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Coming Home: Why International Traveler and Airbnb Host Kevin McLaughlin Chose Durham

When we set our sights on new destinations, we’re often hoping for an authentic experience with the unknown – we attempt to make enduring memories that are unique to the places we’ve explored.

Posted By Ashley Strahm on May 03, 2018

Sometimes, those memories are made as we discover, see, and do what’s around us; other times, we make memories in the places where we kick off our shoes and retire for the evening.

The latter is the reason why avid traveler, writer, and social justice leader Kevin McLaughlin became an Airbnb host. His hunger for exploration yielded remarkable adventures (his project of late has been publishing a nonfiction book about a former child soldier he met in Uganda). He could have chosen a number of continents within which to reside, but he chose Durham to offer his authentic home to those away from their own.

A host for almost two years, Kevin says he’s greatly enjoyed the experience. “As an avid traveler, I find it invaluable to meet kind and welcoming locals wherever I go; I am honored to be this figure for visitors and those newly locating to Durham. Airbnb hosting allowed me to open my home as a safe, affordable option for accommodation, and use it as a platform to share my passion for all things Durham.”

We met Kevin on location at his home in Durham’s Lakewood neighborhood, and had a few questions about why he thinks Durham is the perfect place to welcome others home.

You could have chosen anywhere, but you chose the Bull City. Why Durham?

The openness of the locals, appreciation for creative expression, and strong diversity in people and programming allow Durham to be an ideal city. As I always say, 'Durham is a small town with a big personality.' Durham is the combination of people and places that have shown me what real community looks like.

What specific things do you advise visitors do to truly experience the city?

To truly experience Durham, I encourage visitors to dive right in! The people of Durham are happy to welcome new people and perspectives with open arms, so I advise visitors to take full advantage of our wide range of places, programs, and projects going on everywhere you look.

Get a sense of the local culture by hanging out at one of our many cool coffee shops.

Whether it be Cocoa Cinnamon, Joe Van Gogh, Beyu Caffe, Monuts or others, the coffee shop culture in Durham is hip and always buzzing. This is where one can witness the crossing paths of many creative and driven people doing amazing work in Durham.

Explore our ever-improving food scene.

The highlight here is the variety. What's your favorite food? There's a solid chance Durham can hook it up. Southern BBQ, ramen, Italian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, sushi, farm to table, surprisingly delicious and thoughtful pub grub... we've got you covered. Personal favorites include Goorsha, Luna, La Vaquita and Dashi. Want something more grab-'n-go? Try one of our many food trucks stationed all over the city, such as Soom Soom Pita Pockets or Chirba Chirba Dumplings, American Meltdown or Sympathy for the Deli. One of these tasty trucks can always be found at our favorite local breweries, Ponysaurus Brewing Company or Fullsteam Brewery. Now time for drinks…

Find a local spot where you're bound to see an old friend or make a new one.

Parts & Labor at Motorco Music Hall is not to be missed. Alley 26 or Bar Virgile serve delicious craft cocktails. Kotuku Surf Club and Accordion Club are great for later-night chill vibes. My favorite sunset spot has to be The Durham Hotel rooftop, for 'cheers' with tasty drinks and the best city views.

Walk around and take in the local art, music, dance, and theater scene.

From public art displays to professionally curated galleries and boutique hotel lobbies, Durham's artistic energy is awe-inspiring and always evolving. The Carrack, 21c Museum Hotel, Nasher Museum of Art, and Pleiades Arts are some of my favorite art galleries. For music and dance, The Pinhook, Arcana, and Living Arts Collective are my go-to spots. For theater and performance, check out The Durham Fruit & Produce Company, DPAC, and the Carolina Theatre.

Discover more nature.

The Sarah P. Duke Gardens provides pleasing sensations to all five senses, trails at the Eno River State Park are extensive and teeming with life, the gorgeous Duke University campus grounds and Al Buehler Cross Country Trail give stellar space for strolling or jogging, and the Ellerbe Creek Trail offers a chance to highlight Durham's beautiful variety of more urban and off-the-beaten-path views.

What adjectives would you use to describe Durham culture?

Vibrant, engaged, creative, open-minded, diverse, progressive, thoughtful, artistic, welcoming, and compassionate.

What do you hope your visitors will remember about Durham when they've departed?

My hope is all of my guests remember Durham as a place where they felt at home and appreciated for being just who they are. Durham is a city that celebrates diversity and diverse perspectives, and I hope this warm hospitality helps visitors see they are welcomed and their unique perspective only makes Durham a better place for all.

This is the first installment in a series of stories about unique, unorthodox hospitality and Durham culture. Find out more here: https://www.airbnb.com/s/Durham--NC

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About the Author

Ashley Strahm

Jersey roots, Durham fruits. Lover of all things edible, egalitarian and true. Find me clad in Birkenstocks, seeking Bull City Beautiful stories by trail, wheel and spoke.