This Student’s Family Believed She Was Traveling In Asia. Then They Discovered Her Web Of Deceit

Posing against a backdrop of white sand and sparkling blue sea, Zilla van den Born looks every inch the gap-year backpacker. For weeks, her friends and family have followed her social media updates with envy, watching as she lives out every traveler’s dream. But is Zilla’s adventure really what it seems?

In this day and age, traveling is big news. While previous generations had to content themselves with holidays in their own countries – and perhaps the occasional trip abroad – today’s explorers are spoiled for choice. And now, it’s common for many young people to visit far-flung corners of the globe before settling into their chosen careers.

As a result, visiting backpacker hotspots such as South-East Asia and India has become more and more popular in recent decades. But in an era of Facebook and Instagram, these experiences are often reduced to filter-heavy snapshots of tropical beaches, exotic meals and grinning locals. Obviously, though, these don’t represent the full reality of the traveling experience – so where should we draw the line?

Zilla grew up in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, a city that has spawned its own fair share of envy-inducing tourist photo opportunities. And when she was just 16, she entered the world of modelling, where she grew fascinated with the techniques that editors would use to modify her appearance.

As a young woman, Zilla began to carve out a career for herself in the creative industries, beginning a course in graphic design at the Art Academy of Utrecht in the Netherlands. But like many people her age, the 25-year-old was also drawn to the idea of travel. So, that year, she informed her family and friends that she’d decided to take a five-week sojourn around South-East Asia.