Re-inventing the holidays, for good

Are you reading this while stuck in some travel hell? I feel you.

Like millions of others, I've lived far from my family most of my adult life. And struggle to continue to feel connected. So I go back as often as I can, and pay the price, in money, time and stress. My last trip two weeks ago was no exception.

I got caught in the most recent WestJet meltdown. It started innocently enough, with an announcement about a little delay. Which was followed by vague language about a regional system outage. Suspicious, I jumped on Twitter (yes I'm still there) and soon realized that the system was out all over the world.

Figuring it would be days before I got rebooked and sorted, I thought I'd be clever and grab an Air Canada flight for the following day. Sure enough, WestJet finally cancelled my flight 8 hours after the first announcement and 4 hours after I'd left the airport.

But, as I prepared to leave the next morning for my AC flight, my phone pinged with the very sad news that it was also cancelled. Long story short, after a lot of wheeling, dealing and airport wind sprints, I got to Ottawa at 1:00 am three days later.

Here's the thing. After the second cancellation, I could have given up, got my money back and stayed home in paradise. That's what my family was telling me to do. "Don't bother, we'll see you another time".

But I persisted. Why? What made me so determined to get to Ottawa when everything seemed to be going against me? As I tried to unpack what I was really feeling, I was reminded of something Sam said in the Lord of the Rings. They were under attack on all sides, and Frodo was ready to give up. But Sam reminded him why they needed to keep going, what they were holding on to. Hope. "That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for."

When things get tough, we need to know with real certainty what our purpose is, what's driving us.

For me, I realized that it was a deep connection to family that I never knew I had. A physical need to see and touch them, to let them know that I loved them, that we belong together, that they matter to me. That, despite the miles and years apart, we have more similarities than differences. We share stories, values, hopes and dreams that will connect us forever.

As I think about all the things our national holidays have come to symbolize, I can't help but feel that we're collectively holding onto the wrong things. We're driving forward to get things that don't really matter at the cost of things that do.

So, as you try to get comfortable in that terrible airport chair where you're stranded overnight. Or struggle to stay awake during the long dark drive to your hometown, ask yourself why you're doing it. Is it really about the food and football? Shopping and stuff? Or are you driven by something more?

In the spirit of innovation, let's take this time to begin to re-write the stories of our national holidays – to address historic injustices, to find common ground, to envision the future we really want.

To everyone out there travelling this weekend, may you stay safe and find something in your heart worth fighting for.