Part 2 is about Michael Barticel's story, which seems, could be a news headline or a movie plot: selling all his stuff to travel the world. But there's more to that story. I am privileged to dive into the reasons, struggles and lessons of Michael's life, and the role handpan played in it.
Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain! And this is the handpan podcast.
This episode is part 2 of a short series of two separate conversations I had with Michael Barticel. The first chat we had was made for his podcast (The Good People Effect podcast), that's part 1. And this conversation you're about to hear was made for the handpan podcast, this is part 2 that you're listening to.
If you haven't listened to part 1 yet, I think you should because you get to listen in on this really cool conversation that happened between 2 complete strangers. I feel like I had an instant connection with Michael. And in part 1, he's actually interviewing me, so I'm on the opposite side of your typical episode of the handpan podcast. Of course, you always hear snippets from me here and there through my reactions and interactions with guests of this show, but part 1 is by far the most information I've shared about my own journey on this podcast, that's kinda why I called this series "There's More to that Story".
Okay, now turning to this episode. What you're about to hear could be a news headline or even a movie plot: someone who sold all his possessions to travel the world. The thing is, it's about more than that. He's about more than that. I am privileged to dive into the reasons, the struggles and the lessons of Michael's life story, and the role the handpan played for him. So, here we go:
Sylvain: Okay. Great. Well Michael, thank you for joining me for this episode. It's so good to chat with you again.
Michael: Thanks for having me on the show and thank you for the invitation. I'm excited to have another conversation cause I feel like the last one we had was was very enjoyable.
Sylvain: Yes. And I feel like we need to give some background for listeners, this feels like part two of a conversation between you and me because part one happened on your podcast, The Good People Effect podcast, and we'll get into that in a moment. Um, but you were incredibly kind to invite me on your show and it feels great to, uh, now kind of turn the table and get to hear more about your story. Um, and obvious place to start is you have a really cool accent. Michael, where are you from?
Michael: Thank you. It's, it's an Aussie accent and I'm from Melbourne, Australia. It's kind of like the South part of the country. Yeah.
Sylvain: And what time is it there right now?
Michael: So at the moment I'm in, I'm on Vancouver Island in Canada, so it's actually about midday. Where I'm from. I think it's like the next day and some change shorts. It's quite difficult to stay in touch with people from home. But yeah, I'm on Vancouver Island at the moment. It's about midday.
Sylvain: Oh, that's great. What brings you to Vancouver Island?
Michael: Well, I'm on a, it's kind of like a Workaway experience. I really wanted to visit, British Columbia. I felt like there was a lot of natural beauty that I wanted to experience here and I was trying to find a way to do it while still working on the podcast. And I met a guy online that does these, they're kind of like adventure wildlife tours. So we go out on the boat and there's like bear watching and, and we from a distance we look at, um, wildlife whales and Eagles. It's an amazing thing. And it sounded great, um, online and he needed someone to help him run a bed and breakfast on Vancouver Island. And I kind of made a little video and sent it to him. And here I am. So I'm here. I've been here for a couple of months now and I've got about another six weeks to go.
Sylvain: Wow, man, that sounds like a remarkable experience among many, many travel experiences that you've had. And I'm, I'm going to ask you about that. Um, you know, one of the things that I noticed right away when, uh, you reached out to me and I checked out some of your art is the term "today dreamer". This is, uh, your domain name for your website today, dreamer.com. It's also, um, your handle on social media, on Instagram. What does "today dreamer" mean to you? That's it.
Michael: That's an awesome question. No one's actually ever asked me that before. Uh, so today dreamer, for me is, is the idea of having dreams, uh, daily, um, but also acting on them and um, really kind of not sweeping anything under the rug and not kind of daydreaming and trying to be as much as you can, you know, in the moment or something we spoke about in our last conversation as well. Trying to live in the moment as much as possible and letting go of the times that we're not able to do so. But really just taking action. It's like a little reminder to myself to take action on the dreams that I have and really, you know, um, use the tools that I have at my disposal to create something.
Sylvain: Hmm. That's a beautiful juxtaposition because, um, you're right. Oftentimes the term dreamer becomes a caricature, right? Of someone who just lives in their inner world, uh, which is important, but who doesn't take action. And you come across to me as someone who's really balanced that cultivating and nurturing your, your creative, imaginative world, but also pursuing some really adventurous experiences. So it's, it's just a beautiful picture of a new, a third way, an alternative to, to really balance those, those things. Where does that originate?
