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I live 20ft in the air in a tiny home I made myself

Dec 22, 2023Dec 22, 2023

A MAN has transformed a scissor-lift airplane truck into his dream home and says the unusual residence saves him $4,000 a month in bills.

When retired pilot Mark Pankey first purchased his box truck in 2020, he intended it to be a temporary stopgap while building his dream home in the mountains.

But after spending three years in the van, the 51-year-old has fallen in love with the converted one-man house and has abandoned his other property plans.

The house moves too - to date, Mark has traveled 13,000 miles in the rig, often raising the trailer 20ft in the air using the attached scissor lift.

"This has been the most fun I’ve ever had – freedom, one day at a time, no stress, no bills," Pankey, from Louisiana, said.

"You don't need much money to enjoy life!

"[The renovation] cost roughly $30-35k."

In 2017, Pankey bought 1.5 acres of land in Colorado for $187,000, intending to build his perfect home in the Colorado mountains with a landing strip, allowing him to fly to work in Denver.

While working on his plan, Pankey stayed in hotels, however, these soon added up, and he decided to buy a van, using this as his base of operations during the build.

Having seen an airline catering truck, Pankey set his sites, spending $3,300 on the vehicle.

He said: "I knew I could save money by using a van and building it out partially to stay in before and after work if needed.

"I did this for about 3 years and saved a ton of money to put towards my house project.

"After all this time in a van, I quickly realized this was actually a simple and fun way to live.

"So….at work, while deplaning and fueling up, the provisioning (catering) trucks service the plane, and I’ve always been intrigued with them since day one."

Deciding the truck was his future, Pankey began converting the truck, spending seven months transforming the provisions truck into a modern luxury home.

The truck, nicknamed the SnakPak, was stripped clean before receiving a new, sloped roof with solar panels and water harvesting equipment.

Pankey then insulated, welded, and wired the vehicle before fitting a woodstove, fridge, kitchen counter, shower, water heater, and many more luxury amenities.

"There were multiple days where I started at 5 am and would work through midnight," Pankey added.

"This included most of the major components; flooring, walls, fridge, heater, shower, etc.

"To be honest, the house is never really finished, it's a work in progress, as most nomads would say."

Pankey estimates he now saves up to $4,000 a month living in his truck, saving approximately $48,000 a year.

He commented: "I used to pay rent, electric, water, trash, internet, Pandora, Spotify, annual HOA (Homeowners Association) dues, lot water fees, property tax, runway dues, two vehicles insurance (Toyota and box truck).

"Now, living off the grid, I feel like I'm on vacation every day and have almost no bills besides things like a phone bill, Starlink internet, kids allowance, Garmin in-reach subscription (satellite messenger/locator for backcountry emergencies), diesel for a tiny house, gas for pickup, insurance for both rigs (Toyota & box truck).

"A simple life equals a happy life.

"[I’m] detached from major debt (stress-free), new backyard, and neighbors whenever you want.

"Great people to meet on the road who’ve discovered the joy of freedom and living off-grid."

After living in the fully converted truck for two and a half years, Pankey has traveled 13,000 miles across America, towing a Toyota Tacoma along with him for easy days out.

The father of three even gets his kids involved, sometimes joining him on his journey.

"Some think I’m nuts, some think I’m doing life right, and some are highly inspired to do their own builds and life changes.

"My family and kids are very supportive!

"My kids have met me on the road to live with me for a weekend, and we go out hiking, rafting, and fishing."