How I Afforded Duke by Living in a Van

One grad student's experiment with 'radical living'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2009 12:26 PM CST
Ken Ilgunas lived in a Ford Econoline van, a little like this one.   (AP Photo/Aynsley Floyd)

(Newser) – Ken Ilgunas wanted to go to grad school without going into debt, so he bought a 1994 Ford Econoline van and a parking sticker, and called it home. He lived on frugal meals cooked on a camping stove, showered at the gym, used a sleeping bag for heat. To some, this might conjure Chris Farley, but to him the van was “what Walden was to Thoreau,” he writes in Salon. “It was an adventure.”

It hasn’t been easy. Washing dishes became so hard he gave up, ants infested the van, the place started to smell. Worst of all was the loneliness—he told no one of his experiment, and avoided much human contact for fear someone would find out. But ultimately he loved the van, and still lives in it. He pities his fellow students, most of whom won't be able to escape student debt, "even if they do resort to purchasing a large, creepy van." (Read more college tuition stories.)

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