Michael: I couldn't point it to a single origin, but I guess through all my experiences and just different situations that I've been in and, and kind of analyzing the outcome afterwards and trying to learn from certain, certain things that, that happen, that in situations that we're in and, and try to see things from as many perspectives as possible, I guess. Um, I've just developed into who I am. It's, I can't really say it was one thing more than another, but I really feel like the message that, you know, your imagination is what reality actually is, is, is an important one that I've, I've learned for myself.
Sylvain: Hmm. And um, so you're a filmmaker, a photographer, a handpan player, and talk to me about this creative itch that you've scratched. What are some of the, the paths that you've explored, um, tapping into your creativity?
Michael: I don't know if I've sort of scratched it just yet, to be honest. Sylvain I feel like it's, it's like a constant, um, game I guess. And I want to develop further. And, um, and I'm, I feel like I'm honestly in a lot of ways just beginning my journey. I guess if I was going to kind of start from some point, it would probably be, uh, I went into, went into school to advertising and I felt, uh, kind of drawn to advertising. And I, this is another lesson that I've kind of figured out just recently and really kind of experiences when you're drawn to something and you follow it. And it's interesting what happens, um, in comparison to when you don't. And anyways, so I got into, uh, advertising and I studied advertising for a little while and then I went off and, uh, weirdly enough got a job at a bank and I worked at the bank for a little while and I felt my, I don't know, I just felt myself slipping away and I didn't feel like the life I was living was right for me. I felt like there was something kind of wrong on the inside. So I decided to save up some money and go on, go on a bit of adventure to Europe for three months. And that adventure, although there was, it was in my early twenties, there was a lot of kind of partying and chasing girls and um, doing, doing things that, I don't know, it's just like I was a younger version of me. I learned a lot from that experience and I was exposed to, you know, different kinds of scenarios as you are when you travel. And um, there was this course, there's was this course on creativity. I kind of left the advertising thing behind. It was this course and creativity that I was trying to get into. And uh, they accept only the 50, 50 students out of the, all the entries, thousands of entries from the country. And I'd tried before and I just didn't get in, but I didn't put much effort into the application. And while I was kind of traveling, I was in Serbia where a lot of my family's from and I realized that I really wanted to, you know, I wanted to get into this course. I wanted to try again. So I got back home, put some time and energy into the best application I could kind of put together and got in. I was like super happy and things were going really well because this was a 16-week course and a very intense kind of creative thinking and ideas and I'd heard really good things about it. And it was called award school and it really led into a career in advertising in it in a different way, in a, I wouldn't say easier, but in a shorter period of time than you know, three years at university. So then, uh, completed this course. Did, did okay. And then I, I couldn't get a job in advertising and I was really struggling. And, um, I, I met a girl at that point and, um, it was an unusual set of circumstances and, um, we'd only known each other for a short period of time and, and she felt pregnant. And at that point everything seemed to, because, uh, it was a very complicated kind of topic and, and really kind of, um, intricate and, um, unusual really. But, um, it was kind of like something that I wasn't ready for at that time. I, I didn't feel I was the person I needed to be, to be a father for a child and goes into my history of not having a father myself. And it's very kind of complex. The set of circumstances, what actually happened and the whole scenario was really hard. It was a hard time. And now I'm coming out of that. I'm really blessed to have the most beautiful son in the world and I'm just, I'm so happy that I've got this kind of little ray of light in my life, but this was a, this was a kind of a, something that happened that was really, it really shook my world up, upside down, inside out. It was crazy and those choices I needed to make and they all seem like the wrong path. And during this time I actually met the handpan and I feel like the instrument and was in a way, a companion to me. And you know, the handpan was always there, always ready to play with me and sing to me and work with me, uh, while I worked with myself. So then I got, I got this job in advertising anyways in the end and I was working, um, on my job was as a creative thinking of ideas for ads. So we would work with different mediums, whether it was radio, digital, um, outdoor, and we would need to think of ideas for a brief and this, this, uh, I guess creative flexing of the muscle, the creative muscle and kind of looking at things from different angles and trying to figure out things and come up with those light bulb moments. Those insights, um, really was a great time. But there was another side of advertising that I felt quite difficult to deal with and that was that I was creating for sometimes great things like the lost dogs' home. Um, but there was also things like gambling companies and brands that were just kind of not aligned with my internal values. And I felt like I wasn't creating for me. You know, I felt like I was creating, um, for, for something else that that wasn't true to who I was. So I ended up leaving and I wanted to find out a bit more about who I am. So I went on this journey. I sold a lot of my things and I, and I left my handpan behind actually, which is another thing we can get into. But, um, I had a bunch of stuff and I really miss my hand pan a lot and I can't wait to reunite with her. Um, but I went on this journey and now I'm kind of putting all my focus into the podcast and helping other people as much as I can. And I guess that's some insight into where the creative creativity was developed. I, but in terms of where it kind of originated, it's pretty hard to say.
