This was a big hurdle for me to get over when I first started playing with Node.js on my Ubuntu desktops and Debian servers. It was like the Ruby version thing all over again. Times a thousand. I didn't really want to commit to one-off programs like learnyounode to be stuck in my /usr/local forever. I thought the thing to do was to use node's prefix option but even then I wasn't sure I wanted the prefix/bin files to be in my $PATH all the time.
I found it tedious after a while to type such a long command. Especially when adding program arguments. So I used a simple alias for that shell instance:
You can do one or the other or whatever you like. I decided that even learnyounode was annoying to keep typing so I used lyn.
I really like this solution for working with these interactive programs. I will see what challenges arise as I get more advanced in my node.js and npm usage. I can foresee wanting a "user local" install but still wanting to slip in and out of it. Maybe using a chroot or something.