William P. Rayner is not a fan of Facebook. His ideal outlet for chronicling his life and travels? Good old-fashioned black sketchbooks. For the last 40-plus years, the trained painter and former writer for Vogue, House & Garden, and Vanity Fair has kept diaries while on the road, filling them with personal reflections and watercolors, plus wine labels, stamps, and other memorabilia. Now, he’s opening them up to the world in the two-volume Notes and Sketches (Glitterati Inc.), one covering North Africa and the Middle East, the other India and Southeast Asia.
His musings, reproduced word for word, are witty, honest, and transportive. And some of the destinations (Egypt, Syria, Libya, to name a few) have fallen off the tourist map, which makes Rayner’s detailed reflections that much more evocative.
“Places change so drastically,” he says. “Turkey, for example, was once the simplest place you could possibly imagine.” Next, Rayner is heading to Borobudur, Indonesia, where he’s looking forward to filling his trusted sketchbook with observations and paintings of the jungle—“creating a record of my history,” as he puts it. “It’s quite fun to go back years later and see what you did back when, isn’t it?” It is, indeed.
Brooke Porter is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.