Award-winning essayist and travel writer Pico Iyer has been a part of the National Geographic Traveler family since the magazine’s earliest days, contributing articles short and long and adding star power to live-audience events at Nat Geo’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“We’re always delighted to feature Pico’s refined and lyrical prose on places from Istanbul to Kyoto,” says Traveler Executive Editor Norie Quintos. “He has a singular ability to capture both a moment and a mood, root them firmly in a place, and render it all on the page,” she says. “The result is that the reader is transported.”

Here’s a brief peek into the life and times of Pico Iyer:

Home: I spend a few months a year in Japan on a tourist visa, but Santa Barbara has been my base since I arrived in the U.S. in 1965, when I was 8.

Urban Renewal: Even one’s hometown can be a grand adventure and discovery, if only one can look at it with the right–fresh–eyes.

Transferring Titles: The mystery stories of Ross Macdonald and Sue Grafton are fine evocations of the secrets and hidden treasures of Santa Barbara.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’m currently rereading Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo. It’s the best nonfiction account of a very foreign place (a slum next to the Mumbai airport) that I’ve read in years. Anyone interested in our new global order–or humanity itself–would be moved and humbled to read it.

Wanderlust: I’ve always been haunted by Mali–just the sight and the thought of those mud-wall mosques draw me magnetically. I may have missed my chance for a bit, though, as new troubles seem to have descended.

Souvenirs: I’m fortunate to have enough travel memories and images to keep me going for decades.

Pico Iyer is an essayist and novelist whose most recent book is The Man Within My HeadIyer also collaborated with photographer Macduff Everton on The Santa Barbara Book.

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