The boy scout from Raahe moved with his girl to Vaasa for his studies at the turn of the millennium. After graduation, work took Hannu to Southern Finland for a while, and the couple became a family with three children. The spark for returning to his home town was his wife’s job in Raahe – which in turn made Hannu a teleworker and commuter in the summer of 2018.

On a grey Friday in November, Hannu has a remote work day. In the morning, he takes his 4-year-old child on foot to the day-care centre one kilometre away and continues with his usual morning run. The route takes him through Old Raahe to Pikkulahti and from there via Fantti to Pitkäkari, and the end point is Kylmäniemi beach. Hannu washes away the sweat raised by a run of just under 10 kilometres by taking a dip in the sea, a routine with which he has kicked off his working day since the summer.

Kylmäniemi beach is one of a kind. I like it. After the run, the water feels refreshing, and I haven’t had a cold all autumn!

Kylmäniemi beach is sheltered and beautifully plain.
Kylmäniemi beach is sheltered and yet only a few kilometres from the town centre. Photo: Henri Ylikulju.

Growing up in Mestauskallio a couple of kilometres from the centre of Raahe, Hannu had plenty of friends of the same age in the neighbourhood and even a playground next to his home. In the forest and at the pond nearby, the children could play their favourite games. Running, orienteering and cross-country skiing were Hannu’s beloved hobbies that have continued into adulthood. Recreation in nature has always been important for Hannu, who was a boy scout in Saloisten Sirkat ja Sudet. Hannu went to school in Raahe, and the safe learning path all the way to upper secondary school was of great importance.

After receiving the student cap, Hannu went to study technical communication and his fiancée administrative sciences at the University of Vaasa. Alongside his studies, Hannu worked for his own communications company and as a journalist. He visited Raahe every couple of weeks, and it was easy to arrange interviews in his home region for Friday afternoons. While there, he could also visit his parents. After graduating from the university, however, work took him to Tampere and the visits became much less frequent. The clean and tasty drinking water of the home town and the excellent conditions for cross-country skiing were things that he missed about Raahe, as well as the sea.

As the couple became a family, they felt that it would be easier to be closer to the grandparents. Hannu found work at Polar Electro in Kempele, so they moved to the Oulu region. When his wife started work in Raahe a couple of years ago, they started discussing a move. The idea required careful consideration. The good opportunities for outdoor recreation in Raahe and the child-friendliness of small city were important factors. Ultimately, the decision was made in favour of the home town after Hannu agreed on the possibility of weekly remote work with his employer who was very fair about it.

There has been no need to regret the decision. After almost 20 years of absence, Raahe is still a safe small city. The renovation of the library and the new life of the Crown Granary and other old buildings feel particularly good for Hannu. The economic structure is still too one-sided but, on the other hand, Ferrovan’s project for refining slag in order to create profitable business is circular economy at its best. Shop services are good in Raahe and all basic needs are met, but sometimes Hannu still goes, from force of habit, to the familiar shops in Oulu, especially for electronics and hardware.

Hannu poses in Rautaruukki’s red tracksuit by the statue of Kekkonen.
Unofficial folk costume of Raahe: Rautaruukki tracksuit. Hannu has had to explain to others why there is a statue of Kekkonen in Raahe. Photo: Aira Meriruoko.

According to Hannu, the 11-, 8- and 4-year-old children of the family have grown accustomed to the new surroundings surprisingly well: they enjoy school, the new day-care centre is nice, and they have found friends. The firstborn continues to play football, and the middle child already has three hobbies: in addition to drama and art clubs, hip-hop dancing has become a new hobby, replacing ballet. The number of hobbies does not cause extra work for the parents, as the children are able to go to their hobbies by bicycle for the most part. The whole family has had a great time together visiting Kuntokeidas Vesi-Pekka, where the children’s favourite is not the water slide that measures speeds, but the floating Wibit track and multi-purpose pool. Hannu has also introduced her daughter to the secrets of orienteering.

The ease of getting out into nature attracts me, because now we can get into the terrain almost from our front door, even though we live in the vicinity of the city centre.

Hannu’s adjustment has also gone more smoothly than he initially believed. Commuting to Oulu is made easier by a carpool buddy in the same team and the remote work days. He has found a good rhythm for his days, one of the highlights of which is the morning run. As an active runner, Hannu appreciates Raahe’s diverse route of trails. The ski hut’s official tracks and the trails and forest roads are familiar to him, and if he wants to run on a gravel road, Kiiluntie and Ketunperäntie are ideal for it. Last summer, he completed the 31-kilometre race in Raahe Trail Run.

Before I’m forty years old, my goal is to run ten kilometres in under 40 minutes. The next opportunity to try it will be in Terwa Run. At least the training conditions here are ideal!

Hannu has also begun kayaking after the move to Raahe, and he does not even have to rent a kayak every time since a good neighbour lets him borrow one. He can satisfy his cultural hunger at Raahesali Hall, which delights not only in terms of acoustics, but also because it is easily accessible on foot from his home. On the same excursion, he can go for a drink with his wife, and there is no need for a taxi. There are obviously plenty of leisure activities for all the members of the family, both together and separately. Hannu seems quite happy with his decision to move.

Text: Aira Meriruoko, 2018.