A New Site in the Making

Hi. I’m Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru. This is my new site. It’s a work in progress so please bear with me while I’m making daily changes and trying to figure out how to use WordPress. 

For the last year, I’ve been using the free blogger sites and decided to take the leap to a “real” blogging site. I’m trying to organize my posts, figure out how to use this site, and add more content all at the same time. 

I hope you follow along! 

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru

A Travel Blog in the Making: My One Year Blogging Anniversary

One year ago today (well, not really today but it was a day around this time and that’s good enough for me), I was suffering from the insomnia of a shift worker. A typical night really. On these nights I daydream, catch up on the latest gossip on Facebook, and sharpen my skills at Bejeweled. On one of these nights, I lay there thinking. Thinking about hobbies that I’d like to pursue more. Saddened by my lack of time in doing those, since I was a new mom.

All of a sudden it hit me. A way to bring many of my hobbies together in harmonious matrimony. A reason to keep “messing” with my hobbies. A reason for Robby to continue letting me “mess” with my hobbies.

Blogging. I knew little about it really. A gal I had went to high school with had just introduced Facebook to her blog (camillestyles.com-quite brilliant really) and boy, was I intrigued. Here’s a medium to tell the world anything you want to tell them. I had so many stories already brewing in my mind, ready to spill to the willing of ear.

All our backroads travel stories. Before the days of parenthood, Robby and I spent so many lazy days roaming back country roads of Missouri, anxious to find a hidden gem of a place. And we did find them. And I know there’s still so much exploring to do.

That’s how The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru came to be. This gives me reason to continue to get out and explore, sharpen my photography eye, and brag on my beautiful baby girl (who, by the way, is not a baby anymore but I will refer to her as such for many years to come).


Oh my. I just can’t get enough of this face!

It was really discouraging at first. I wrote and wrote and wrote and for weeks (months, really) I think the only people who read what I wrote was Robby (and no, not just because I made him either) and my best friend, Lindsey. It was hard to keep my head up and difficult to see that the things I say really might matter to somebody someday.

About a month into all this shenanigans, I realized I was going about things all wrong. I had been telling my stories but leaving out little in regards to myself and my personal life. After getting addicted to some other, very wonderful travel blogs, it dawned on me that I was missing the whole point. People have blogs because they want to talk about themselves. And people become blog subscribers because they want to hear about others lives.

I made an initial goal to make it to six months and if I was still into it, I would upgrade my blog to something with a better format than my free blogspot (not to dog blogspot because they are free, but the site just isn’t any sort of eye candy).

I hang my head a little in shame that when it got to six months, I had fallen off the blogger wagon. It wasn’t that I had tired of it but I was having trouble finding the time and material on which to write about. Robby and I bought a house last summer that needed quite a bit of fixer-uppering (thanks to my hubby, The Handyman!!) and this consumed soooooooooooooooooooo much of our “free” time. Robby spent nearly every single weekend at that house from June until February. Quite a few weekends, I was found there too, paintbrush in hand and paint from head to toe. Seriously. I am the messiest painter. I couldn’t leave the house without paint in my hair. It was ridiculous.

So, we’ve finished that project as of February and my blog-fire has been rekindled. I’ve been writing again. Robby, myself, and Olivia have been getting out and about more. Leaving me with much more to write as of late.

I’m pleased to announce that now, my one year anniversary, I am upgrading (finally!) to that fancy new site. It’s in the works right now. My logo should be on the design table (thanks, Trisha!) and I’m working on my new platform. I’m hoping this year to be bigger and better with more content than last year. My focus remains on inspiring travel and exploration for people of all ages, with tales of travel mostly in Missouri but around the entire US (as I do take regular vacations and love to dish about those trips too).

I still try to keep my head up. I do, on occasion, get discouraged by other travel bloggers. My favorite travel gal, Geraldine, from everywhereist.com is always on the move. Within the last several months she’s been to Australia and South Africa and Lord knows how many other fantastic locales! I mean, how can I compete with such awesomeness? Kristin of camelsandchocolate.com is getting ready to launch on her 55 day cruise excursion and writes travel pieces for Southern Living (seriously, my super duper dream job!). Yep, no competition. None. Zilch.

