After two months, 41 sharing stories, 1,158 votes, and an intense round of judging, the results of our Share or Die Storytelling Contest are in.

An honorable mention in the writing category went to Gabriel Stempinski’s “Building a Shareable Life Together.” Gabriel is a road warrior. Not only did couchsurfing change his travels, but it introduced him to the love of his life.

Check our contest story channel for more stories and our book, Share or Die, for an even bigger collection of stories about sharing.


The Backstory

I travel often… like really often. Mostly for work, but I have my fair share of fun. In a high travel year, I can average 20,000 miles of flying a month and upwards of 300 nights sleeping somewhere other than my home. Constantly being a stranger in a strange land really started to wear on me until a friend of mine introduced me to Couchsurfing. From the first time I logged in, I was hooked. It was immediately clear to me that the value proposition wasn’t just getting a free place to crash, but moreso the community it builds and the amazing people you can meet and share your life with. So I actively started hosting, surfing, and throwing events whether at home or travelling.

The Actual Story

I found myself working in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 2009, commuting back and forth every week from San Francisco. They had a handful of dedicated people in their CS community and I really wanted to try and help the group become more active. So, along with a few awesome folks from their local CS group, I started a weekly Trivia Night at a local bar. Thanks to our trivia skills, we were regularly winning the competition and, since the winners drink for free, the event became VERY popular. Pretty soon, our little group of five turned into a group of 35, and the Tuesday Trivia turned into Tuesday Trivia and Wednesday Karaoke and Thursday Barbeques. And a few of us even ended up co-living together.

July rolled around and there we were at Tuesday Trivia, and there was a new person there. She was evidently couchsurfing with one of my teammates. She introduced herself as Shiva Goudarzi and I could tell she was Persian from the last name. With that, I broke out my very best Farsi pickup line and the ice was officially broken. She told me how she was going on a road trip across the U.S. to find the ideal place to settle down since she had grown dissatisfied with the crowds and traffic in Los Angeles, and she was couchsurfing the whole way. (Mind you, a 16-month road trip = a LOT of couches.)

The night ended and we parted ways after exchanging contact information. We talked daily, met up a few times more along her trip, and I finally decided to make the grand gesture and invite her to come with me on a business trip to Europe. She joined me and that’s when our flirty friendship blossomed into a full-blown romance. We couchsurfed and ride-shared for the better part of a month across Europe and, upon returning, I joined her for the very final leg of her 40,000-mile road trip. (She picked Portland, Oregon, by the way.) We made it official and our relationship began.

We spent the fall and first half of winter together touring around Southeast Asia using Airbnb and CS for our accommodations, and even bartered a day of work at a Thai ecolodge for a jungle elephant trek to check out a remote village in the mountains. It was at that point that I decided she was the woman I wanted to marry.

The biggest themes in our relationship were travel and sharing and the wonderful way they enable one another. So I decided to get together with the staff at to help plan a big surprise proposal party with all of our friends and the CS staff that built the organization that brought us together. The event was held at CS headquarters in San Francisco.

The results are as follows:

We now split our weeks between Portland (where we live) and San Francisco (where I work). We actually make a enough money through hosting spare bedrooms at both residences on Airbnb to cover the entire living expense in Portland, as well as all of our travel. We still actively host couchsurfers and are active in both the Portland and San Francisco communities. We use Taskrabbit for airport transportation on a near weekly basis. I just started doing a mini urban farm with a few neighbors in Portland. And, with our new baby on the way, we are talking with other expecting couples about possibly sharing a nanny.

Sharing enriched our individual lives; sharing brought us together; and now sharing is helping us build a wonderful future.

Gabriel Stempinski


Gabriel Stempinski