One look at her Facebook, you’d assume that Zilla van den Born was having the time of her life. She had scored a one month trip to Asia and was living amidst the best food, the sandiest beaches, and loudest parties. Shockingly, things took a startling turn when her family discovered the trip was just part of an elaborate web of lies.
Life In Amsterdam
The Amsterdam native’s life changed forever when she was 16-years-old. She was discovered by a modeling agency and grew an obsession with filters and other photo editing tools. It was this obsession that would ultimately cause her to deceive her family.
Embracing The Travel Bug
She went on to study graphic design at the Art Institute of Utrecht. It was there that she became more crazed about photo editing. At the same time, Zilla had a growing interest in traveling. This interest had everything to do with wanting to take pictures of the world around her. This resulted in her taking a month-long trip through Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. No friend or family member could have seen what would become of Zilla on this trip.
Preparing For The World
The day before she left, Zilla shared pictures on social media that detailed how light she was packing for her trip. She announced that she was packing just the essentials and also showed the people some of her handy packing tricks. Zilla was going to beauty, humid land and she would have little need for the fancy clothes one wears back in Europe.
She was all smiles on her day of departure. Her family on the other hand was really nervous. For the first time, their precious daughter would be traveling alone. The accompanied her to the train station and gave her a tearful goodbye. In an attempt to calm their nerves, Zilla handed them an itinerary of her trip so that they could keep track of her location. She also promised that she’d talk to them every day. She was true to these promises, but there was something she wasn’t truthful about. Something that she kept hidden from those closest to her.
Traveling In Style
Zilla was capturing every second of her trip on camera. As she arrived at the airport she snapped a shot of her passport and ticket. She also approached some other travelers and asked them to take a picture of her donning all of her travel gear. Comments flooded her social media accounts. Friends, family, and admirers all praised her for taking such a brave journey. Before getting on the plane, Zilla texted her parents and assured them that she’d message them the minute she landed.
The Adventure Begins
14 hours later, Zilla messaged her parents to let them know that she had landed safely in Bangkok’s international airport. She even skyped them as she entered her hotel room. She showed them around her living quarters and told them all about her plans for the coming month. She also promised that she would document everything for her family.
The Land Of A Million Smiles
Zilla’s first photo that she posted in Thailand really sported the spiritual side of the country. She posted a picture of her sitting next to a monk and it was simply captioned “Thailand, Land of Smiles.” She documented the entire temple from the exterior with a big city backdrop to all the statues and designs of the interior. She also left a status that assured her friends and followers that she’d soon be on the white sandy Thai beaches.
Snorkeling For Days
Her efforts to make her followers envious were successful as she posted a photo of her snorkeling off Phuket island. The photo is absolutely remarkable. It shows her underwater while surrounded by marine life. Zilla knew the picture would be an instant hit with her followers and she was right. Likes and comments immediately flooded in. Some even warned her to watch out for some dangerous aqua life.
The Adventure Of A Lifetime
The adventurous post kept coming. Her family and friends looked on as she posed in front of palm trees on some of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches and pictures of her with friends that she had met along the way. Photos for Zilla are everything and you can be sure that she snapped a shot of everything she ate. Amidst these rather cliche photos, no one would have expected what was really going on.
Laos And Cambodia
Once she moved on from Thailand, she began posting so many pictures of her discoveries in Laos and Cambodia. Every time she went to a new hotel, she’d make sure to skype her mom and dad and show them the new room. While at the moment she was living in a true paradise, things were about to take a drastic turn for her.
Asia’s Popular Destinations
Asia is one of the most popular destinations amongst travelers. It doesn’t only offer breathtaking views and cheap prices, the people are also extremely nice. Thousands of young people flock there year round and of course, Zilla was no different. She also wanted to see something very different from her home in Europe.
As Zilla’s 42-day journey was wrapping up, she decided to make a collage and put on her Facebook. While she was sad to be leaving behind all the amazing memories in Asia, she was rather excited to see her family. She had shared most of her pictures online, but little did everyone know, she’d come home with something more to show.
Throughout her whole trip, she would keep in constant contact with all of her friends and family. Zilla even sent out some postcards to her family so that she could get the authentic feeling of travelers from the past. In the card, she asked if they missed her. Zilla also told them about her trip to the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng and some of the temples.
Zilla’s Trip Home
Unfortunately, Zilla had to leave behind her paradise and return back to her live in Holland and her studies. It wouldn’t be easy to adapt to a life of studies after weeks of freedom. With all her special memories and the pictures that she took, there was still something about her trip that wasn’t talking about. With that, she stepped onto the plane and headed back home.
