How To Wander Podcast Episodes + Show Notes

Will Work For Food: From One Couch to Another, How To CouchSurf During Travels (And Stay Safe)

Will Work For Food

#9 Advice & Stories from The Couchsurfing King,

A Nice Bubble Bath For a Long Night

Have you ever woken up on the couch of a complete stranger? If you have CouchSurfed before, you know the feeling. This is no new situation for me, Calen Otto, the host of the “Will Work For Food” podcast.

a girl enjoying time by a lake in Idaho falls. laying in the grass
Idaho Falls, ID

If you keep up with my blog, you’ve seen me travel across the U.S., twice. You’ve probably noticed that I do it with little to no money. Let me tell you, CouchSurfing has been a big part of that.

While in Idaho Falls I had the pleasure of interviewing the CouchSurfing King, Sam Handcock. Sam has hosted over 150 people in his home, and is no stranger to waking up on stranger’s couches himself. After Sam’s interview, I pulled some of his most helpful tips and tricks to Couchsurfing. Listen to the interview for the full story. 

What is CouchSurfing?

CouchSurfing is an app that travelers can use to find a place to stay in any given area. It is not only used in the U.S., but travelers can find places to crash all over the world.

So what’s the catch?

Well, to be honest, there strangely isn’t one. After setting up a profile, surfers can browse through different hosts in their chosen city. After they’ve reviewed the host’s profile and feel as if they may be a good match, the surfer than request the nights that they wish to stay.

If the host accepts, the surfer has a place to rest for the night—for free. There are no monetary transactions while using CouchSurfing.

 Is there any exchange?

Although there are no monetary exchanges for CouchSurfing, there are some exchanges that take place. Now, remember: this is all situational. Some hosts like to chat, make dinner, show the surfer around, and hangout. Others don’t have time, aren’t as interested, or may just be too busy on the given dates.

Hosts and surfers may exchange multiple things.

Exchanges may include: a meal, travel stories, teaching a new skill, gifting something from their hometown/country, advice, music, and time. These exchanges are completely up to the host and surfer!


Two people standing at the top of a mountain with clouds and the grand Tetons behind them.
The Grand Tetons

Pay It Forward

If you’re already a part of the travel world, you most likely already know about the gift of paying it forward. Just because you can’t give anything to a host immediately doesn’t mean that you never will be able to give back. You can always pay it forward to the next traveler that you meet. 

Now that you know how CouchSurfing works, let me give you a few reasons to listen to this specific episode. You’ll have the chance to:

  1. Learn how and why “The CouchSurfing King” started CouchSurfing and how you can too!
  2. Be entertained by Sam’s hitchhiking story.
  3. Listen to Sam’s first interaction with his first CouchSurfing experience.
  4. Soak up the best tips to stay safe while ChouchSurfing– as listed below.
  5. Take the steps necessary to be a successful and safe host.
  6. Hang on the edge of your seat while you listen to one of Sam’s first CouchSurfing experiences that went horribly wrong.




STOP and check out these QUICK TIPS TO STAY SAFE While CouchSurfing!


a girl standing by a stop sign, right outside of the grand Teton national park!
Calen Otto, Host of Will Work For Food

(Especially Solo Femme Travelers)

  1. Travel with a Partner
  2. Single Travelers:

a)  Look for hosts with great references.

b) Look for verified accounts.

c) If possible, stay with a group of other surfers. They may request the same dates as                  you.

d) Pay attention and be alert.

e) Be ready and willing to say “No.”


Although I have had almost nothing but good experiences, (I felt uncomfortable with a host’s roommate in one instance), you can’t predict how situations are going to unfold. CouchSurfing does their best to keep a safe space, but this is still a system that runs on references given by real people. Please use discretion when choosing places to stay.


Show Notes on How to Be a Good Host + Guest, Tips from Sam


  1. You receive almost all of the benefits of traveling, without having to leave your home!

2. The sharing. 

a) Stories

b) Culture

c) Food

d) New, Created Experiences

3. Conserve money, electricity, and energy. 

4. See your own home through a fresh set of eyes. Each adventure is unique because of who you decide to share it with.



  1. Remember the perspective of the guest.

a) They are putting their trust in you, so BE TRUSTWORTHY! Or don’t host.

2. Give your time.

3. Provide a clean place to stay.

4. Make your house cleaner than when you are normally there.

5. Be open to new experiences. 



  1. Respect the host’s space.

a) Don’t make it a free hotel.

2.  Be your best self.

a) Remember, the only currency is the currency of sharing each other! (Chao cheesy, I know)

b) Be willing to spend time with your host.

While we’re CouchSurfing, we’re putting ourselves in a position to be human and make real exchanges and moments. This type of interaction is not your everyday experience, so enjoy soaking in all of the benefits of CouchSurfing that you can!


More posts by Calen