Less Stuff, More Handpan with Dan Price

Fascinating conversation with Dan Price about lifestyle design, consumerism and art. Known as the man who lives in the hobbit hole, Dan shares his handpan story and philosophy.

Click here to download Dan's ebook: HANDPAN LOVE.

The Handpan Podcast has MERCH!

Watch the documentary about Dan Price's Hobbit Hole below:

Podcast Transcription

Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain. And this is the handpan podcast.

Today's episode is one I'm excited to share because it touches on intentional living. If we are blessed enough to have the luxury to decide how we want to live our lives, we can make lifestyle choices, big and small, that will take us closer to where we want to be. Dan Price is a friend of mine from the handpan world who has designed his life around simplicity. Through a series of major life decision but also minor everyday edits, he now enjoys a life that's free from financial stress and crazy schedules and that allows him to live simply and to follow his artistic pursuits. In this conversation, you will hear why Dan chose that path and how it has changed his relationship to making art, through the handpan. Let's get to it.

Sylvain: Hi Dan. Thanks for being on the podcast.

Dan: Hey, thank you. Appreciate you getting this gone again.

Sylvain: My pleasure. Where are you calling from today?

Dan: Yeah, I'm in my little two acre meadow in Oregon that I've lived in for about 30 years. I just live a real simple life here and a little underground hobbit hole.

Sylvain: Yeah, and that's sort of why I'm asking because most people know you as the man who lives in the hobbit hole and I know you live part of the year there and then you spend part of the rest of the year surfing. Is that right?

Dan: Yeah, I lived, uh, I've been doing this for 30, almost 30 years, 29 years and about 10 years ago I got tired of the difficult winners and went out and learned how to surf and now I go away for half the year, the winter months, and just live in my van and surf all winter.

Sylvain: Oh, that's fun. And it's funny because the latest guest that I had on the show was pierce flynn, another fellow surfer. Sure. I know. Have you guys ever surfed together?

Dan: Well, we tried and then he took off with another guy down on the beach and I never did get to surf with them, but I think it's going to happen this winter.

Sylvain: Oh, fun.

Dan: Yeah, he's a great guy.

Sylvain: Absolutely. So you kind of hinted at it, but there's a lot to your lifestyle. Would you mind sharing a little bit more about sort of what set you on a path to tiny living and how that journey has evolved over these past few decades?

Dan: Yeah, I think, I mean, I was an odd little kid I built fort all the time. I built a cabin when I was 15 years old and um, I was always in the woods building things. We lived next to a wood, so always wanted to live simply. And then I went out and had a career in news photography and was a regular guy with a mortgage and went through a divorce and decided when I came back to Oregon that I don't want to even rent. I don't want to own land. I don't want to own a house. And so I went out on a quest to find some property that I could put a tee-pee and darned if I didn't find it right almost in the middle of town, but it's on a river. And that was 1990 and started out in a tee-pee and went through about five different structures, um, to find the most ideal little teeny thing that I could live in and just kept weeding things out and editing my life. And now it's down to practically nothing and I just really enjoy living that way with no things around. I think the reason I liked that is because I can focus really strongly on my heart, which was photography that it was drawing and writing and then it was surfing and now it's hand-panning and I can spend all day sitting there playing a handpan if I, if I want to.

Sylvain: There is a documentary on Youtube about your journey with the tee-pee and then the, uh, the beach cabin that you built and now the hobbit hole, which is sort of what most people know you for. Um, it's about a 30 minute long documentary and it's got over a million views. Um, but it's a really good way for, for people to get to know you a little bit more. Um, I watched it a couple days ago before our interview today. And I would recommend for folks who are interested to check it out because it's really fascinating.

Dan: Yeah. That's just right there on my youtube channel. My website is and there's a youtube button right on the website and that's where you can go look at some of the videos. So, yeah, you know, I think the reason it has so many views is, and I get an email every day from somewhere in the world, someone's saying, Oh my God, I love that video. I wish I could live like you do your, you know, you're an inspiration. I have. My life is too busy and on and on and um, it is unusual to live so incredibly simple. But the joys, uh, that I find in living that way or just endless, it's amazing. Like I said, I have simply, um, there's one thing that stands out in my mind, is it gives you so much more time to do what you want to do rather than going off everyday, leaving some house that you're renting or buying and um, to pay for it, you've got to go away to your job every day and you're gone all day. So I get to stay right here in the meadow and, and do, do my thing right here in the meadow. So I'm pretty lucky.

Sylvain: And you're obviously very handy. You've built all these rooms, these structures yourself and they look really nice, really comfortable, warm. You've got electricity. What's interesting to me is that you got into minimalism and tiny living before it became popular.

Dan: Oh, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and I learned how to build back in the day when I got out of high school. I got into construction and learned how to frame houses and was building houses in Sun Valley and way back then, um, I got a tip that there was a teepee up a canyon and some girl was living in a teepee. And this was back in the in the mid seventies. And I go, really? That's amazing. I got to go see that. So my gal and I jumped in our pickup and found it. We drove up this canyon and there was this big teepee sitting there and we, and she wasn't home, but we peeked inside and we just looked at each other and said, oh my God, that's, that's our ultimate goal to live like that because it's all about being free. Like I said. So that was quite a long time ago, you know, that that was a big influence.

Sylvain: So minimalism is about the concept that less is more and it's a very intentional lifestyle to sort of minimize the distractions in your life so that you can maximize the things that matter for you. I wonder, how did the handpan make it into your very selective and intentional lifestyle and why?

Dan: Yeah. Um, I actually had a podcast called sound journal back in 2011 and 12 and I kind of burned out and quit doing it. But what I was doing was, because I was a news photographer for 10 years, I knew how to interview people and find stories out in the community and I was going around sort of making a sound journal of source where I can read people surfers and I was also doing electronic music on a little like electronic handheld device. And it was really getting into that, um, spent a couple of years messing with that thing and pretty much squeaked every sound I could out of it. And it was time to go get the next bigger device for $1,000. And I had remembered my first go around with a handpan in 2010 and I actually got a halo from Kyle and decided after three months I couldn't play it. Didn't know how to figure it out and send it back to them, which is amazing. And then I got into electronic music for two years and when I was getting ready to buy this bigger piece of electronic gear, I just said to myself, you know, I said two things. First of all, electronic music is kind of cool, but it's electronic. I don't know if I really want to do that, don't I really want to go back and figure out how to play a handpan. And also the other thing that I was thinking at the same time was the world needs that beautiful sound, you know, that the crazy world that we all live in now really needs handpan sound. It's so calming and you know, when you're busking, you see how it affects people. So I decided, no, I'm not going to get the electronic device, I'm going to try and get a handpan. And of course it was really difficult to get one and in 2014 I was able to get a Zen. So that's, that's how it all started again. And those were the reasons why I got got back into it.