Deidre Mathis loves hostels. Not only has she stayed in 36 hostels internationally and 17 domestically, but she is also the founder of the first black-owned hostel in the United States.
In August 2018, Mathis, 32, cut the ribbon in front of Wanderstay Hotels, a colorful community oriented space located in Houston, Texas which aims to be an inclusive accommodation for the budget-conscious traveler.
Mathis caught the travel bug during her time as an undergraduate student at Florida A&M. Her first trip out of the country, an alternative spring break trip to the Dominican Republic, opened her eyes to possibilities of international travel.
“I was just absolutely in love with traveling abroad,” she recalls. “So, I made it my business, every opportunity I got, to leave the country.”
This new outlook led Mathis to seize opportunities to study abroad in Costa Rica and to teach English in South Korea. And just a few weeks after earning her master’s degree, she was on a flight to Australia where she developed an affinity for staying in hostels due to their low cost and sense of community.
“I was traveling as a solo woman, so hostels were just a great way for me to be able to travel. Obviously, you’re saving money. You’re not alone because you’re meeting other people. So, it’s just a win-win situation.”
Eventually she decided that she wanted to open a hostel of her very own. It made sense to launch Wanderstay’s first location in her home city of Houston, Texas. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States and has hosted over 17.5 million visitors in 2015.
Guests at Wanderstay can choose from eight themed rooms. There are shared dorms with bunk beds as well as slightly more pricey private accommodations. Travelers get a free Continental breakfast and access to lockers, bike rentals, and community areas where they can play games and interact with other guests from all over the world.
In the first month of business alone, the boutique hostel hosted travelers from 12 different countries. “Where else can you go and meet somebody from France, Brazil, Spain, South Africa, all under one roof?” Mathis asks.
Though Wanderstay hosts travelers from all over the world, Mathis says some of the best feedback that she has received thus far came from a group of five African-American women who had never stayed in a hostel before. They came in with preconceived notions about cleanliness but we pleasantly surprised with the physical space and the connections they made with international guests.
“Just to hear all their positive feedback. It made me so happy,” she says.
Before opening her hostel, Mathis was averaging about five international trips a year. Now, her new business keeps her fairly busy but the young entrepreneur still carves out time for at least one international trip a year and, of course, she enjoys hosting people from all over the world.
“No, I don’t travel as frequently,” she admits. “But life is still good because I have my travelers come to me. So, it works out.”