Sylvain: Yeah, you've gone through a lot. It's um, we can hear the transformation that the transformative process, which takes time. It's not, um, you know, one day you wake up and everything's different. And I can also see that you're someone who's, uh, drawn to purpose and how working for clients in the advertising world, uh, whose purpose you don't align with would be really difficult. So now that you get to create content that fits into your worldview and your values, um, has that been, uh, a fulfilling experience?
Michael: I feel, I feel like it must, must be a fulfilling experience. Like it must have affected me on some level. Um, but it's not something I guess I recognize in my, I feel like it might be an internal thing. Um, like for example, do you feel like with your conversations on the handpan podcasts that you kind of, you grow through these conversations even though you might not notice it, you know, straight, straight away afterwards?
Sylvain: That's an excellent question. Um, we talked about this last time on our previous conversation. Really the, the, the act of publishing a finished podcast episode is anticlimactic. It's, um, nothing happens. There's no fireworks, there's no one cheering you up, uh, congratulating you for all the work you put in. So really the value comes right now. And I should even say that you reaching out to me a couple of months ago was incredibly invigorating. Um, because I think culturally we're not good at talking with strangers cause you and I had never met. We have a lot of common friends I think in the hand pan world, but we had never spoken. We had never met in person. So I find a lot of value in, in that. But kind of back to your question and to your point, yeah, perhaps the value is in the process, not so much in the, the, the results. So it's in the, in the journey, not the destination. Would that, does it speak to you? Does that resonate with you?
Michael: Yeah, it's definitely, it's definitely in the journey. It seems like one of those cliches we always hear though, right? It seems like that, you know, it's all about the journey and not about the destination. But it's so funny how these cliches kind of have another layer because a lot of them, obviously they're based on a lot of truth and they've become cliches for a reason. Um, but it is definitely about, um, experiencing as much as you can and being open to the journey and following. It's something I was thinking about a little bit earlier as like kind of following how you feel, you know, if you feel like going in a direction and it feels right, you just follow it. Like I feel like that is, it's an important thing that I've learned and I feel like I've learned that the hard way in, in, in a difficult way that really makes the lesson a lot stronger.
Sylvain: So you made that choice to leave that job, sell your stuff and, and travel. Um, that's a bold move. Did it feel bold at the time when you did that?
Michael: It was, it was a decision that I made quite a long time before I was able to do it. And it felt, it did feel, I guess I'm not sure if bold the right word. It felt scary. It felt like it was something that I needed to do to be the best person I could be for the ones around me and to learn more about myself, but it didn't feel like it would've been a walk in the park. It felt like in a way I was going into the dark lands and I didn't know what I would face and, but, but I didn't feel like I had a choice because if I wouldn't, wouldn't have gone with my calling. I feel like the alternative would have been a lot, uh, a lot more difficult. It's kind of in a way letting go and just allowing, instead of fighting what you know is true within you. But I mean, all that wasn't in my head at the time. I just, I just felt it, I guess.
Sylvain: Yeah. So then walk me through what happened. Where did these travels take you? What kind of adventures did you go on and for how long?
