From Tokyo to Lisbon and back: A host’s discovery of her guest’s culture

Memories of Saara’s trip to Tokyo. Images: Saara Helkala @saarahelkala

Saara hosted Aki from Tokyo; he stayed at her place in Lisbon through Human Hotel in the summer of 2018. Although he only stayed for a few nights and was busy exploring the city, she instantly felt like they had a nice connection and lot of shared interests. 

Their home countries, Finland and Japan, had a surprising amount of cultural similarities – respecting personal space, enjoying silence and nature – and they had a very similar sense of style.  So Sara shared a personal project with Aki: “I have a Lisbon guidebook that I originally made for my blog. It’s a pdf file with all my favourite places in the city, I sent it to Aki so he could use it as his travel guide when exploring the city.” 

Sara had always dreamed of visiting Tokyo and wanted to travel there even more after meeting Aki. Surprisingly, just a few months after his visit, she got an invitation from Aki to come to Tokyo. He had been so impressed by the design of her Lisbon guidebook that he wished to collaborate on a similar project with Saara. 


Lisbon Guidebook by Human Hotel Community host Saara H.
Images: Saara Helkala @saarahelkala

Sara spent 30 days in Tokyo later that year: “that month was something I will never forget. I got to discover Tokyo and Japanese culture but also learn a lot about myself, as I traveled on the other side of the world totally alone. It was such a great experience and I in fact miss Tokyo every day, whenever something reminds me of it: my matcha tea, small souvenirs I bought or just looking through the hundreds and hundreds of photos that are still on my phone.”

  • Visit Lisbon to explore the blend of traditional heritage, striking modernism and progressive thinking, and take advantage of Saara’s guidebook while scouting the city.

  • You can even stay at Saara’s place in the city of Seven Hills, which was once home of the famous Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, and be surrounded by pastel-colored buildings and decorative ceramic tiles.

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