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Her Family Thought She Was Traveling in Asia, Then They Discover The Truth

Zilla van den Born

Zilla van den Born couldn’t have been more excited to travel Southeast Asia for a month of good food, culture, relaxation, and fun. From the moment she started packing, she documented the whole trip on social media for everyone to join in on her incredible journey. Her parents were quite worried about her traveling alone, so to give them some peace of mind, she promised to document every experience and Skype them regularly. All of Zilla’s followers on Facebook were super envious of all the incredible photographs she was uploading of sandy white beaches and intricate Buddhist temples. Everything seemed perfect, however, no one was aware that Zilla was hiding a huge secret from everybody. Read on to find out how Zilla’s web of lies changed everything about this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

1. Growing Up in Amsterdam

Zilla van den Born, born and bred in Amsterdam, Netherlands entered the world of modeling when she was just 16 years old. When she saw how editors could modify her appearance, it spawned her fascination with filters, photo editing, and graphics.

Zilla van den Born

As a young woman, Zilla decided to study graphic design at the Art Academy of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Her passion for images and editing only grew stronger; so strong that she would end up doing something that deceived all those who knew her.

2. Curing Her Wanderlust

With Zilla van den Born’s love for imagery came the desire to travel and capture the world in all its glory. She decided to take a month-long trip to Southeast Asia in order to recharge her batteries and soak in the surrounding beauty.

Zilla van den Born

Zilla had her heart set on visiting Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos for an exciting backpacking trip that would tantalize her soul and taste buds. No one was aware of it just yet, but this trip was going to change Zilla’s family and friend’s perspective of her forever.

3. Prepping for the Trip

Before Zilla was due to depart on April 23, 2014, she shared pictures and posts of her packing on social media. She apparently wanted to take the bare minimum with her, so she tracked the process of elimination as well as her packing tricks with her followers on Facebook.

Zilla van den Born Prepares for Her Trip

She was planning on spending a great deal of time on the beautiful and exotic beaches of Southeast Asia, so there would be no point for her to pack heavy garments that would only weigh her down during her travels.

4. Time to Go!

The day for Zilla to depart on her thrilling adventure had finally arrived. Her parents were a little anxious about their precious daughter going away for so long so they decided to accompany her to the train station, from where should would head off to the airport.

Zilla van den Born at Train Station - traveling

To calm her parents’ nerves before she waved goodbye, Zilla handed them an itinerary of her trip so they would know exactly where she’d be at all times. What’s more, she also promised to keep in contact with them every day. Zilla van den Born would indeed keep all these promises, but there was something she would also hide from them.

5. Jet-Setting in Style

Once Zilla got to the airport, she posted a photo of herself holding her passport — the obligatory picture of every Instagramer. She also took a shot of her donning her backpacking gear at the airport terminal, ready to take on her adventure.

Zilla van den Born Holding Her Passports - traveling

Soon enough, Zilla’s social media pages were inundated with comments praising her for living her best life. Then, just before Zilla was supposed to board her flight, she messaged her parents to let them know she’d text them the minute she landed. Everything seemed perfectly normal, but Zilla was really up to something else.

6. The Start of an Adventure

True to her word, Zilla messaged her parents 14 hours later, saying she had arrived safely in Thailand. She then reached out to her family on Skype to show them that she had safely checked in to her first hotel.

Zilla van den Born Skyping with her Family

Zilla was eager to give them a little tour of the room and tell them all about the adventures she had planned for the next few days including visiting holy temples and trying tasty dishes. She also promised to document every moment for them.

7. “Thailand, the Land of Smiles”

One of the first photographs Zilla van den Born shared with everyone boasted of the cultural enrichment she was experiencing in Thailand. With the caption “Thailand, the Land of Smiles,” the image showcased Zilla sitting next to a Buddhist monk in a temple.

Zilla van den Born traveling Thailand

She documented the entire experience in the temple, along with shots of other statues and temples against the backdrop of Bangkok in a post. What’s more, she also hinted she’d be soaking up the sun on sandy white beaches very soon. Everyone was seriously envious by these magnificent shots but they were completely oblivious as to what Zilla was really up to.

8. Snorkel’s Up

To make her followers even more envious of her journey, Zilla updated her location to Phuket island and posted an underwater image of herself snorkeling in clear blue waters. Geared up with her snorkeling mask, the image also featured beautiful marine life swimming alongside her.

Zilla van den Born Snorkeling in Thailand - traveling

Zilla knew this image would attract a lot of attention from all those keeping tabs on every step of her holiday, and indeed, the post got many likes and comments. One friend jokingly wrote that she should watch out for exotic and dangerous fish.

9. The Trip of a Lifetime

Zilla’s adventurous posts just get coming. One moment she was posing on the beautiful palm tree-fringed beaches, and the next she was taking snaps with friends she met along the way. Everyone on social media felt like they were journeying through Southeast Asia along with Zilla.

Zilla van den Born on the Beach in Thailand - traveling

Being the photography lover that she was, Zilla also took incredible shots of all the delicious Thai cuisine she was indulging in during her holiday. Her breathtaking images just kept coming and coming, so much so, that no one suspected anything odd.

