Hey! We are Albert and Carrie Bond of Backpacking with the Bonds. We started our blog, Backpacking with the Bonds a couple of years ago as a way to help travelers think about how travel impacts the communities they are visiting. With each trip, we try to maximize the positive impact on the local economy, environmentally as well as economically. We do this by reducing our waste and supporting locally owned and operated businesses like hotels, restaurants, and buying locally made products.
Carrie and I have both come to believe that the right kind of tourism can be a driver of equitable and sustainable development. As Peace Corps Volunteers in Jordan we both saw the positive and negative impacts that tourism can have. Albert lived in the heart of the religious tourist trail, Madaba, and Carrie lived just a few miles from two of Jordan’s main tourist sites, Petra and Wadi Rum. Following our time in Jordan we went on to explore the role of tourism and development in our master’s work while living in London.
TPM: What kind of travelers are you?
BB: We’d like to say that we’re conscientious travelers. Like we mentioned above we’re always thinking about the impact we have on the places we visit, from how we spend our money to the waste we produce while traveling. We try, to the extent possible, to keep our money in the local economy by staying at locally owned and operated hotels, eating at local restaurants, and shopping locally and to produce as little waste as possible by not buying bottled water, where possible, bringing our own reusable utensils, bags, containers, napkins, etc., for example.
TPM: Why did you decide to start the Backing with The Bonds website?
BB: We had talked about blogging for some time and had documented our travels extensively. It was during a trip with good friends to Corsica and Sardinia that we were encouraged to blog about our travels and share our tips and tricks for traveling.
TPM: I know you both met at pre-departure training for the Peace Corps in 2007. Could you share with our readers a little about what made you decide to join the Peace Corps & what your experience was like during your two year service?
BB:Albert - Joining the Peace Corps was something I had wanted to do since college. During my junior year at college I secured an internship with an NGO in Dhaka, Bangladesh where I researched the micro-finance and entrepreneurship. The internship piqued my interest in development and I knew the best way to develop a strong understanding of economic and social development would be on the ground, and what better way than with the Peace Corps. A couple of years later I applied and was sent to Jordan for two years. It was during my service in Madaba, Jordan that I married my interest in development and travel by focusing on the role tourism plays in the economy of the community. I worked with the Ministries of Youth and Tourism to design and implement programs that educated the community’s youth about tourism and the role it played in the economy of Madaba.
Carrie - I had spent a great deal of time during my senior year at university conducting research on the West Bank and when I graduated I felt that I couldn’t just get an office job. I wanted to do something that made a difference-very typical of a Peace Corps Volunteer. So, I applied, got an interview, was nominated to serve, and in a matter of a few months was on my way to Jordan. I ended up being placed in a rural village in southern Jordan, between Petra and Wadi Rum. It wasn’t always easy but everyone in my village welcomed me and treated me like a member of the community for the two years I was there. I developed life long friendships with some of students and their families, and my colleagues at the school where I taught.
TPM: Where in the world is your favorite place to visit? Why?
BB: Albert - Oman for sure is my favorite place. While living in Jordan I became interested in the rest of the region, particularly Oman. It was the beautiful landscapes, rich culture and history, and unique architecture that made it a destination I just had to see. That day finally arrived in 2015 when Carrie and I combined a trip to the UAE and Saudi Arabia with a three day jaunt to Muscat, Oman’s capital. While we only scratched the surface during that trip I have grand ambitions to get back and explore the country, especially Salalah in the south.
Carrie - My favorite place to visit is the village in Jordan where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. When I lived there I couldn’t wait to travel out of the village, usually to meet Albert in different parts of the country but now I love going back to visit my friends and people I consider family, and of course to eat some amazing homemade Jordanian food.
TPM: You both just got open water certified in Saba - Congrats! Can you share your experience with us?
BB: Thanks! Getting certification had long been a dream of Albert’s. We began the open water certification training in Washington DC over an intensive weekend course. Once that portion of the training was completed we had to find the best destination to complete our four open water dives, the final part of the certification process.
Simply put-diving in Saba was amazing! The island’s unique volcanic terrain and strong conservation efforts have led to a rich marine life and a healthy abundance of coral. If you are looking for a great location to go diving you can’t go wrong with Saba. We’ve since gotten our Advanced Open Water Certification! Stay tuned for more dive-inspired trips.
TPM: Have you had any scary moments while on your travels?
BB: Albert - Driving around Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is up there with one of the scariest experiences in my travels! I’ve driven in a lot of different places, Sardinia, Oman, Jordan, Ecuador, just to name a few, but have never experienced anything quite like driving in Jeddah. The traffic was heavy, the traffic patterns not always obvious or poorly designed, and the other drivers were, to put it mildly, aggressive. The aggressive nature of driving combined with the challenging traffic conditions made driving an absolute terror. The reality of the situation was prominently displayed through the large number of vehicles driving around with severe damage. I would not recommend driving there.
Carrie - While traveling in Pakistan from Lahore to Islamabad and I had to pay my driver a good sum of money. We stopped at an ATM in Lahore on our way out of the city and for some reason my bank card wouldn’t work. I tried a few other ATMs in the hopes that it was a bank problem but it was, a problem with my bank in the US! They suspended my account for suspicious activity even though I told them I was going to Pakistan. Due to the time difference I wasn’t able to get in touch with anyone at the bank to resolve the issue. I had no idea how I was going to pay my driver and honestly was a little panicked throughout the whole trip to Islamabad. Luckily, I had a good amount of cash in different currencies in my wallet (Rupees, UAE dirhams, and US dollars), which is highly unusual. I had the driver stop at a currency exchange and was stunned when it was almost exactly what I owed the driver.
TPM: Where is your next travel destination going to be? Why?
BB: We’ve been kicking around a few ideas but we’re still undecided. Carrie has a big birthday this year so whatever we do it’s going to be good! Stay tuned to find out.
TPM: How many countries have you visited?
BB: Albert has been to 91 countries and independent territories.
Carrie has been to 79 countries and independent territories.
TPM: How has travel changed you?
BB: Travel constantly changes us. With each new trip we are learn more about ourselves, each other, and the world at large. Traveling should be more than lounging around the beach, it should be a chance to continuously grow.
TPM: What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about traveling as travel bloggers/travel planners who are focused on sustainable travel & impactful travel?
BB: Whatever niche you decide to pursue, be sure that with each trip you take that you do your best to incorporate sustainability and support for local entrepreneurs into your travels.