And then it came to me....a reason why I feel so nostalgic for certain places. It's simple. They were the formative places, even if I hadn't realised this at the time. Back then I just rode out leading groups because that was the path I'd chosen. Quite why I didn't really consider. I wanted to run a riding holiday centre, and that was what I was doing. It was hard work, often quite challenging, at a basic level - making enough money to keep going, withstanding a high volume of riding, dealing with difficult people, communicating in a foreign language. It was formative too. I learnt new skills and improved those that I had. But, more deeply, that environment changed who I was. It made me more resilient, of course. And it made me receptive to development, outwardly and inwardly.
I could say that life in a remote mountain corner of Transylvania forced me out of a rut. If I hadn't gone there, I'd have continued a safe but dull existence, learning incrementally at best. But I was flushed out of cover and forced to change. That wasn't always easy or pleasant. Other times the environment persuaded me to slip freely into the open, excited by the opportunities. Sometimes it was simple beauty or uniqueness that beckoned. And once I was walking beneath a broad bright sky, the realisation came that I didn't need to hide. Nor did I need to accept poverty of thought or relationship. I need not accept artificial constraint upon my ambition. Far from shackling me, being an outsider gave power to observe, understand and lead. And there was plenty of scope to grow. No wonder I'm nostalgic for a place so formative. But I don't need to run a riding centre again, and I don't want to. It's the opportunity to learn and grow, and to experience joy along the way, that I appreciate. And that appreciation has grown with distance and time.