Desperate Equals Debt Free

The lengths some people go to


Desperate times call for desperate measures. And having $32,000 in student loan debt with little income will make someone fairly desperate.

“I had this huge $32,000 student debt and at the time I was pushing carts at Home Depot, making $8 an hour,” said Ken Ilgunas, who turned his tassel in 2005 and walked out of the University of Buffalo with majors in English and history–as well as no job prospects.

Ilgunas was in a situation that many others have found themselves in. But he dealt with it in a way that few others ever would. Rather than defer the loans or declare forbearance, or even ask his parents for help, he went drastic. He moved from Buffalo to Coldfoot, Alaska, and started paying off his debt.

Why Alaska? Because he had spent the summer before graduation working at a remote truck stop there. “It’s 250 miles from the nearest store, room and board were included, and there wasn't any cell service,” Ilgunas said of the place where he did everything from being a tour guide to cook.

After a year, he found his way to Mississippi as an AmeriCorps volunteer for six months. When that gig was up, he headed back to Coldfoot and started working for the Gates of Arctic National Park as a ranger in the backcountry. Two and a half years after starting the whole process, he made the last payment on $35,000 in Sallie Mae loans (counting interest).

But the story doesn’t end there.

He later enrolled in graduate school at Duke University in North Carolina (we know, we know ... What?). But he had learned from the past well enough. Instead of taking out more student loans, Ilgunas lived in his van to keep his bills down. One of the things he figured out while on the road was “that I was never going back into debt again.”

This journey obviously was not easy–heck, we got tired just writing about it. But not only does Ilgunas have no debt and a great education, he also has a fantastic story to tell.

This is a great time to ask yourself, What will my story be? What will you accomplish to get out of debt? It’s not a matter of how impressive it is versus someone else’s story. Whatever extra effort you make will be impressive.

As will the debt-free results.

Source: Business Insider

Reader Comments (3)

His book is very inspiring "Walden on Wheels" He lived got his cost of living down to $4 and change a day.
Member at 10:10 PM, July 10 2013
Sounds like a very determined man with a bright future and wisdom to share. Will show this to my teens.
Member at 7:47 PM, July 12 2013
What did he use at his "permanent address" for mail to go to while he was in college?
Member at 5:09 PM, January 20 2014