Having just paid off my loans from college (and we’re still paying on my wife’s), Ken Ilgunas’ story of how he lived in a van to avoid student loan debt really speaks to me. While attending graduate school at Duke University, Ilgunas skipped the dorm room and off-campus apartments to live out of a Ford Econoline van parked in a campus parking lot. He ate the cheapest food and showered at the gym. I regret not doing this myself.
Ilgunas opens the piece with a suspenseful tale of almost being caught by campus police, which he likely accurately saw as the potential end to his innovative and cost-saving abode. I think it’s interesting that universities will allow on-campus students to leave cars parked in the same spot for a month, but would quickly put an end to a student lived in one of them. What does it hurt? Seems like an efficient use of space and resources to me.
After reliving the entertaining details of the van life, Ilgunas makes a sound point about America’s easy relationship with massive debt:
“Nor is it unusual for students to unflinchingly take out massive loans that’ll take them years, sometimes decades, to pay off. Willingness to go into debt, of course, isn’t just confined to students; we’re a nation in debt, collectively and individually. Going into debt today is as American as the 40-hour work week; or the stampede of Wal-Mart warriors on Black Friday; or the hillocks of gifts under a Christmas tree.”
Spot-on, in my opinion. We like to ignore our current debt while we continue the march to collect more. He then shares his thoughts on a life that voluntarily dismisses things that “would be nice”, since no matter how much you have there are always other things that you can imagine being nice to have.
So, could you live in a van? Or are you like me and asking “when can I live in a van?”