Literary Journalism

After flying hot air balloons and confronting snake charmers, worldwide traveler now finds niche selling goods at SUB

By Sarah-Lyn Subhan

Visitors to the student union building go to the sluggish Bear’s Den Starbucks, the scarcely used information desk, ever-popular Cub Café and down the stairs to the all-encompassing bookstore. But on some days just after the information desk, and just before the stairs, a middle-aged man with short silver hair will sit with a table of colorful merchandise in front of him. Beside him might be a newspaper or two, a lunch box, and a thermos of coffee.

His intense blue eyes watch you carefully as you pass by, but he won’t speak unless you approach. Once you are in front of him, Scott Martin, the man behind the table, will undoubtedly try to sell you something.

The five-by-five tiled mosaics, the patterns of which he helps design, are produced in Pennsylvania. The most desired turquoise pattern design which he said is “Popular with the women.” He explained that Windex will keep the tiles clean. However, the other merchandise he imports from abroad. The beaded bracelets and belts, as well as small beaded animal keychains, he imports from India, Indonesia and Peru. He is also familiar with terms like “chunky” to describe a thicker and heavily beaded bracelet.

If asked about anything that he is not selling, he will look uncertain and confused, but then he will spill the rich history of his adventures.

Martin is an importer and the son of an importer. He used to import for a company before he became his own boss. He has been to many different countries: Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nepal, India, and Thailand are just a few. He doesn’t include Canada. Nepal is his favorite place because one day he could be in the jungle and the next, hiking the Himalayas.

He talked about the Himalayan Mountains. He described everything being clear. Reaching out with his hands, he described grabbing at the air and said that the clouds above the mountains were so close you could almost reach out and touch them.

As much as he loves Nepal, Peru has a special place in his heart as the first trip abroad he took with his wife. After his wife went home, Martin stayed in the jungle for two more weeks by himself.

He spoke of a time he went to India and was cornered by a snake charmer. He had no money to tip the man, but since neither understood what the other was saying the snake charmer assumed Martin was being cheap. The snake charmer commanded his snake to stare Martin down. Martin was yelling and begging for his traveling companion to lend him some money to which he only responded with laughter.

Not all of his adventures occurred abroad. In addition to being a world traveler, Martin was also a hot air balloon pilot for nearly 10 years. He entered and won races in Philadelphia and New

Jersey. His most exciting tale was from when he took his aunt on a seemingly innocent day, while up in the air, Martin’s balloon became unstable and he had to make an emergency landing in a prison yard. There the prisoners helped him bring the balloon to the ground. In an instant, police surrounded the outside of the prison and the inside, where the balloon had landed. Martin said that as he was trying to explain the situation to the police, his aunt was throwing out compliments. “She was standing there saying, ‘Oh, this is such a lovely prison.”

Regardless of where he is going, whether by plane or balloon, Martin is a traveler by trade. He said he’s going to keep traveling until he can’t walk anymore, and that he’s going to keep coming to Kutztown for as long as he can.

“I want to inspire students to travel,” he said.

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