10. A Busy Schedule

Once Zilla had conquered Thailand, she shared posts chronicling her journey to Cambodia and Laos, posting pictures with the local children at temples and of more exotic landscapes. Every time she was due to move to a new hotel, she would also Skype her parents to show them the room and to talk about all the wonderful people she’d met on the trip.

Zilla van den Born traveling Buddhist Temples

Despite her jam-packed itinerary, Zilla made sure to make time to talk to her family back in the Netherlands and to post updates on social media. It seemed she was seriously living the dream in paradise, however, this feeling wasn’t going to last much longer.

11. Popular Traveling Destinations

Southeast Asia is a very popular route for youngsters to travel, which is one of the biggest reasons Zilla wanted to share her experiences on her social media accounts. Not only is the region relatively cheap to visit, it also offers some of the most breathtaking views and experiences for those wishing to expand their horizons.

traveling - Thailand

Zilla was sharing all her pictures with hundreds of followers, so everyone believed she was having the holiday of a lifetime. Some even became envious of her travels. However, no one could have ever imagined that Zilla had been deceiving them the whole time.

12. Memories to Last Forever

Once Zilla van den Born’s 42-day trip was coming to an end, she made a collage reflecting on all the incredible memories she had made in the different countries. She was excited to go back home and share everything with her family.

traveling - Zilla van den Born's Facebook Page

Zilla had shared various videos and photos during the time she was away, but she had so much more to show when she arrived home. Everyone was waiting for Zilla in anticipation, but they had no idea what she really had in store for them.

13. Postcards

Even though Zilla was constantly in contact with her friends and family via Skype and other social media platforms, she also decided to send her family a postcard to get that really authentic feeling of being far away from home.

Zilla van den Born Sends Postcards

In the card, she asked her family if they missed her, and told them how much fun she was having with all the interesting people she had met. She also told them about visiting the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng, Laos and the region’s mesmerizing temples.

14. Heading Home

Zilla’s trip had finally ended, and it was time for her to go back to the Netherlands to continue her studies. Her family was likely sure she was sad to leave Southeast Asia behind, but perhaps they could all return together one day.

Zilla van den Born Heads Back to the Netherlands -traveling

With all the incredible photos she captured of her adventures, Zilla could hold onto this special time for years to come. So she packed her bags and made her way back home; only there was something huge that she was still hiding.

15. A Web of Lies

When Zilla van den Born arrived home, her family was thrilled to see her back safe and sound. They were even more excited to see all her videos and photos, so she said she’d invite them over to share everything.

Zilla van den Born

They didn’t know it yet, but they were in for a shock of their lives. Zilla had prepared a video in which she would reveal something no one could ever have anticipated. Absolutely no one realized what she had had up her sleeve all along.

16. The Reveal

When Zilla’s family finally gathered around her to vicariously live through her vacation with her vivid images once again, she showed them a video of where she had really been for the last 42 days, and it certainly wasn’t what they were prepared to see.

Zilla van den Born's Hoax

She wasn’t sure how they were going to take the news, but Zilla revealed that her entire holiday had been one big ruse. Turns out that she had been in Amsterdam for the past month and didn’t even set foot in Southeast Asia. But how was that even possible after all her posts? Her parents had even seen her off to the airport!

17. Pause and Rewind

The truth was that Zilla van den Born hadn’t left the Netherlands — or even her home city of Amsterdam, for that matter. Instead of traveling to exotic beaches in Thailand and Cambodia, she had actually been confined to her apartment in Amsterdam.

Zilla van den Born's Fake Disguise

After her family left her at the train station, she donned a disguise so no one would notice her and caught the train back into Amsterdam. Zilla would spend the next 42 days creating an elaborate hoax in order to convince everyone that she was traveling the world. But how did she do it?

18. Undercover

For the entire month, Zilla would leave her home in Amsterdam, just to buy groceries and the essentials, wearing an elaborate disguise so that no one would recognize her. She even took selfies of her conning everyone with her undercover look.

Zilla van den Born Disguises Herself

The only person who knew about Zilla’s real plan was her boyfriend, and he supported the idea for one particular reason that Zilla would soon explain to her family and friends. The only issue was it wouldn’t go down as well as she thought.

19. The Wonders of Photoshop

In order to pull off her epic and complicated scam, Zilla returned to her apartment and got to work right away using her digital and creative skills. She transformed her entire apartment with props and used Photoshop to edit and manipulate all her images.

Zilla van den Born Enjoying Thai Cuisine

To make it look like she was on exotic beaches and at holy temples and shrines, Zilla had to go to great lengths to make everything look real. Her family couldn’t believe how convincing her photos were, so Zilla went on to explain exactly how she created the illusion.

20. Getting Creative

Zilla van den Born spared no expense, and even put herself through the wringer to achieve her desired results. For the entire month, she’d wake up in the middle of the night to talk to her parents via text messages and spent a lot of money transforming her apartment for the Skype calls.

