I'm a Midwestern girl in constant search of sunshine + sea. I travel solo, work full-time, and sometimes, I write.

A Day in the Life: Then vs Now

A Day in the Life: Then vs Now

Sometimes I feel like there are two of me: the Alyssa with a MPA in Nonprofit Management, a color-coded planner and calendar, a closet full of J. Crew dresses and nude heels, and an apartment with granite counter tops and brick detailing.

Then there's the other me: the Alyssa who has been living out of the same backpack for 8 months, wearing the same red romper in every photo, gallivanting around foreign cities with flip-flop tan lines and less than $2,000 in the bank.

I look back on the life I used to have and it feels like ages ago. The crazy thing? I love both lives. I enjoy working and being challenged in a job I'm passionate about. I also enjoy having no idea where I am in a city and flying past stunning limestone mountains on a motorbike.

Here's a peek at both lives, then and now.

Oh, and this was my job: I managed the fundraising efforts of high schools and universities across Indiana for a children's hospital in Indianapolis. 

One Year Ago - Indianapolis, IN, USA

8:30AM - Hit snooze a million times. Scroll through social media. Finally get out of bed. Make a cup of Keurig coffee and stick the mug in the freezer to make iced coffee.

8:40AM - Breakfast is overnight oats with almond milk, raspberries, and bananas.  

8:45AM - Take a shower. Spend 20 minutes blow drying and straightening my hair. Another 20 minutes for make-up: foundation, concealer, mascara, highlighter, bronzer. Spend even more time picking out my outfit because I have a million clothes and dirty laundry on the floor and I'm tripping over shoes in my walk-in closet.

9:20AM - Walk out the door. It's an 8 minute walk from my apartment to the office. If it's even a little bit chilly, I drive to work.

9:30AM - Arrive just in time for our weekly Tuesday meeting with 12 other team members and our department VP. Report out on my fundraising goal progress, the donors and schools I've met with, any successes and challenges.

9:32AM - Promptly realize that I forgot my coffee in the freezer at home. Settle for the office's hot coffee.

10:05AM - Still in the meeting, now eating donuts because it's somebody's birthday or we hit a fundraising goal. Or Sam brought them in just because she has an affinity for donuts.

11:00AM - Meeting wraps up after everyone has reported out. Go into another weekly team meeting with my direct manager and three other DM team members. Share progress on RCON, new high school prospects, upcoming events, communication projects and branding updates.

12:00PM - Another meeting, but it's a lunch meeting which is good cause lunch is free and sometimes I forget to eat lunch when I'm really busy. Purpose of the meeting is how to keep DM alumni involved with our organization after they have graduated college. Spend an hour brainstorming a ton of ideas that our Marketing VP writes on big sheets of paper and then sticks to a wall. I keep emphasizing the fact that alumni will come to any sponsored event if there is classy alcohol involved.

1:00PM - Answer emails. Various subject lines include How can I start DM at my high school, Need list of RS donors, Gala update, June Fundraising Dashboard, RCON venue???, Agenda for CMN meeting. Get stuck answering emails because there's a nonstop flow of them and I color-code each one.

2:00PM - Update fundraising metrics for each of my schools. Pull multiple reports to cross-check numbers. Make a note that one of my schools is not on track with their fundraising based on metrics from last year; need to schedule a call with their VP Finance to troubleshoot any fundraising issues.

2:30PM - Finally carve out time to work on the details for RCON, a conference for high school students that I've led for the past three years. Get annoyed because the venue contact won't confirm the actual venue availability. Get more annoyed because the budget hasn't been approved yet for the actual conference. Get excited because the new branding looks awesome for the conference.

3:00PM - Go into meeting with DM team members to review the millionth draft of the RCON itinerary. Pull up list of everyone's responsibilities to see how progress is coming. Basically trying to utilize all the skills I learned in a Project Management workshop.

3:45PM - Meeting wraps up early because we are so done with meetings. Walk to Starbucks with my coworkers cause it's a nice day out and coffee.

4:00PM - Rush to the hospital to give a tour to a group of high school students who are in the middle of their fundraising efforts. The fact that I talk nonstop means that the tour lasts 1.5 hours.

5:30PM - Lose track of time and realize I need to hit the road to get a college campus that I work with. Sit in rush hour traffic on I-65.

7PM - Arrive at college campus. Grab dinner in the college cafeteria. Meet with DM student leaders: President, VP Finance, VP External, VP Internal to discuss financial tracking updates, fundraising campaigns and pushes, any internal issues. Doesn't feel like work because this is my favorite part of the job: working directly with students, advisors, and donors.

