Design Your Life
America’s First Black Hostel Owner Talks About Going From Self-Care To Self-Made
By Parker Diakite
Putting herself first and allowing time for self-care led Deirdre Mathis to exactly where she is supposed to be in life.
Taking the time for self-care and travel after college provided Mathis with the idea to open WanderStay Hotels, the first black-owned hostel in Houston. One thing she said she learned on her journey from wanderlust, to author, and now entrepreneur, is that it’s okay to part ways with your original plans.
The FAMU graduate had plans of working in broadcast journalism. “I wanted to be the next Oprah Winfrey,” she says jokingly over the phone. Her aspirations weren’t farfetched. After spending the summer after graduation in Costa Rica, she landed her first job at the CBS television affiliate in Baltimore—the same place Oprah’s television career started.
“I worked there for seven or eight months and realized news was not something I wanted to do anymore,” Mathis tells Travel Noire. “I just fell out of love with it and needed to figure something out.”
She quit her job at the television station and moved to South Korea to teach English for nine months. There, she drafted a new plan. “Because I loved to travel I decided to go into International Relations,” Mathis says.
After receiving an acceptance letter from Bowie State University, Mathis got a call from one of the school’s deans to study abroad in India for four months before obtaining her graduate degree. Mathis said she still wasn’t satisfied after getting her master’s degree. She saved all her money and moved to Australia for a gap year.
“My gap year started in Sydney, Australia and I kind of traveled that part of the world for about a year and that’s when I absolutely fell in love with hostels.” Meeting people from all over the world while spending less on a place to stay inspired Mathis to bring that communal lifestyle to the United States.
“I wanted to create a place that I would want to stay,” Mathis says. “A centralized location was important to me as well. I wanted a space that if a guest had a car, then great but if not, even better.”
With two private rooms and six shared rooms, WanderStay Hotels is in walking distance to parks, bars, restaurants, and downtown Houston. “Next, my goal is to open five more the next seven years,” she says. “My last hostel, I hope, is international but I’m not exactly sure where yet.”