Zilla had to use quite a few props and equipment to make her apartment look like different South Asian hotels. She used old Christmas lights, parasols, and futon mattresses to totally change her room. Zilla even went to local shops to buy Asian souvenirs to use for the staged setup. This wasn’t all though!

21. Cooped Up Indoors

When Zilla wasn’t transforming her apartment into an Asian hotel, she was in the kitchen whipping up some Asian dishes to take for her social media pages. A holiday is all about the different dishes you get to try, so Zilla knew she had to invest in this detail as well.

Zilla van den Born Whipping Up Asian Dishes in her Apartment

The hardest part was using the photo editing software to place herself against the backdrops of all the temples, beaches, and landscapes. Zilla went into detail about how she captured the shots of her sitting next to a monk or snorkeling in the crystal blue water, and once again, no one could believe it.

22. Underwater Hoax

When it came to all the snorkeling photos, Zilla thought of quite the creative approach. She went for a swim in her own swimming pool in Amsterdam, where she snapped some underwater shots of her in the clear blue water.

Zilla van den Born Fakes Holiday

Then, to add the tropical fish around her, she used her editing skills from graphic design school. Interestingly enough, not all of Zilla’s photographs were completely faked using Photoshop. In fact, Zilla also devised quite the cunning plan to pose in a Buddhist temple.

23. Posing with a Buddhist Monk

The photograph of Zilla van den Born smiling next to a monk in a Buddhist temple was actually very real, except it wasn’t taken anywhere in Thailand or Cambodia. Some things would have been difficult to Photoshop, so Zilla had a different idea.

Zilla van den Born in Buddhist Temple

In order to make these moments seem so real, Zilla tracked down a local temple in her neighborhood, where she posed next to a real monk. In this way, she created the most authentic-looking photographs and posts for her entire holiday.

24. Fake Friendships

What about all those incredible people Zilla had supposedly met on her journey? Well, in order to showcase all the new friends she had supposedly acquainted in Southeast Asia, Zilla copied the photographs of another female traveler and gave her a new identity.

Zilla van den Born Fakes Friendships

By doing this, Zilla was able to stage fake Facebook conversations with this new fictional friend to make everything seem even more believable. It seems like Zilla thought about every single little detail, but why would she go to all these great lengths to create an imaginary holiday in the first place?

25. Zilla’s Biggest Concern

Before Zilla embarked on this wild and complicated hoax of a journey, she seriously considered telling her mom about her secret plan. She felt bad telling lies to her family, even though she had a specific reason for doing so.

Zilla van den Born's Experiment

However, in the end, Zilla decided she’d only let her boyfriend in on the deception. She was filled with a sense of determination to conduct this project, but she didn’t realize how much it would really hurt the people she loved.

26. A Social Experiment

As a graphic designer and model, Zilla van den Born was always concerned about how much people twist reality to portray a certain facade to the world. She was totally enraptured with how editing software technologies can totally distort images.

Zilla van den Born's University Project

Zilla was even more intrigued by how people try to portray themselves in a certain way on social media when in truth, their realities look a whole lot different. The main reason behind this staged trip was to address both of these issues for her university degree. But how would the people close to her feel about being lied to for this research experiment?

27. Coming Clean

When Zilla told everyone the truth at the end of her university project, many of her family members and friends were confused and quite hurt by the social experiment. It would take them a few moments to really absorb the reasoning behind it all.

Zilla van den Born's Hoax

“The inspiration for this project came from combining my two passions together: photo manipulation and traveling. I wanted to prove how easily reality gets distorted,” Zilla explained to everyone. But perhaps she had gone entirely too far. Would they ultimately jump on board with her idea?

28. Dealing with the Anger

On the one hand, Zilla understood everyone’s anger as it spoke to the greater issue of how we all get manipulated on a regular basis on social media. She agreed that no one likes being lied to or turned into research subjects without their knowledge. However, looking at it from the other side of the coin, Zilla thought she was doing something good to prove a point.

Zilla van den Born

“I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media ―we create an online ideal world which reality can no longer meet. My goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality. Everyone knows that pictures of models are manipulated, but we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives,” she told Daily Mail.

29. Mixed Reaction

While Zilla’s family was quite taken aback by her social experiment, her friends online were onboard. They praised the project, astonished at how she managed to pull off this elaborate hoax. They even commended her for her talents and editing skills.

Zilla van den Born

Zilla hadn’t really anticipated her family’s reaction. She didn’t believe it would hurt them as much as it did and that they would feel so betrayed. “I really underestimated the impact of the project on myself and the people around me!”

30. Drawing the Line

Reflecting back on this project, Zilla van den Born believes it was an eye-opening experiment and well worth doing. She wanted to highlight how we get jealous of people on social media when what we see isn’t always the truth.

Zilla van den Born

When Daily Mail asked her if she would do it again, she had to think about it carefully and replied, “If I had the chance to do it again, I don’t think I would.” It’s safe to say Zilla was satisfied with the research and results, but not how it affected her loved ones.

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Sources: Daily Mail, Boredom Therapy, Buzzfeed, Bustle

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