These are a few of my favorite things: #39(Walden on Wheels : On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas)

Pic courtesy New york times

Pic courtesy New york times

This book takes us on an inspiring journey as we get to know how the author Ken Ilgunas frees himself from a massive educational loan by following the simplicity n frugality model of Thoreau’s Walden.

I was drawn to the book for 3 main reasons. First, I found Ilgunas’ desire to live super frugally in order to pay his loans Very refreshing. This is totally opposite of what I see the kids doing in India(majority though definitely not all).  Parents here  finance the most expensive education of kids, even taking loans in their own names. & after that if these kids don’t get a high paying job which  they feel they deserve, they won’t pick up some small jobs to support themselves + they never dream of cutting down their royal extravagant lifestyle. They must have all the luxuries: expensive gym memberships,  expensive food items. Even after draining their parents financially, they behave irresponsibly, can’t be bothered to switch of lights n fans even when not in use (electricity bills be damned, after all parent will be paying for that too in any case), they can’t even pick up after themselves or do things around home (they need to have their personal servants). The standards of living of these shameless, self entitled youth is very high. Ken Ilgunas is indeed the role model this generation needs.

Second I’ve always admired Thoreau’s experiments in solitude, simplicity & frugality.

Third I find the calm, quite life full of simplicity, solitude & grace which the author led far more desirable & charming than the grotesque life of the Filthy Rich n Famous

Here is an excerpt from the book:

My experiment began in the spring semester of 2009 when I enrolled in the graduate liberal studies department. Months before, I had just finished paying off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans — no easy feat for an English major.

To pay off my debt, I’d found jobs that provided free room and board. I moved to Coldfoot, Alaska — 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 250 from the nearest store — where I worked as a lodge cleaner, a tour guide and a cook. Later, I worked on a trail crew in Mississippi in an AmeriCorps program. Between jobs I hitchhiked more than 7,000 miles to avoid paying airfare. When I couldn’t find work, I moved in with friends. My clothes came from donation bins, I had friends cut my hair, and I’d pick up odd jobs when I could. Nearly every dime I made went into my loans.

I hated my debt more than anything. I dragged it with me wherever I went. While I was still leading an exciting, adventurous life, I knew I could never truly be free until my debt was gone.

I finally got out of the red when I landed a well-paying job with the Park Service as a backcountry ranger. Finally, after two and a half years of work, my debt was gone. I had four grand in the bank that was mine. All mine. It was the first time I had actual money that hadn’t been borrowed or given to me since I was a 13-year-old paperboy.

The more money I had borrowed, I came to realize, the more freedom I had surrendered. Yet, I still considered my education — as costly as it was — to be priceless. So now, motivated to go back to school yet determined not to go back into debt, I had to think outside the box. Or, as Henry David Thoreau might suggest, inside one.

In “Walden,” Thoreau mentioned a 6 foot-by-3 foot box he had seen by the railroad in which laborers locked up their tools at night. A man could live comfortably in one of these boxes, he thought. Nor would he have to borrow money and surrender freedom to afford a “larger and more luxurious box.”

And so: I decided to buy a van. Though I had never lived in one, I knew I had the personality for it. I had a penchant for rugged living, a sixth sense for cheapness, and an unequaled tolerance for squalor.

My first order of business upon moving to Duke was to find my “Walden on Wheels.” After a two-hour bus ride into the North Carolinian countryside, I caught sight of the ’94 Ford Econoline that I had found advertised on Craigslist. Googly-eyed, I sauntered up to it and lovingly trailed fingertips over dents and chipped paint. The classy cabernet sauvignon veneer at the top slowly, sensuously faded downward into lustrous black. I got behind the wheel and revved up the fuel-funneling beast. There was a grumble, a cough, then a smooth and steady mechanical growl. It was big, it was beautiful, and — best of all — it was $1,500.

I bought it immediately. So began what I’d call “radical living.”