During those times where I look at all the things others are doing in their lives, and feeling a little blue about how insignificant mine feels, I pull myself back to reality. I know I have to have a job and Robby has to have a job. I don’t know exactly how others do it but we need money to live on. Of course, I have Baby O so I don’t have the luxury of spurting off at the drop of my flower-brimmed hat to have a weekend away.

Which is all fine. In the grand-scheme of life, I just have to give my all at all I do and hope that at the end of the day, I’ve done what God has planned for me to. Would I rather be a travel writer, scoping the globe for the world’s best travel find? Absolutely. However, I spent years becoming a trained ER nurse, a pretty good one, I think, and that’s what I’ll be doing for some time, I’m sure.


Hard at work as usual.

I am also a wife to one of the best catches an awesome gal like me could land.


Check out that handsome dish, would ya?

And of course a mother to whom I think is the most beautiful baby girl around.

But, underneath it all, I am Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru.


Sarcasm at it’s best. This was sent to my friend, Andrew, after he sent me a pic of him standing, thumbs up, on the beach in Cali

Here’s some of my favorite travel blogs that have lead to laughing, inspiration, and jealousy:


My life, the balancing act

18 months. Olivia came into my life 18 months ago. Most days feel like time has flown by like Marty McFly in the Delorian. And while I give thanks daily that she’s in my life, I also struggle. See, there’s a lot of things I want to do, in addition to the long list of hobbies I already have. Hobbies already on my list: running, blogging, spending time with my girlfriends, having dates with the Hubbs, playing piano, reading (although I can’t say as to the last time i got to snuggle up to a good book), spending time with Baby O, and traveling/discovering. Hobbies I would like to take up: biking (Hubbs got me a super fancy bike for Cmas that I have only got to bust out once so far), playing fiddle, painting, crafting, furniture redo-ing, baking and cooking, half-marathoning. Do you see the problem here, folks?? I have too many things on my list. The days when my heartstrings pull at me to spend the day exploring or when a sunny, summer day calls for cold beers on the pontoon, I feel like I’m playing tugs-of-war with my own self. How do I do “fun things” with O in tow? How does one spend time being a Mommy to an 18 month old yet still do enjoyable things (not that spending time with O isn’t enjoyable)? Eh, you know what I mean. I’m still learning. I still have a hard time getting out of the house on time. O will spill milk all down her outfit and has to be changed-again. Or she thieves the toothpaste from the drawer while Mommy is talking on the phone to Daddy and smears it all over herself and her carseat just before we are supposed to leave. Or Mommy’s forever-lasting tardiness remains steadfast. Either way, I still get stressed and frustrated and oh-so-tired. So I have to find a balance. A balance between my career as a nurse, my life blessing as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, my thrills in adventure, my dream of being a “travel writer”. I know I have to better manage what time I’m given. That’s the first step. The rest is still for me to learn and sort out within. Let me know what helpful hints you’ve learned about balancing life. Pan

Like I said, I’m living in Misery.

Yesterday I briefly griped about Missouri weather. Today, I’M REALLY GONNA GRIPE ABOUT IT! Two days ago, TWO DAYS, it was 72ish degrees outside. A light little breeze. It was splendid. Now today, TWO DAYS later, I look out my window to find it SNOWING!!!! Let me recap…….. On Monday it was 70 something degrees. Today is Wednesday, it is snowing. I know people make jokes about Missouri being Misery but I am NOT joking about it today, folks. This winter weather and me don’t get along. Then you throw in a nice little teaser like Monday and it totally wreaks havoc on me! Why can’t I live someplace normal!?! Ugh!

My 1st Mother’s Day

As any of my readers know, I am a new Mommy. My husband and I were blessed with our first born, a daughter, whom we named Olivia. The first 3 months were awful, she had colic and did nothing but scream. And I mean scream. It wasn’t a cry, it was a scream! Like I said, awful.

