Elias Lönnrot made his first trip to collect poetry from spring to autumn 1828, fresh from the university. His plans for this first trip included a visit to Viena in Karelia, but this ambition was frustrated. He did not did not get any farther than Nurmes.

Lönnrot's second trip took place in the summer of 1831. He had already published four booklets of poetry which he had collected under the title "Kantele". Two of these came out in 1829, the third in 1830 and the fourth in spring 1831. Lönnrot had completed the manuscript for a fifth booklet, but this was never published.

Lönnrot had begun his medical studies in Helsinki in the autumn of 1828 and completed his master's degree in that field in December 1830.

In February 1831, Lönnrot was involved in establishing the Finnish Literature Society. He was chosen to be the Society's first secretary but relinquished this post when he left to collect poetry in May 1831. The Society granted him 100 rubles for the journey but he never had a chance to use it; what proved to be an ill-fated trip ended before he reached Viena, his intended destination.

The trip was fraught with obstacles from the outset. By the time he arrived in Savo, Lönnrot was suffering from a prolonged cold. When he reached Kajaani, he was met by and agreed to the pleas of Samuel Roos, the district physician, to make rounds through the more remote areas checking the state of vaccinations. And on 6 August, just as he was on his way to Viena, he received an order from the National Board of Medicine obligating him, like all other physicians without a permanent position and persons holding a master's degree in medicine, to come to Helsinki to fight the cholera epidemic spreading toward Finland from the east.

On this second trip Lönnrot recorded a mere five poems.