04/04/2013 12:37 pm ET Updated May 24, 2013

12 Travel Sketches From Around the World (PHOTOS)

Two years ago, I started bringing a sketchbook and watercolor pencils with me on the road -- now I can't imagine traveling without them (though I've since upgraded to a travel-sized set of watercolor paints).

There's something about slowing down and letting the sights, sounds and smells of a new place sink in as I sketch it. Or as travel writer Pico Iyer put it in a 2012 conversation with Don George:

I always found that when I didn't take notes, I would return home and I'd really wonder where I'd been or why I'd been, and I would have nothing tangible...I was happy for the notebook, as the camera or the sketchbook -- it doesn't have to be writing. If you give yourself a project somewhere, instantly it becomes a much richer experience and you actually see more of the place even though you imagine you're just looking into your viewfinder or looking at the sketchbook.

Below are twelve sketches from two years of seeing the world through the lens of my sketchbook -- you can also visit my travel blog, The Great Affair, to follow along my upcoming trip, "Sketching Southeast Asia: Six weeks. Seven countries. One adventure with a sketchbook."

12 Travel Sketches From Around the World