However, as the agony of bleeding ears from the screaming began to subside shortly after month 3, the joys of parenthood started to shine through.

Olivia is now 7 months old and I fall more in love with her every day (although I don’t know how because I already feel like I couldn’t possibly love her anymore than I already do). Even though it took us a while to get used to the new lifestyle of parenthood versus the singlehood we were so used to after 30 years, Robby and I are both finding ourselves being total smitten kittens.

Olivia’s personality is definitely what I expected of any girl that came from my family. Boisterous, playful, happy, loud, girly, and full of attitude.

My 1st Mother’s Day was spent not only celebrating my beautiful mother and mother-in-law, but also reveling in the life of my mommyhood. The love a parent has for their child is immeasurable and I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

I hope you had a great weekend celebrating your mother’s and yourself if you are a mother. To you, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.


My very 1st Mother’s Day: Me, Olivia Grace, and Chiyo

On Friday, we are heading down to Gulf Shores, AL. Of all the places I’ve been, I’ve yet to be there. If you have any travel tips on traveling with a baby to the beach, please indulge me. Also, if there’s something we must do/see/eat in Gulf Shores, tell me all about it!

Hope you have a great week! Stay tuned for live Gulf Shores updates! Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru

I’m in love with… Travel!

My love affair with travel was seeded in me at a young age. I got to spend my 10th birthday in HAWAII!!!! simply because my sister’s husband was stationed there at the military base. Of course, we had the traditional “summer family vacations”  every year from the time I can remember. I’ve been to Graceland, Eureka Springs, Myrtle Beach, and Disney World, just to name a few.


When the tide rises in the evening, it appears the shrine is floating

But what really got me, was my first trip to Japan. Once again, visiting my sister (who was stationed just outside of Tokyo at Camp Zama), my mother,  other sister, and I spent 2 weeks exploring the crowded streets of that beautiful land in Asia.


A traditional pagoda

I was young still. I had just graduated high school. I had never been outside of the US and here I was jetsetting to Japan. I fell in love. I truly, truly did. I soaked up every ounce of what this new culture had to offer. We had tea with my sister’s students, we went to Tokyo Tower (similar to the Eiffel Tower but in Tokyo-duh!), we visited the aftermath of the nuclear bombings in Hiroshima.

Having tea with students

It was fabulous. My young mind was opened up to the beauty of new experiences, new people, and a new way of the world. I had never before realized how different life is outside of the United States. I mean, you read about different cultures and see pictures in magazines but until you truly experience it, you have no idea.


The famous Buddha in Kamakura


Ever since this trip, I have had a hunger (I mean, the serious kind that feels like your belly is eating away at itself) for travel. Robby always gives me grief (just the joking kind) that he’s going to go broke supporting my travel habit. It’s what I love. I am always planning the next vacation. Dreaming of the next getaway.

So, this blog is my small-time travel outlet. A reason to continue exploring. It’s easy to make excuses about not having time and not having money and not having time (yes, I know I said that twice). But here’s the deal. I want to make time. I don’t want to always be too busy that we can’t enjoy the outdoors and can’t adventure to places yet unseen.

Robby is truly a good sport about the whole deal. Heck, I think I’ve even gotten him into the habit of several vacays a year (yay me!). I hope this continues. I hope we can instill the love of travel and exploration into Olivia’s life. I hope we always make time for family adventures.

So, I wanna know…

What was the one vacation that made you fall in love with travel?



Dressed in yukata, which is a traditional summer kimono


I’m fascinated! Okay, okay, I’m jealous…

What do you want to be when you grow up? If children had a nickel for every time they were asked this question, there would be no reason to have an answer. As a child, I wanted to be a teacher. The next year a lawyer. In my teenage years, my answer would have been “a realtor” (which I did do but only for a short time since you don’t start off actually making money).

Since I’ve been a grownup an adult, I sometimes feel as if I’m still looking for that perfect career. Don’t get me wrong. I work. I do actually have a legitimate career. After completing 4 years of totally pointless (well, maybe I did learn one or two helpful things) business school and having two years of a fairly unsuccessful real estate career, I went back to school. The second time around, I got a nursing degree.