My “radical living” experiment convinced me that the things plunging students further into debt — the iPhones, designer clothes, and even “needs” like heat and air conditioning, for instance — were by no means “necessary.” And I found it easier to “do without” than I ever thought it would be. Easier by far than the jobs I’d been forced to take in order to pay off my loans.

Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.

I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.

Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Not only is his story of adventure very gripping n absorbing, but the book is peppered with little gems of wisdom like these:

“Reading sixteenth-century French poetry, suffering through Kant, and studying the finer points of the Jay Treaty may seem to be, on first appearance, completely, utterly, irrefutably pointless, yet somehow in studying, discussing, and writing about these ‘pointless’ subjects, the liberal arts have the capacity to turn on a certain part of the brain that makes us ask ourselves questions like: 

Who am I?  What’s worth fighting for? Who’s lying to us? What’s my purpose? What’s the point of it all? 

Perhaps many students would rather not be irritated with these questions, yet being compelled to grapple with them, it seems, can make us far less likely to be among those who’ll conform, remain complacent, or seek jobs with morally ambiguous employers” (p. 243).

“Discomforts are only discomforting when they’re an unexpected inconvenience, an unusual annoyance, an unplanned-for irritant. Discomforts are only discomforting when we aren’t used to them. But when we deal with the same discomforts every day, they become expected and part of the routine, and we are no longer afflicted with them the way we were…Give your body the chance to harden, your blood to thicken, and your skin to toughen, and you’ll find that the human body carries with it a weightless wardrobe. When we’re hardy in mind and body, we can select from an array of outfits to comfortably bear most any climate”

This book would be of huge interest not only for students, but for anyone seeking simple, spartan, frugal n calm way of living. We need more young guys like Ken Ilgunas n we need more inspirational tales like this.

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September 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity. Leave a comment.

Quitting the Rat Race #5: Can Money/stuff Buy Happiness? Putting Things in Perspective


That is the lure of money: It lets people believe that they can be happy with money only if they have just a little more!!!

Yeah Money buys you stress n tension but not to worry it will come handy to buy anti-depressants !!!

That is the lure of money: It lets people believe that they can be happy with money only if they have just a little more!!!



 

September 15, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Consumerism, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Simplicity, Wisdom. 5 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #4: Killing the cycle of consumerism & (over) work

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Image by 特有生物研究保育中心 via Flickr

I guess there is a very close inter connection between  simplicity (living simply enjoying peace rather than stuff), frugality (saving money whenever & wherever we can but still feeling rich & luxurious: yes it is possible), solitude (enjoying time alone n you no longer see the Joneses, so no danger of falling into the trap of trying to compete with them) anti consumerism (stop finding joy in stuff) minimizing our (carbon) footprints on the planet (it makes me uneasy when people come loaded with poly bags containing stuff they don’t even need) & quitting the rat race (goodbye work, hello leisure).

 When we embrace simplicity, frugality & an anti consumerist lifestyle, quitting work is a piece of cake…no more working at a job we don’t want, to buy the stuff we don’t need, to impress the people we don’t even like, & in the bargain plundering the beautiful nature which we actually love!!!

In their ground breaking book ‘ Your Money or your life: 9 steps to transforming your relationship with money‘, authors Vicki Robbins & Joe dominquez say we must not measure the cost of any stuff in terms of money we spend on it but in terms of ‘life energy‘ we have to spend to earn that money. They have redefined the concept of money itself. Money doesn’t simply mean a ‘medium of exchange’ but ‘Money is something for which you trade life energy’. 

In order to apply this principle, you first calculate your hourly wage.  You will then see exactly how much your life energy is worth, and you will be able to measure the cost of money spent in terms of valuable life energy lost, instead of just dollars/rupees/whatever.  (This would come handy in cutting down spending money on useless stuff)

Once you have finished, you can do some eye-opening conversions.  For example:

How much life energy do you spend at convenience stores/restaurants daily?  Could you spend less and still be happy if you cooked at home? & we could think in these term whenever buying stuff big/small. I mean we don’t even need to carry out exact calculations. A general grasp of this concept makes us a little more aware when we are about to spend money.

