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.

Rebecca Wilson, 23, Brisbane, Australia

What do you do back home? I hate being asked that because I’m like, “I don’t know.” I’m waiting for a nice short answer. I actually just graduated – I studied journalism and law – and I’m still trying to figure out what my next step is. I spent a lot of the first six months of this year trying to apply for jobs, and it didn’t work out too well. I felt a lot of stress. So I thought, I’ll just go on an around-the-world trip to see what happens next.

HI New York City
HI New York City

How will this trip help you clarify that? I feel like it already has a little bit. Yesterday, I was in Washington, and I went to this awesome little place called the Newseum. It’s dedicated to journalism and news events. It was great to see the power of storytelling and the effect it can have on people. Now I feel passionate about journalism again.

What is your neck of the woods in Australia like? I live in the racist part of Australia. Queensland, the state, is not very multicultural. If you go to Melbourne or Sydney, there’s a massive multicultural society there, and it’s great. But eighty percent of Queensland is outback-y. It’s very much like, “My country, my land, fuck off.” They’re very anti-refugee.

What’s one difference you noticed between here and Australia? In New York, everyone’s got their headphones in to make phone calls, but no one does that in Australia. In Australia, you’re a dickhead if you talk on your headphones and walk. It’s so bizarre!

Have you had a New York Moment?  On my third day here, I rented a bike and went to Central Park. I didn’t bother getting a park map because I thought I’d be one of those cool solo travellers that figured it out as they went along. But I got terribly lost. It was a Saturday, there was some sort of charity run in the park, and I kept having to take detours. The hour rental turned into two hours; finding the shop to return the bike was hard; I was tired and on edge, and being alone in New York just got to me. So I sat on a bench somewhere near the Museum of Natural History and had an anxiety attack. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t feel my hands. I think I was crying. I must have looked disastrous, but nobody stopped to help. I kept sharing eye contact with people walking past, who must have thought I was some sort of weirdo. I don’t think I’d ever felt so alone in all my life.

I picked myself up, though, got on a subway and went to Times Square. I don’t know why being even more alone in an eleven a.m. tourist crowd of thousands of strangers comforted me, but it just did. That day taught me to love New York. I think it’s the kind of city where loving or hating it has nothing to do with the traffic, the tourists, the taxis or Times Square – it’s what you find along the way. Even the worst of experiences can be forgotten by a ten-dollar cab ride or a ten-minute walk somewhere else for a completely different world, a completely different New York.

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Come back to Narratively next Wednesday for more Hostel People.

This interview 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.