Jeff Bonaldi ‘00 graduated from The College of New Jersey with a degree in Political Science. He was an active participant in student government as class president for three years, as well as a member of the varsity tennis team and of the fraternity, Theta Chi.
During his time at TCNJ, Jeff especially appreciated the “microcosm of the world on campus.” Jeff said, “the world seemed so large after graduation, but TCNJ was a nice prep to getting a little lost and finding options.”
Jeff was considering going to law school during college but then became interested in entrepreneurship and banking, leading him to positions at Merrill Lynch in asset management and at Citibank as a fixed income portfolio manager.
But after traveling for a bit, hiking in particular, he had a great awakening that led him to the travel industry. “I started to do everything, like I got my diving license. I went horseback riding. It was like I just couldn’t get enough of it for a while,” said Jeff. “So I just kept going with it. And then it was having such a transformative effect on me that I decided that maybe I could do this for a living.”
He launched The Explorer’s Passage at the NY Travel Show in 2014, beginning a slow and steady career shift. “When it comes to starting a business, I’d suggest getting a job and also building the company on the side,” said Jeff. “You can do both simultaneously with a real-life application of the workplace.” He now works full time for his business.
His company travels on all seven continents, including the Arctic region. During the coronavirus, his business has now been able to plan and schedule trips for 2021. In addition to his business, which he operates full time now, he also has started consulting small businesses and start ups.
As an alum, Jeff recently returned to TCNJ as a speaker for the TEDxTCNJ series, which aired this past November. In his talk, he discussed his career and personal discoveries in travel. “It’s different to not talk to a live audience, but it’s suddenly global when recorded.” He also has been a judge for the Mayo Business Plan Competition.
Advice for students: When it comes to creating a business, find an association that’s tied into your industry. For example, he found great mentors at the Adventure Travel Trade Association, as well as finding a good travel lawyer and business coach. “Start with passion. You don’t necessarily need a love of business,” said Jeff.