Zilla’s Web Of Lies
Upon her arrival, Zilla invited her parents over so that she could show them the bulk of the photos she took from her trip. As they made their way to her house, she was preparing to show them the whole truth. While Zilla was in Asia she had prepared a video which reveals the whole truth about her time. She was getting it ready to show as her family was coming.
The Truth Comes Out
Her family wasn’t at all prepared for what Zilla had in store for them. As they walked in, they were expecting to see a video of Thailand, but instead, they saw before them a video of where their daughter had really been for the last 42 days. It turns out that she was just in Amsterdam for the last month. Her parents were baffled. How could any of this be true, they saw the airplane tickets and all the beautiful pictures.
Confined To Her Apartment
Turns out she had spent the last 42 days confined to her apartment. She had never even stepped a single foot in Asia. Whenever she left her place to buy food or take a walk, she’d have to dress in an elaborate costume. Zilla even took some selfies of her dressed up in a costume. The only person who knew about the plan was her boyfriend and he fully supported her idea. Here is why.
Roaming The City
In truth, the moment Zilla’s parents dropped her off at the train station, she went into the bathroom changed into a disguise and headed on a train back from Amsterdam. She headed back to her apartment and prepared for the following day. She would need to find a way to contact her parents and make it seems as if she was in a hotel.
Wonders Of Photoshop
The minute she got back to her apartment, she delved into her work. Not only was her computer scattered with windows to all sorts of picture sites and photoshop tools, but also her room. Her once very nice apartment was full of props that would assist her in fooling her friends and family. Her family couldn’t believe how realistic everything looked. With that, Zilla elaborated.
If you think it sounds like a whole lot of work, it was. She would fork over a lot of money to design her apartment how she figured a hotel in Asia would look. Zilla would also wake up in the middle of the night and have long talks with her parents. She’d constantly have to transform her room and she even went to the Asian shops in order to get some souvenirs.
It was all more work than she could have ever expected. Zilla was all over the place. If she wasn’t turning her place into an Asian hotel, she was busy cooking Asian meals in her kitchen. She’d also have to take pictures for social media and spend some time editing them. She’d have to take pictures of herself wearing different clothes and placing her infront of temples and next to monks.
Many people wondered how she created all those amazing underwater pictures. While for some this might seem impossible, Zilla thought quickly and just took a dive into her families swimming pool. It was the perfect way to mimic Thailand’s crystal blue water. When it came to getting the marine life into the picture, she simply edited them in.
Posing With A Monk
While most of the photos were fake, one stands out as real and it was the one with the monk. She knew that she needed a picture with a monk and in order to make this possible she had to be creative. Zilla just looked up where one of Amsterdam’s local temples was and went there to take a picture with a monk. Pictured below is the most authentic picture from the whole gallery.
What about all those friends that she met while in Thailand and Laos? How did she get into that picture? The answer is quite simple, Zilla found a picture on the internet and edited herself into it. She even made fake Facebook profiles nad friended them and had conversations. Zilla really did have everything covered.
Zilla’s Number One Concern
At time Zilla felt absolutely horrible. Before the Hoax took off, she considered telling her mother about her plans. The thought of lying to her mother and father made her feel really bad. When all was said and done, she decided to only go with telling her boyfriend. At the end of the day, she didn’t really realize the damage that she’d do to her mother.
Zilla had always been taken by editing software and filtering and how people use them to completely change the way they look on social media. Someone can totally turn themselves into a different person. Usually, people are very different in real life then they are on the internet. Her experiment was for the purpose of exposing these two problems with modern day society. It was an amazing hoax, but how did her parents feel about this.
Revealing Her Experiment To The World
Once her University project ended, she came clean to everyone about the trip being nothing more than an elaborate experiment. Many of her friends and family members walked away hurt and offended by Zilla’s lie. Then Zilla explained the project to them and they gifted her with their forgiveness. She said, “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.”
During an Interview with Daily Mail, she said, “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.”
Her family took her bluff the hardest, but friends were very understanding and praised her creativity and dedication to the hoax. They even complimented her on her amazing editing abilities. Zilla had no idea that her family would be so hurt by her actions. She even went on to say, “I really underestimated the impact of the project on myself and the people around me!”
Learning From Her Actions
The project was very eye-opening for Zilla in many ways. Her experiment spoke volumes about what is going on with humanity in terms of social media. When Daily Mail asked if she’d do it again, she replied with, “If I had the chance to do it again, I don’t think I would.” We think that she learned a powerful lesson while also teaching us something new.