aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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easycanvasprints giveaway + we're off (again)

The Road Forks route through Europe

The first four months of our European trip

I have been waiting over a year to write these words:

We are leaving for Europe today. 

Today!  We are, as you read this, sitting on the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship with Chewy and Abby in the kennels on the 12th deck.  In one week, we will arrive in Southampton, England.  Our plans tend to be as volatile as Lady Gaga's fashion choices but right now our 13-month European leg looks like this:

  • August: Cotswolds and Cornwall, England
  • September: Madrid and Barcelona, Spain
  • October: Cannes, France; Alba, Italy (for the truffle festival); and Tuscany, Italy
  • November: Sorrento and Rome, Italy; somewhere in Wales
  • December: London, England
  • January: Mexico (for a wedding); then to Croatia
  • February: Croatia
  • March: Bosnia; Austria
  • April: Germany; Holland
  • May: Belgium; France
  • June: France; Ireland
  • July: Ireland; Scotland
  • August: Scotland
  • September 2012: Back to the United States

If you're wondering why we're mostly sticking to western Europe, it's because we have limitations regarding where we can bring the dogs, as well as our own Schengen zone limitations that complicate the picture (you can read all about these complications over here at The Road Unleashed).  And, yes, there are so many places that we wish we could include in this trip - we are especially sad that we will be missing out on Portugal and Switzerland (though we might try to squeeze Switzerland in somewhere).

Easy Canvas Prints

Our EasyCanvasPrints.com canvas

To celebrate the kick-off of our European leg, we have partnered with EasyCanvasPrints.com to give away an 8 x 10 canvas print of any photograph that you desire.  I am absolutely in love with the print that we ordered from them and I think you'll be very happy with any canvas print that you order, as well.

. . . keep reading easycanvasprints giveaway + we're off (again) after the jump


aqua hotels hawaiian vacation giveaway

Maile Sky Court

Maile Sky Court lobby

If you're like me and need a respite from the snow-packed, gloomy winter we've been having, this is the post for you.  In our biggest giveaway yet, one lucky person will win a 5-night stay at the Aqua Maile Sky Court Hotel in Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii.  In case you konked yourself out when you hit your head in amazement at this giveaway like I did when I got the email from the Aqua folks, let me repeat that for you:

I haven't been to Oahu in over 15 years but I remember a sapphire ocean and sky that rushed into the emerald green island.  We are currently watching all of the LOST Seasons in a row which causes us to: (1) reminisce about our favorite show ever and (2) want to get on a plane and fly to Oahu immediately.

Maile Sky Court Hotel
Aqua Palms pool Aqua Palms restaurant
Maile Sky Court Hotel

We have (unfortunately) not stayed at any of the Aqua Hotel properties but this particular one has received good reviews at TripAdvisor.  Though it is certainly a budget option --- rooms start at $90 --- former guests pronounce it "clean," with "friendly staff," nice "views of the ocean," and, most importantly, "good location."  The property is located just a few blocks from the beach and the main shopping area and restaurants.

If you’d like five nights of free accommodations at the Maile Sky Court [and who wouldn't?], just a few minutes’ walk from Waikiki Beach, enter this giveaway in any of the following ways:

1. Leave us a comment telling us why you want or need a vacation in Waikiki or on Oahu. Please enter this way only once a day (you can use the same answer every day or you can use different ones, too).

2. Tweet the following on Twitter once a day: I entered to win a 5-night @aquahotels stay in Hawaii from @theroadforks http://bit.ly/hrF1iP

3. Like The Road Forks Facebook fan page.  Please leave a comment below letting us know that you liked our page.

This giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on March 11, 2011, which gives you two full weeks to comment, Tweet, and like this giveaway.  If my calculations are correct, if you comment and tweet every day, you have a total of 29 possible chances to win this free hotel stay at Aqua Maile Sky Court!  Some blackout dates apply and the 5-nights-stay must be used by March 11, 2012.  I will randomly choose a winner using random.org.

. . . keep reading aqua hotels hawaiian vacation giveaway after the jump


$60 CSN Stores Giveaway!

Every time we get ready to leave the United States again, we wind up buying or replacing gear.  In the last week, we've bought sleeping bags for our Africa overland expedition and replaced both of our sandals because the soles were worn through.  This is where CSN Stores comes into play because they sell everything, from luggage to furniture to pet toys to fitness equipment to cookware to baby supplies.  And, the best part, CSN Stores is giving one lucky reader a $60 gift certificate to use in any of their stores.  Woohoo!

Here are a couple of things that caught my eye while I was leisurely wasting my time by looking at all sorts of things I don't need scrolling through their site.

Luggage tag

World travel clock
Lewis N Clark pill case Individual French press
Dog bowl Miniature food processor
Isn't that luggage tag just gorgeous?  The idea behind that travel clock ---- you can adjust it to the time of 24 international cities by turning the dial --- is brilliant and the Lewis N Clark pill case is one of my favorite travel items.  I'm not a coffee drinker but, if I was, I would definitely want one of these individual french presses to make that perfect cup of joe anywhere I go.  If I still had a house, I would totally replace Chewy's and Abby's unattractive plastic food mats with this sleek food bowl and I think I'm going to succumb to buying one of these miniature food processors before we leave for Europe.

. . . keep reading csn stores giveaway after the jump


the lost girls book review + giveaway

Four years ago, when our round-the-world trip was a passing thought in our stream of consciousness, Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner, three 20-something friends, left their careers in journalism to travel around the world for a year, dubbing themselves The Lost Girls.  I was hooked on their blog as soon as I read their 20 Reasons We Took Off (my favorite being #4, "We want to ban the phrases 'in the loop,' 'per our conversation,' and 'out of the box' from our daily vocabulary.")  At that time, I was still working long hours at my law firm, spending my weekends at Home Depot for renovation projects, and cramming quality time with Patrick and our dogs in the remaining few waking hours.  I was completely and totally blown away by the gumption of these women to leave behind their lives, careers, and relationships for the thrill of the open road.  I wanted that to be my lifestyle.

A week ago, I received a review copy of their new book: The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. The book is written from the first-person viewpoint of all three women; each woman writes a chapter and the story progresses sequentially, a la The Sound and the Fury.  This was a clever way to structure this book because each woman has specific challenges that she wants to resolve: one is obsessed with her career, another is searching for faith, and the third is looking for romance. 

These women left New York City because they were bored and bogged down and wanted to do something daring and inspiring to revitalize their lives.  They had serious wanderlust and needed to satisfy their desire to see the world.  And, they didn't clamp down on their dreams, shutting it out with short two-week trips, but instead, took the leap out the door and into the world. 

The book beautifully details the intensity of their lives when they stepped out of their comfort zones.  They talk in no uncertain terms about the horrors of long-term travel, from sleeping in stinky hostels with even worse toilets to dealing with unscrupulous strangers and wearing the same clothes over and over again.  They laugh about the silly and crazy adventures that happen to them like setting up a dance class in Kenya or their difficult hike up the Inca Trail.  They cry over their fears, sorrows, and romantic struggles (and there are quite a few of those). 

. . . keep reading the lost girls book review + giveaway (and how to win) at The Road Forks