An Unconventional Journey

UMPI Senior Chelsey Briggs is photographed on one of her sojourns

     On Nov. 16, at 7 p.m., UMPI welcomed student Chelsey Briggs to the Campus Center Multi-Purpose Room to speak on her experiences and life’s journey. The event was part of the university’s Distinguished Lecturer Series. Briggs, a senior in the education program, was introduced by Wendi Malenfant, UMPI associate professor of early childhood education, and then she delivered her presentation entitled “An Unconventional Journey.”

     Briggs began the lecture by saying that she had aspirations of becoming a professional storyteller or motivational speaker, and that the lecture would either confirm or belie that possibility for her. This elicited laughter from the audience, who could quickly tell that they were in the presence of an outstanding speaker.  Briggs delved in to her life story, explaining how she had grown up on a Canadian potato farm and how she had learned the values of responsibility and hard work while working on that farm as a young girl. When Briggs was in high school, her family hosted a Chinese exchange student. This experience with someone from another country was one of the first times that Briggs was bitten by the “travel bug.”  That fed a longing to step out of her comfort zone and explore.

     Briggs said that after high school, she traveled to China. She amused the audience with tales of her trying to use chopsticks on the airplane ride and of being mistaken for Chelsea Clinton at the Great Wall. Briggs said that the trip to China illuminated for her the value of taking risks and trying new things. Returned to North America, she studied political science, business and marketing at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

     Briggs explained that during her time in college and even after she completed her degree, she was unsure of what she wanted to do in the future. She noted that others often asked the anxiety-producing question, “What do you want to do for work?” On a whim, Briggs decided to go to South Korea for a year and teach English to kindergarten-age children at a private school. During that year and in the years that followed, Briggs said, she had amazing experiences traveling: she meditated in Thailand and wrecked her scooter while there.  She hurt herself dancing in Cambodia and Vietnam.  She spent three months in South America.   She attempted to hike the 490-mile-long Camino de Santiago in Spain. All told, Briggs said, she travelled to 27 countries, plus 17 U.S. states and all the Canadian provinces.

     One of the final experiences Briggs related was the one in which she and her younger brother Deven decided to buy a food truck and run a French-fry business out of it. She found the truck on the Internet, and within a couple months she and her brother had bought it, refurbished it and started serving French fries out of it. It was painted purple and christened “The Purple People Feeder.” Briggs, speaking to a charmed audience, told how on one occasion she inadvertently started a fire with the deep fryer inside, how the brakes went out on the truck once, how she once hit a parked car while driving it and how a health inspector was almost hit by a flying knife while performing a surprise inspection of it. “The Purple People Feeder” once even appeared on a Huffington Post-published list of the “17 Bucket List Food Trucks.”

     Concluding her presentation, Briggs said that although she is almost finished with her teaching practicum and is close to attaining her college degree in education, she will never stop exploring and will never stop wanting adventures. She offered four pieces of advice to the audience in closing, things she had learned during her years of exploring and traveling.  First, the world is small and it is less scary than you think.  Second, people are wonderful and they should be given the opportunity to be wonderful.  Next, patience is a good thing and sometimes you have to wait things out.  Finally, live in the moment and focus on the present (and appreciate simple things like sunrises and sunsets, something Briggs says she tries to do wherever she is). She said that her journey had been unconventional and that she would not have wanted it any other way, that she now has a different perspective because of her experiences. Briggs left the audience with an observation by Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

     Makayla Butler, a freshman education student at UMPI who attended the event, was impressed by Briggs’ lecture. Butler said, “I thought the speaker was very energetic and passionate, and she made her experiences come alive and seem relatable. I hope she comes to speak again. I will certainly be looking forward to it.”

     After the presentation Briggs said, “I feel so honored to have been asked to speak as a DLS lecturer. I absolutely loved the entire event–from start to finish! For someone who has hopes and dreams of someday becoming a motivational speaker, this was a very rewarding experience. I thought the lecture went well and was very positively received. I hope this is just the next step for me and I look forward to more opportunities similar to speaking at the UMPI DLS Lecture.”

     The DLS lecture was a success, and many of those in attendance likely considered themselves lucky to hear such an energetic and articulate young woman talk about her life’s journey. Whether Chelsey Briggs eventually decides to be a motivational speaker, professional storyteller, teacher or something else entirely different, it is certain that she will have success with whatever she does—and she’ll do some traveling along the way.