I am very happy to report that I’ve cut down my own consumption in several areas once i became aware of the concept of ‘life energy’ value of money. This was my precursor to quitting the Rat Race.

‘My dad did not change his lifestyle, he early on recognized that there is a power in keeping a low overhead, he realized that there is a line that balance between having what you want and doing what you want and the more you have what you want the less you will do what you want. So once he says, I have a pair of jeans, a pair of boots and 2 jackets, I can do anything.’
Mario Van Peebles on the accomplishments of his father Melvin Van Peebles.

For me this arrangement works out just fine ‘cos perhaps I’ve been lucky to realize that stuff  ≠ Joy. My home has very simple furniture, just the bare functional basics & I just roll my eyes when I see people’s house that ceased being homes long ago & resemble more closely to museums, they have assorted nick knacks from all over the world displayed proudly (i think comically) in HUGE shelves. So much money down, the drain, so much life energy wasted’ & so much clutter. Spend money & buy head-ache. & more life energy to be wasted on cleaning the dust accumulated on all that stuff.

Ponder Over These too:

“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Much of our activity these days is nothing more than a cheap anaesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.” – Unknown

“The things you own end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden in Fight Club

‘There must be more to life than having everything!’~Maurice Sendak

“There is enough on earth for everybody’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”~Gandhi

With money you can’t buy wisdom, you can’t buy inner peace. Wisdom and inner peace must be created by yourself.~Dalai Lama

“Man…sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” ~The Dalai Lama (when asked what surprises him the most about humanity)

September 15, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Current Events, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Personal, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom. 8 comments.

The Inspiring Life of Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) in June 1856 (...

Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps Thoreau was among the first minimalists. In March 1845, when he was 28 years old, he borrowed an axe from a friend & went to the country near Concord to a lake called Walden Pond. His purpose was to see whether or not he could be happy living alone close to nature, without any possession except what was absolutely necessary.

At Walden he used the axe to cut down trees & made a simple little cabin 10 Ft wide & 15 Ft long, with a closet, a small room above, a brick fireplace, windows at the sides & a door facing the waters of the pond. Altogether the cost of his home was only 28$ & 12C. Inside Thoreau had a desk, a table, 3 chairs & a mirror all of which he made himself. Cooking pots & dishes came as gifts from friends.

Thoreau Lived at Walden for almost 2 years, spending very little money. During this time he earned a few Dollars by doing small jobs & by selling vegetables which he grew. He was thus able to live working 6 weeks of the year, leaving the rest of the time free for reading & exploring the woods.

In his book Walden he wrote that he did not believe that Labor, Property or responsibility made a person better or more spiritual.  The poorest people of all, he wrote, are those who have gathered worthless things for which they had no real use. They have created their own gold/silver chains.

In his days thousands of people were rushing to california to search for gold. Thoreau thought such people were fools. His thought was that people should stay & plough the land rather than look for gold which is of no real value.

Memorable Quotes by Thoreau:

~ And the cost of a thing it will be remembered is the amount of life it requires to be exchanged for it.

~That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.

~Simplify, simplify.

~Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.

~If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.

~Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at.

~If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours … In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.

~If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. As if a town had no interest in its forests but to cut them down!

~Most men would feel insulted, if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back, merely that they might earn their wages. But many are no more worthily employed now.

~Perhaps I am more than usually jealous with respect to my freedom. I feel that my connection with and obligation to society are still very slight and transient. Those slight labors which afford me a livelihood, and by which it is allowed that I am to some extent serviceable to my contemporaries, are as yet commonly a pleasure to me, and I am not often reminded that they are a necessity. So far I am successful. But I foresee, that, if my wants should be much increased, the labor required to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure, that, for me, there would be nothing left worth living for.

~I did not know that mankind were suffering for want of gold. I have seen a little of it. I know that it is very malleable, but not so malleable as wit. A grain of gold will gild a great surface, but not so much as a grain of wisdom.

~When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is, that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office.

January 11, 2011. Tags: . Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Quotations, Reading, Simplicity, Wisdom. 3 comments.