Every year, roughly 80,000 travelers from at least ninety countries pass through the doors of HI New York City, the largest hostel in the Americas. Each week, Narratively’s Daniel Krieger will spend a few hours in the landmarked building on New York’s Upper West Side, listening to their stories for our Hostel People series.

Susana Malvarez, 52, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

What do you do in Spain? I work at the airport for Iberia, the Spanish airline. That’s why I can travel a lot – I only have to pay the taxes for my flights. I attend to travelers from all over the world who come to walk the Camino de Santiago. I’ve done it twice.

Why did you come to New York? The truth is that I wasn’t so interested in visiting New York. But my friends kept telling me I would like it. They were right. I’m so glad I came.

HI New York City
HI New York City

What was the highlight of New York? Without a doubt, seeing “The Color Purple” on Broadway. It blew me away. And I had a stroke of luck, too. Before the show, I was waiting in line in front of the theater when a pigeon shat on my shoulder. A señora and her daughter standing next to me also got hit. “Don’t worry, it’s good luck,” she said to me. “Yes, of course,” I said. (In Spain, we believe that.) I had a discount ticket, and my seat was good enough but not great. After I sat down, the usher asked me if I was alone. I said yes, and she brought me to a much better seat. (There’s that good luck!) The person sitting next to me, an African-American señora who was very, very friendly, asked me where I was from and said she adores Spain. (Next to her was a couple from Ethiopia, who were also friendly, and we all talked.) She was like me – emotional. During the show, we were both cheering and applauding and saying “bravo” like locas. And when I got lost – because of my limited English – she noticed and explained to me what was happening. That’s why I like to travel. It’s for these little moments. When you go into an experience like that with good vibrations, then you get good ones back in return.

How has the hostel been? I have made some great connections with people. It was my first time having roommates, and it was marvelous. I’m a big talker, and I’m easy to get along with. In Florence, I stayed in a room that I shared with seven men. Seven men of all ages and colors – and me. When I first entered the room, one of them laughed and said, “You’re the only woman.” I answered: “Don’t worry. I snore like a man.” I like how in a hostel you can talk to your roommates about what you’ve been doing. It’s warmer than staying in a hotel, where you go to your room and it’s cold. Here in this hostel, I’m sharing a room with a Dutch woman and her daughter, Trudy and Michele, who are charming. They’re going to visit me in Spain.

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Come back to Narratively next Wednesday for more Hostel People.

This interview, conducted in Spanish and translated by Daniel Krieger, has been edited and condensed. HI NYC management has granted permission for this project, but plays no role in shaping the stories and has no affiliation with Narratively.

Daniel Krieger

Daniel Krieger, a contributing editor at Narratively, is a freelance journalist in New York. He contributes to The New York Times and his work has also appeared in Fast Company, Wired, Slate, Salon, and New York magazine.