It was no accident that Lönnrot set off for Viena in search of poetry, for he had studied folk poetry in earnest while at university. In fact, he wrote his master's thesis on Väinämöinen and began collecting poetry systematically in 1828.
Elias Lönnrot was doubtless the most ardent traveler in Kainuu in his day. If for no other reason, he travelled because his work required it. For two decades - from the beginning of 1833 to the end of 1853 - he worked as district physician of Kajaani, with responsibility for all of Kainuu. His inspections and vaccinations brought him to every village in the region. Over and above the travel occasioned by his work -and sometimes in conjunction with it - Lönnrot travelled to Karelia to collect poetry and do linguistic research. At times, these interests took him even further afield: taking occasional leaves of absence, Lönnrot visited Lapland, the Kola Peninsula, the Archangel government, the Veps districts and Estonia.
Lönnrot's travels were highly significant for Finnish culture. Their crowning achievement was the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic which rapidly took its rightful place among the great works of world literature.
Before moving to Kajaani, Lönnrot had undertaken three field trips to collect poetry. On the first, in 1828, he intended to go to Viena but a change in travel plans left him short of time for the trip. He travelled as far as Nurmes before having to return home.
Lönnrot was no more successful in reaching Viena on his second field trip. He did get as far as Kainuu, but only to be told that he was needed immediately in Helsinki to attend to the cholera epidemic that had broken out there. On his third trip, Lönnrot finally reached Viena, passing through Kainuu on his way there and back. By the time he embarked on his subsequent field trips, Lönnrot had settled in Kainuu and was able to start out from the relative proximity of Kajaani or Paltamo.