TCNJ Magazine - Winter 2019

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42 The College of New Jersey Magazine J eff Bonaldi '00 has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, crossed the choppy seas of the infamous Drake Passage to meet Antarctica's penguins, and ridden up the towering Andes Mountains on horseback to relive a battle in the Chilean War of Independence. These and dozens of other trips he offers to some of the most beautiful places on Earth are his 9 to 5 job. As founder and CEO of The Explorer's Passage, an adventure travel company with a focus on storytelling and sustainability, Bonaldi has made it one of the most-talked-about names in the industry. Fascinated by history and "stories where people do the impossible," Bonaldi set out to build a company that chased those stories to offer travelers something — a mix of inspiration, education, and myth — they wouldn't find anywhere else. His company is nearly five years old, but it's only in the past year that Bonaldi left a lucrative, but increasingly unfulfilling, finance gig at Citigroup to commit to it full time. A political science major and class president at TCNJ, Bonaldi expected to pursue environmental law. "I was very into the idea of helping people," he says. But when his father died when Bonaldi was 18, his focus turned to business as he tried to get his dad's nascent business going while he was still at TCNJ. After three years of trying, he says, "I packed it in." From there, he went to take business classes at the University of Pennsylvania, and then into finance, first at Merrill Lynch and eventually with Citigroup. As a banking executive, travel was an unavoidable part of his job, and he was on the road 100 days or more each year. But he longed to spend his time in a more meaningful way. Bonaldi asked himself a question: If I could wake up one day and just do what I love, what would that be? The answer, it turned out, was travel — not more, but better travel, more inspiring travel, travel that had the potential to change his and others' lives. The Explorer's Passage trips, which range from a walking tour that follows George Washington's footsteps around lower Manhattan to the Myth of Mustang tour, which immerses travelers in the ancient lore of Nepal, reflect that intent. In 2018, National Geographic named the latter one of its "must- take tours" in Asia. "The Nepal tour is so special," says Bonaldi. "We visit the Mustang region, one of the most sacred places on the planet. It is like stepping back in time 2,000 years." Now that he's started chasing stories, Bonaldi can't stop. He recently established Gladiator Trek, an adventure travel company designed for people battling PTSD. He says he hopes to inspire participants through physical challenge to cope better with their emotional wounds. "Like, if I could climb that mountain, what can't I do in my personal life?" He's not sure what he might chase next, but he's certain of what will drive him: "It's not so much the travel," he says, "it's that we're doing it for other people." —Ryan Jones CLASS N O T E S W I N T E R 2 0 1 9 PETER MURPHY Fascinated by "stories where people do the impossible," Bonaldi set out to build a company to offer travelers something they wouldn't find anywhere else.

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