, but that does not make the conversations any less interesting.  I see us traveling almost exclusively during that first year, giving ourselves the freedom of travel a full taste.  Eventually a place to call home will call our names, I imagine the house being a small treasure that we are happy to rest our heads.  As we wake up each morning we begin to realize that while we enjoy our home, a vacation destination could be the best thing for us.  We enjoyed our trip to Nicaragua before and now begin to try out the 3 month rental to enjoy the coffee, mountains, and perfect my surfing skills and by that I mean learn to surf.  We travel back to the states, but everything feels a little faster and a little less familiar than before.  A new adventure begins when we purchase a new home that sleeps 6, because of our new found love to share Nicaragua we have started a small Airbnb to promote tourism and extra cash to begin our hand in our new business adventures that occupy our time.  Surf school, coffee farm, craft brewery, one never knows where life is leading you to, but imagining the journey and a destination or two along the way can bring a smile to your face if you do.

What’s your Financial Independence dream?  Does it have many variations? Have you ever imagined yourself heading to that place in your mind?

8 Responses to “Reading Walden on Wheels and Nicaragua, Just Maybe

  • Do you know how to surf? If so, surf school could be awesome. If you dream of the beach, I think its somewhat of a fast road to FI. You basically only have to pay for a shack to live in with running water. Then you spend the whole day on the beach. This requires very little money.

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      I went surfing once in California with a friend, but to say I know how to surf would be far from it:) If we went about the surfing, shack, food method probably could head down there today.

  • It sounds like a great time! Anytime you can get the freedom away from a real job, it is a blessing. Dreams are the start of reality.
    No Nonsense Landlord recently posted…Countdown To Retirement – Financial Check Up 06/2015My Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      I like that “Dreams are the start of reality”.

  • I’ll definitely put Walden on Wheels on my to-read list. Plus I love that skit and randomly remember it every year or so and play it on Youtube for some laughs. My hobbies and interests are always changing so my FI plans are not set in stone. I think I’ll always at least want a small house in the US as a home base, and maybe will travel for 3 months or so out of the year.
    Fervent Finance recently posted…HSA InvestmentsMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      Yeah give it a read I think many people who are on the journey to FI will appreciate what he went through and the adventures he takes. Really good point, everything in our lives change along the way, nice to keep an open mind on our FI destinations.

  • I freakin’ love Ken Ilgunas and Walden on Wheels. Just wish he’d write more! He also did this great op-ed in the NYT about living in a house without heat, that was great as usual. Thanks for recommending it to your readers — would do everyone a load of good to read Ken’s stuff.
    Our Next Life recently posted…On Potential, and Not Reaching Ours // Is Disappointment Inherent in Early Retirement?My Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      I’ll have to read the house without heat article, I saw some pics and was wondering what was going on, haha.

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