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Airbnb in your own backyard: Locals exploring Toronto in more profound ways

Daniel Rotsztain, who dubs himself the urban geographer, recently booked an Airbnb in Scarborough to dig deeper into his city.

Daniel Rotsztain, the Toronto resident and self-proclaimed urban geographer, has booked an Airbnb in Scarborough.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

Daniel Rotsztain, the Toronto resident and self-proclaimed urban geographer, has booked an Airbnb in Scarborough.

"Your reservation is confirmed. You're going to Scarborough!"

That's the cheery message Airbnb blasted to Daniel Rotsztain, a Toronto man taking the idea of a staycation to the next level.

The Bathurst and Eglinton resident booked a Morningside and Lawrence apartment in an effort to both ease his commute — ahead of this week's Scarborough Studies Summit at U of T's eastern campus — and dig deeper into his city.

"I figured: might as well wake up in Scarborough," said the landscape architecture grad student, who is studying how to enhance strip malls.

Rotsztain, who dubs himself the urban geographer, has explored the city extensively, including sketching every branch of the Toronto Public Library and documenting Highway 401. He considers his Airbnb sojourn the next level in that practice.

“The thing about Toronto is you get really into your little geographic bubble," he said. "You never leave your 10 blocks, which is why it’s a great city. But it also leads to a disconnection of lived experience, which manifests in the political realm all the time.”

Although this room is just for one night, at $17 he's scoping out options for his next stay. Thistletown, in the Albion and Islington area, tops his list.

He says the short haul trip is a throwback to another era. An 1858 book he unearthed in his parent's house offers hotel recommendations for day trips to Weston — once half a day's travel that now takes 15 minutes on the UP Express.

Rotsztain cites Asad Raza, a curator whose past work includes programming for Nuit Blanche and Arts of the Danforth, as an inspiration.

Raza told Metro that staying in another part of town helps him understand the ebb and flow of that community — crucial to programming art for them.

"I personally feel how neighbourhoods organize themselves, and what makes them characteristic, seems to emerge in that quiet of the night,” Raza said. “A neighbourhood can brand itself any way, but whether people go out at night is another thing."

Raza has subletted, rented and used Airbnb to prepare for projects in Markham, on the Danforth and downtown at Adelaide and Parliament streets. He's eager to do more overnight exploring away from his Trinity Bellwoods-area home.

“It helps me snap out of the bubble of people who are like me and who look like me and act like me," he said. "I want to reach out to the city at large, and the best way to do it is to be a participant in that culture.”

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