Soon I fly to my Saskatchewan hometown of Willow Bunch to enjoy the company of family and old friends who knew me when I was little more than a tall shy string bean.
As I was booking the flight, I winced at the high cost. It's about the same as a flight from Toronto to Paris. If it weren't for a Facebook-inspired reunion in Willow Bunch, I might have been tempted by the romantic lore of Paris instead.
Then I got to thinking: As Canada's newest economic crown jewel, Saskatchewan may well become the Paris of the Prairies.
I left Saskatchewan in 1989, at the tail end of a 10-year drought that profoundly changed the nature of family farming in my home province.
In those days I practiced journalism, and many of the stories I wrote were about financial ruin. I wrote about entire lives dedicated to the art of farming -- lives withered and cracked from a decade of clouds that held no rain, nor promise.
The last story I wrote for The Moose Jaw Times-Herald was about the exodus from Saskatchewan, then a tall shy economic string bean of a province. So many of us were leaving, the running joke went like this: Will the last one to leave the province please turn out the lights?
Twenty years later, Saskatchewan has the last laugh. The province is kicking some serious economic butt.
Most other provinces are embroiled in the worst recession since the Great Depression but Saskatchewan is leading the nation in job creation and it has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. Recession? What recession?
Saskatchewan is also in a fiscal surplus position. No longer a have-not province, it is luring back many who left in the 1980s. They're returning with the promise of good jobs, low-cost living, and a great quality of life.
Family farming is still a crapshoot, but oil, potash and uranium have turned out to be cash cows and they're putting Saskatchewan on its strongest economic footing ever.
That said, it's hard to see signs of Saskatchewan's nouveau wealth in my farm town.
As I drive from the Regina airport southwest towards Willow Bunch, the quality of the highways quickly deteriorates - a symbol of rural neglect that began during the 10-year drought and continues to this day.
When I graduated from high school in Willow Bunch in 1983, my town actually had a school. It's now closed. The few remaining children are bused to towns a half hour away.
When I was growing up, it wasn't unusual to be surrounded by families with as many 6-10 children. Today, the elderly in my hometown outnumber the young.
The old age home has a long waiting list. Doctors and specialists are miles away and few in number. My mother, now in her mid-70s, had to wait almost two years to see a hip specialist. When she finally got her appointment, she was told she has to wait another two years before she actually gets her hip replacement. She may not be walking by that point.
Stories like this abound throughout rural Saskatchewan, which I find sadly ironic.
Now that my home province is floating on the economic version of Cloud Nine, I can't help but wonder: Will the aging generation that helped keep Saskatchewan going during the lean times get to share in the fruits of its wealth?
In much leaner times, they pioneered the cooperative movement and Canada's much-cherished public health care system - things that made Canada uniquely Canadian, and Saskatchewan uniquely innovative.
With far fewer resources, the people of Saskatchewan translated adversity into help for everyone. Will they do the same now that it has the resources to help those in need?