Now understand me here people, I am happy with my job. I’m grateful for it even! I get to be a huge influence in people’s lives. I see people come into this world and I see people leave this world. I have been touched by some of the sweetest people I have ever met and I have been cursed at by some of the worst people I have ever met. I have one of the most stressful jobs but I consider myself pretty good at it.

And yet here I am. Jealous of others. Jealous of those who travel for a living. Did you know such a thing existed? I knew it to some degree but there are seriously folks out there who have quit their jobs and are now traveling the world (some by themselves and some with their spouse and kiddos).

Change is a comin’!

Waking up to another sunshine-filled, beautiful Missouri afternoon sure does put my day to starting off on the right foot. Unfortunately, I will have to be back at work in a few short hours but I plan to soak up some vitamin D in the meantime.

Well, I’ve got some exciting news (for me, anyway. I’m sure it’s no big deal to you). Tomorrow marks my 1 month anniversary as a blogger. Just 1 month ago, I was laying in bed wide awake, listening to Robby snore no less, brainstorming ideas on a pasttime that I could have. Something just for me. Not for the wife. Not for the mommy. Not for the nurse. Something just for me. Pan. That’s where this whole journey began.

Since that night, I’ve been learning. I’ve spent time (occasionally stolen time from those that shall remain nameless….) learning. I’ve scourged through travel blog after travel blog. Asking myself, “What makes this blog something people return to?”. Of course you’ll have no loyal readers if you bring junk to the table. My new inspiration has been found in a travel blog so rightly named, The Everywhereist. Geraldine chronicles her travels around the country (and the world! Super, super lucky gal!). Several years ago, she got a wonderful opportunity to join her husband while he traveled on work assignments, after she was laid off from her job. Her husband encouraged her to start a travel blog and just last year (only 2 or 3 years after beginning), she was named one of Times Magazine’s Top Travel Blogs of 2011. How awesome is that!

What Geraldine gives us is, of course, travel reviews but on top she gives so much more. Providing detailed accounts of her where-tos, she presents her story with an uncanny wit and charm that only I could wish to have. If you want to check it out, (and even though I probably shouldn’t be promoting another travel blogger, I just can’t help myself. It’s so darn good!) visit her at everywhereist.com.

The most important thing that I have learned are these 2 things: 1) your readers want to know you, want to know about you and 2) it is okay to occasionally write about something other than travel. I’ve been depriving myself from talking about anything besides travel and thereby missing the whole point to this blogging stuff. A blog is about you. That’s the point. People follow you because they come to know you, your loved ones, your quirks, and your strengths. Here all along, I’ve been talking about nothing but travel (even when there’s so much more I want to say) and I’ve kept things very unpersonal (please don’t take offense. You just never know what freaks are out there.).

So, change is a comin’. I’m switchin’ things up and new things will be done. I’ve never been one to be scared of the new. I’ve got goals in mind and slowly I will put them in play. My first goal was to update the website to something much fancier (and esthetically pleasing to the eyes) at month one. I’ve changed that. I think I’ll go another 2 months and see where we sit then. I know myself too well. I’m flightly. I get a lot of big ideas and occasionally (okay a lot. Get off my back already), they fizzle before they even get started. This, I know. I have lived with me for 29 years. So, I’m giving myself more time. Blogging is apparently a slow process. I’m a patient person.

On top of that, I’m going to let you in. My name is Amanda but you can call me Pan. I am a new Mommy to the sweetest baby girl in the whole wide world, Olivia. Robby is my wonderful hubby and we have the cutest puppy dog, Chiyo. That is my family. They are my heart and soul (and at times cause for some serious stress and indigestion).

This is our super terrible Christmas picture. Don’t judge based on what you see above. It was not a good afternoon for pictures, even though I forced the issue.

So, I hope you continue reading and traveling with me. Stay tuned for more changes. Hopefully all good ones! The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru, Pan