We’re hosting travelers, organizing events and will be out surfing around the globe.
Name: Mitch, Ellaine, and Sydney
Role: Product Manager
Surfing in… Montreal, Canada
“I wouldn’t have guessed that having a 4 month old with us would actually make our Couchsurfing experience better, but it absolutely did.
Hosts welcomed us in, their kids were excited to play with the baby, and the relaxed and unplanned pace of exploring a city without an agenda was a perfect fit for vacationing as new parents.”
Finding a Host
I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to find a host. “My wife and I, and our four month old daughter, are visiting Montreal…” At first I’d even considered leaving out the mention of my daughter, Sydney, until after someone had accepted us. “Oh, and I have an infant who occasionally screams when she’s tired or hungry…”
I decided that it was better to be upfront about it. It worked out well – just three very deliberately targeted Couch requests and one Public Trip post, and I had four hosts. I was shocked!
My strategy when searching for hosts was to explicitly target locals who: 1) said they were kid-friendly; 2) I had something unique in common with; and 3) has logged in within the last week.
The Filipina – Rhyme
My wife was born in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. as a teenager. When we saw there was a new host in Montreal who spoke Tagalog, had references, and was accepting guests, we sent a request right away. Rhyme accepted our request and we spent our first two nights with her.
She was extremely sweet and accommodating with our baby daughter. Like many Filipinos, Rhyme grew up surrounded by a large extended family including many young nieces and nephews and cousins; she was a total natural holding and playing with Sydney. She gave us a private room and suggested activities and places to eat where baby-induced interruptions weren’t a hassle. We ate at a popular micro-brasserie, for instance, where music was playing and little baby squeals wouldn’t interrupt fellow diners.
It was interesting to see Montreal through the eyes of a relatively recent immigrant (Rhyme moved to Canada less than two years ago as a working adult), and to compare that to my wife’s experience immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager. Rhyme showed us around downtown Montreal, took us to Mont Royal for an amazing view of the city, and to see a fireworks show on the waterfront with some Filipino friends of hers. What an amazing time!
The Family Man – Santiago
Our second host was Santiago, a PhD student who has lived in Montreal for over six years with his wife and two kids. As a parent, he had great suggestions for spending our time together and exploring the city. We went to a free showing of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in the park near his home, and when Sydney got fussy, we just snuck back home.
One of the treats about staying with Santiago was that his mother was visiting from Colombia. As young parents, there’s nothing better than a grandmother who wants to hold and play with baby while we got a little time to chat with Santiago about living in Quebec. His mother’s own world travels, including four years living in an ashram in India, were amazing stories as well.
The other big treat was meeting Santiago’s two little kids. Anastasia, 10, and Saren, 7, were precocious, extroverted, energetic kids. They wanted to know all about baby Sydney, showed us the art they’d made all over the house, played songs on the piano, and just made us laugh and smile with their antics.
The Photographer – Amin
Our final Couchsurfing experience of the trip was a walking tour of Montreal’s Plateau and Mile End neighborhoods with Amin, his friend and fellow Couchsurfer Michael, and another Surfer – Chad, from Adelaide, Australia.
First off, a mid-afternoon walking tour was a perfect Saturday activity with baby Sydney. She basically just slept in her stroller for two hours – score! Second, it was a great way to see the unique character of the city. It turns out there’s a ton of unique street art all over these neighborhoods, and having a local host point it out made us realize just how abundant and creative it was. The juxtaposition of beautiful old buildings with vibrant artwork covering their flanks and façades was really neat.
After our walking tour we stopped for drinks on a cool back patio in a popular neighborhood cafe and shared stories from Couchsurfing adventures. Michael was an avid hitch-hiker, Chad had traveled all over Europe Couchsurfing, and Amin was a central and active member of the Montreal Couchsurfing community – organizing a couple CS meetups almost every week.
Couchsurfing with Kids – A Future Plan?
While traveling with an infant isn’t a piece of cake, and while my wife and I had some anxiety about the uncertainty of Couchsurfing with locals with whom we had no explicit “booking” or “contract” other than a generous response to our messages, it turned out to be easier than we could have expected.
In fact, seeing how our host Santiago uses Couchsurfing as a deliberate way to expose his kids to travelers from different cultures opened our eyes to how we might use Couchsurfing as a way to enrich our daughter’s own development. Rather than being a burden to Couchsurfing, having a child may become one of our greatest motivations for hosting and surfing again in the future.
Interested in hosting with your family? Read about the Goossen’s experience.