Michael: So I left, uh, around may last year and I went to found some cheap tickets to Hawaii and I went there for a little while and I was couch surfing and I ended up having some great adventures in nature with someone I met through someone else, which is another thing. Great kind of, um, great thing about traveling and connection and new friends. And then after there I went to Columbia, I went to Columbia and all this time I really wanted to, you know, develop the podcast. I had already kind of created the good people effect and so I wanted to continue with it, but I started making videos cause that's what felt right at the time. And I felt it very difficult to juggle, uh, having experiences while traveling or being open to as many as possible. What with work on, you know, a YouTube channel and making YouTube videos and creating podcasts episodes. So it was really just work verse play. So I got a place in Columbia for a month. It was actually in a dangerous little town, which I didn't realize when I booked it. And I was just in this house for a month and I got super lonely. Um, but I've got a lot of things done and I moved forward in a lot of different ways. And then from Columbia I headed South. I went to, uh, Ecuador, a then Peru, went to Chile. And then after that I went to, uh, Costa Rica and, and had an amazing experience there and met some amazing humans there. It's been quite awhile. It was, it was about a year and a half of traveling and now I'm here in, in on Vancouver Island and I've still got a little bit more to go and then I'm going to be heading back to Melbourne to spend some time with my son. And um, the podcast is, is really my focus at the moment. I feel all these adventures have been great, but they've kind of led me back in a way to the podcast and I, I think it's kind of interesting now looking at this back and, and seeing what happened with creativity and advertising and how I kind of stopped for a while and got a job at the bank and then traveled and then came back to her with more kind of focus and, and attention, intention as well. And I think I've done the same thing I feel with the podcast now. And I'm really in this stage with that where I've just, I'm really happy that it's in my life and that I created it and that I have the chance to speak and meet people like yourself and you know, have conversations and be able to, you know, maybe have a little influence on, on other people's lives and help them on their journeys.
Sylvain: Yeah. And I'm glad that you're being, um, I thank you for being honest about the, the ups and downs of, of traveling. Oftentimes we romanticize this idea of just backpacking and just traveling through South America or Europe or have you had any bad or tough experiences?
Michael: I definitely had difficult ones. Um, I wouldn't call them bad though. And, um, I kind of look at things as, as though they've all got their importance, um, whether we see them as good or bad in the moment and through traveling. Yeah, I've had, I've had plenty of difficult experience. I'll even say sometimes on a daily basis. So there was a lot of struggles, um, with loneliness. Like I, like I mentioned in Columbia and the juggling of, of working and feeling like I'm not doing enough I guess, and to, uh, really, um, you know, lighten up my ego, my own creative spirit and to create, but also, you know, um, challenges, daily challenges like, you know, getting on the wrong bus and ending up, you know, in a different, nearly in a different country or waiting at the border for like, um, 19 hours with a lot of Venezuelan people that are just, you know, struggling and hearing their stories and learning that the struggle that I'm going through right now by waiting here is nothing compared to what they're going through. Having to leave their country and kind of, you know, make it, make their own way and going, going through, uh, like robberies and going through situations where there's been a lot of danger, I guess, and, and kind of violence. Um, yeah, there's been a lot of difficult situations, you know, um, uh, even with relationships and it's, it's been, it's been complicated, but I feel like these are all good. Like I wouldn't have, I wouldn't change any of that. And I think they're also an important part of who I am. And, um, I welcome, you know, any challenge because I feel like that way I can really, I can move closer towards, um, myself.
Sylvain: It sounds like creativity, even though you were not able to travel with your hand pan still played a role in, in your time away. What are some of the outlets that, um, where you could sort of scratch that creative itch?
Michael: Well, so many I feel like with, with the videos, creating videos and just mucking around with that medium, um, and just creating soundscapes. So I've been recording sounds of nature and faces. I've been calling and mucking around with that other instruments I've found to be really kind of useful companions because that helps me kind of stay within that, I dunno what you want to call it, a frequency of playing and, and, uh, you know, enjoying music. I was, I recently bought a flute, which I've been playing a native American flute, which is on the easiest side to learn and it's a lot of fun to muck around with and I can see patterns between learning that in the hand pan. I've, I've always been really connected to percussion for some reason and I had a really strong attraction to it. Uh, so I was, when I was in Costa Rica, I was playing a lot of like the djembe and there was a world class, uh, percussionist there that I was kind of, uh, vibing with and, and jamming with, which was, which was a lot of fun and, uh, shout out to Gabriel. But um, yeah, just anything I've, I've, I've been able to write a little bit and anything at all that I can kind of find that I've been able to find. But um, yeah, it is, it is quite, quite a challenge in that traveling without the instrument at the same time. Have you spent in your, in your years as a, as a hand pan artist, have you spend much time away from your instrument at all?
