Well traveled Fort Mill brothers studying in Europe

dthackham@fortmilltimes.comAugust 15, 2013 

Eric (left) and Steven Martinez in Rome.

COURTESY OF THE MARTINEZ FAMILY — Courtesy of the Martinez family

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could”

– “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

It had to end at some point, Steven Martinez figured, as he sat in the living room of his home. At some point, he and his older brother Eric would finally make a clean break, study at different schools, maybe even start a full-time career when the time came.

After running with bulls in Pamplona, Spain, of course. And right after they conquer the mighty Matterhorn mountain, a 15,000 foot summit that Steven’s been itching to climb for some time now. He first got to mountain- climb in New Zealand last year. Steven is just 20 years old.

“I’ve had my eyes set on that mountain for a while now,” Steven said. “It’s definitely one of the purest ways of exploring the world, mountaineering.”

Eric, 21, and Steven have attended the same schools ever since childhood, even leading up to college at the University of South Carolina. Starting in elementary school, the brothers even created their own competition of seeing who could achieve a higher grade point average.

Worse wars have been fought, of course. Eric graduated magna cum laude in May from USC with a double major in economics and business management. Steven’s riding a 3.9 GPA and has at least four major collegiate scholarships under his belt.

There’s a lot that a family can afford when it doesn’t have to pay for two sets of tuition, room and board. With their parents’ blessing, the Martinez boys will be pursuing their education in Europe this year. While Eric is enrolled to study for his master’s degree in environment and sustainable development in London, Steven is spending his entire junior year at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands.

Eric had to finish some personal business before jetting off to the London School of Economics – he’s been doing an internship for Chiquita Brands International, which allowed him to visit Costa Rica banana plantations. The boys realize that this adventure, after many overseas trips as a family, will be hardest on their parents, David and Amelia.

“Both of our parents, they’re going to miss us a lot,” Eric said. “But they’ll know deep down it’ll be good for us. We’re working very hard to be in the spot that we are and we have big shoes to fill.”

Scrimping, saving and light living has been a way of life for the Martinez family. Amelia says she and her husband would travel the world through books in their childhood. Soon enough, the pair decided they needed to show their children the world outside their neighborhood.

“We both grew up really poor,” Amelia said. “I realized that instead of just reading about it, we could see the world.”

And so, the family trips began. Steven and his mother trekked to Cancun for Steven’s spring break in middle school. For Eric’s high school graduation, the family completed a barn burning tour of Italy, Spain and Morocco. Steven’s graduation present included a trip to England and France.

Sometimes, the Martinez family could tag along to Eric’s burgeoning success as a soccer player. Before he became an All-American Gamecock men’s soccer star, Eric received offers to train with professional teams and camps from England, Argentina, Sweden and Iceland. Continuing his soccer career isn’t on Eric’s mind right now, but if he does get the itch, he’ll be in the right place.

“Kicking a ball around can really help you get places,” Eric said.

“I needed a break from soccer. I realized that I wanted to get away from it for a while, but if I do want to play again, I’ll be in the right spot in London.”

Meanwhile, Steven already boasts passport stamps from Australia, a memento from his first study abroad in his sophomore year at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

Both young men point to their parents as the reason to their insatiable wanderlust.

“This is something that every parent who cares, wants,” David said. “It’s a better opportunity and life for our children.”

When he was 8 years old, Steven made it clear he wanted to fly into one side of Costa Rica, backpack across the country and fly out the other end.

“I was just like ‘Uh huh?’ when I heard that,” Amelia said, laughing. “I told Steven that if he got all academic scholarships, that we’d let him go abroad and he’s done all that and more. And how do you say no to Eric when the London school is one of the best in the world? They’ve both earned this opportunity.”

This is the first time that the boys will be studying in different schools, in different countries, with the ultimate goal of starting a life on their own. Steven hopes that his double major in political science and religious studies will land him a career dealing with military conflicts, while Eric is looking forward to studying environmental politics, while using his economics background.

“I’d be flattered to fall into Secretary of State, of course,” said Steven, with a grin on his face. “I want to leave a mark on the world and try and benefit the world in a big way.”

By once again stepping out into the world they see around them, the Martinez boys might just do that.

Two brothers diverged in a Fort Mill home and they; they took the path more travelled.

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