My Tuesday night view.

My Tuesday night view.


8PM - Go into meeting with DM Executive Board, ranging from 15-22 members depending on the college. Directors report out individually on what they're working on, upcoming fundraisihng pushes, internal plans for their actual fundraising event. I share updates from the hospital and encourage strategic initiatives. Meeting usually has lots of laughter, shenanigans, and snacks.  

11-12:30AM - Call my mom cause she's the only one awake who will talk to me on my 1.5 hour drive home.

1AM - Scroll through social media, look at work emails that I missed while driving, finally put all my dirty clothes in the hamper, get rid of the frozen coffee in my freezer.

1:17AM - Realize I totally forgot to post in the online discussion board for one of my grad school classes. Type something up really fast and get it posted minutes before the deadline.

2AM - Crash.

[PSA: I totally realize that the above working schedule was not sustainable. The team I worked on made changes to establish a better work-life balance and I got better at managing my time. But yes, Tuesday was always my busiest day and I often struggled to balance my job with grad school, a social life, and dating.]

With some of my IU grad school classmates.

With some of my IU grad school classmates.

Today - Hoi An, Vietnam


9AM - Wake up because other people are already awake and making noise in the hostel dorm room. Scroll through social media. Skim through USA Today, The Washington Post, The New York Times because I'm still a news junkie.

9:30AM - Walk downstairs to take advantage of the free breakfast offered by my homestay: homemade banana pancakes with honey and freshly brewed coffee.

10AM - Debate showering or not. Can't be bothered to put on any make-up. Haven't even seen my make-up bag in three months. Check out of my room because I'm catching a night bus later on.

Au natural.  

Au natural.  

10:30AM - Skip the shower and put my hair in a bun. Ride bicycles around town and across the river with an American girl who is staying my dorm. Get lost multiple times. Snap photos of locals cleaning their boats and getting their fishing nets ready. Mention for the hundredth time how hot it is.

12:00PM - Find a banh mi hole-in-the-wall filled with locals. There is no menu - it's a regular sandwhich or a vegetarian one. Order the vegetarian one by pointing and making hand signals. Pay the bill: .88 cents.


1:00PM - Meet an Irish guy who just checked into the hostel. Decide to split the cost of a motorbike rental with him to drive 25 minutes to Marble Mountains, a series of Buddhist pagodas placed on limestone and marble mountains.

2:00PM - Climb the 200 steps up Marble Mountain, put on a knee-length skirt despite the heat out of respect for the Buddhist temples, snap a few photos at the top.


2:41PM - On the way down, I ask for a bathroom (either by saying WC, water closet, bathroom, toilet). After being led down a back alley, the female toilets consist of a series of squat toilets with no partitions. I can do the squat toilets, but do require a door. I decide to wait until I get back to the hostel.

3:30PM - Irish guy and I arrive back in town. I ride my bike to the tailor for a final fitting of my dress.

4:00PM - Wander around the old section of Hoi An, taking in all the cafes, leather shops, tailors, and lanterns strung across the pathways. Enjoy a cup of mango ice cream. Haggle with the locals for a few souvenirs: a piece of street art and a bracelet.


5:00PM - Grab dinner with a Swedish girl, German guy, Irish guy, and American girl at a famous food stall stand for some Vietnamese food: white rose, cao lao, spring rolls, and wontons. Total cost is $3.

6:00PM - Chill in the homestay common area for awhile as I wait for my bus. I do the following:

  • Look up flight prices from Hanoi to Bali for the millionth time on Skyscanner, Skiplagged, and Momondo.
  • Google how much an Indonesia visa is and how long it's good for (30 days and it's free).
  • Compare hostels on and book a hostel for the next night based on good reviews.
  • Email my credit card company again because the card keeps getting denied when I try to make online purchases abroad.
  • Proofread and edit a blog post.
  • Finish edits on a freelance article.
  • Edit photos on Snapseed.
  • Update my finance spreadsheet with that day's expenses and take a quick glance on my total balance in my checking accounts. Resign myself to the fact that I'm going to run out of money in Canada.

8:00PM - Get picked up by bus company for an overnight bus ride to Phong Nha. Make a strategic decision on seat selection: upper bunk, by the window, in the middle. Open Spotify playlist. Driver starts driving and I say a silent thank you that this driver is only mildly crazy and doesn't stray over the middle line too often.

11:00PM - Finally fall asleep, curled up in a ball on a bus. Am startled six hours later to the driver yelling "PHONG NHA!! PHONG NHA STOP! OFF, OFF!!!"

Wake up in a new city.

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