Sylvain: No, barely. Um, there is one period of time when I first moved to the U S I lived in the state of New York and my wife, girlfriend at the time lived in Minnesota, so a three hour flight away and I once uh, let her borrow my, my Hang for two months and I, I didn't have any sort of instrument, any Hang hand pan for, for those two months. And um, you know, honestly I, it was probably a good thing, but I had a little bit of an identity crisis because I think we can attach so much of who we are or who we want to be to these instruments, which are obviously so cool. So I, I do appreciate that the challenge, the difficulty in traveling without your hand pan. Did you consider it before you left? Was it out of the question because it was too bulky? What was the decision like?
Michael: That was a very difficult one. I went through a couple of months of just going crazy and I'm just losing it and trying to figure out what my, what I would take on the trip. I was trying to kind of organize and control everything before I left and made sure that I, you know, got the weight down as low as possible but I still had some cameras to make some videos and audio equipment and um, you know, stuff to be able to, to have keep going on the podcast down the road if I felt like it plus my clothes and toiletries and everything, they usually take tried to find the right bag and then I didn't know what clothes I would have cause it was kind of like one set of clothes for a long period of time and then the hand pan on top of that, it was like I really wanted to take the pan but it felt like, I don't know, it was a very difficult thing because yeah it is quite delicate. It is quite fragile and the amount of joy I'd get from playing it would have been crazy. But I thought to myself, I would always be able to send, send the handpan in myself and I even got a smaller hand pan. I got a Miram from us, AsaChan and I sold my other pan to my best friend and my brother. So they were kind of still in reach if I wanted to have a jam and um, got like a small, small case and I was ready to go with the hand pan. But then it was just, it was just too much stuff. Like it was a lot of way and I didn't feel light and I felt like in, in, in a lot of ways it would be amazing to be with my instrument and in other ways it would be a real struggle. Um, but now looking back, like I've tried sending it to myself and it's been super expensive. And, um, looking back, I, I don't know, I might have actually, I might actually might've taken, I don't think I'll ever leave, leave my hand pan again or a a hand pan anyways. So, um, I really can't wait to get back and start jamming and playing every day and just reconnecting, I guess.
Sylvain: Yeah. Well, I mean, it seems like obviously it's been a rich lesson to, to be that long without this tool, this creative tool that has brought so much good in your life. And at the same time, I can't help but think that perhaps it has brought you to a sense of balance that's contentment right there, right? Like being, being good with plenty and being good when, when we are lacking things.
Michael: yeah, 100%. And I think it comes, it kind of ties into what you were saying about, you know, sometimes we can, you know, become so attached to certain things, you know, whether it's the hand pan or even, you know, the video camera or another part of us that we really, that becomes, you know, a larger and larger part of who we are. And I think it's, it's good to be able to, you know, somehow find periods of time without those things so we can kind of release ourselves from having to have it and, and kind of, but not, not get rid of it. Totally. Obviously keep it in our lives if it makes us happy. But so we don't, you know, cannot not be always surrounded by something and we're not totally, you know what that thing is because we're, we're a lot more than that. And I feel like sometimes it's hard when we, when we're so engulfed in like for example, filmmaking, when you just filmmaking every day and you want to get better and you're learning and you're loving it, um, but it's important to balance, balance out your life with other things and, and some time away from the camera.
Sylvain: Yeah. There might be some value in keeping some moments private too. Maybe exploring doing a, a hand pan fast for a certain duration to not become, um, shuffled into, uh, a loss of identity.
Michael: Yeah, definitely. I felt like a lot of times in life, and I read something about this and I was reading, uh, letters to a stoic Seneca. Uh, I was talking about not like going without, for example, having the means to have delicious meals every day and dressing kind of luxurious clothing. But ha like going without that, you know, going on fasts and, and living like in his, in his scenario and his specific example, I think he said something like, it was even if you were like a rich man, you would live as a poor man, would live just to know that you can go without, um, which in some weird way makes you a lot stronger. And you know, if that time ever did come or that day ever did come there, everything wouldn't fall apart because you know that you can adapt to the change. And I felt that in my own life in a lot of different instances. Um, so I think it's, it's good to exercise that every now and then. But for me and my personal scenario, um, I think it was a little bit too long and yeah, I can't wait to kind of reconnect. Um, have you ever come across that within your own journey or your own journey?
Sylvain: Yeah, I mean I think, uh, you know, there's a whole movement of minimalism that's growing in the West and it's this idea that less is more, that um, you gain value from decluttering and, and trying to go without things that you once thought were essential and you realize that there are very, very few essential things in your life, um, which are going to be obviously your shelter, transportation, clothin