If you have read the news or been on top of social media lately it is most likely you have heard of Zilla van den Born, a Dutch graphic designer who convinced her family and friends that she was travelling in Southeast Asia for 5 weeks when in fact she had never left home.
We heard about her through various blogs and news outlets online and we thought what she did was brilliant. She was able to convince her friends and family that she was travelling by posting photoshopped photos of herself relaxing on the beach, meeting locals or snorkelling the clear waters of Southeast Asia. She went as far as to have her parents drop her off at the airport, making sure she stayed in disguise when outside running errands.
Despite becoming well known for not travelling, we read that she is indeed a fan of travelling and took on this experiment as a project for University.
We contacted her to ask a few questions about her project as well as a few other travel related questions.
Interview Questions for Zilla:
1.) What inspired you take on this project/ How did you come up with the idea for this project?
I combined the two things I love most: photo manipulation and travelling.
I’ve always been fascinated by photoshop and before/after pictures: the many possibilities it has. It intrigues me that a photo has a insidious, ambiguous relationship with reality, because there is a constant battle going on between the two photographic considerations: showing the photographed image as beautifully as possible and telling the truth. What a final picture really shows is never the exact situation as it really was, it is a flavoured version of the truth!
I wanted to come up with an idea that made people stop and think about the daily flow of images they get to see.
2.) What did you learn from the experience and was the end result what you expected?
I became more cautious myself in believing what I see. Sure, that person’s updates might make me jealous of the seemingly perfect life others live, but there’s usually more to it than just what we get to see — and the same goes for my own life as well.
I certainly got people talking about self-made realities and I truly hope that it will help some people be more aware of this subject and relativize their virtual image.
3.) It really is amazing what you can do with photoshop though. With the overload of social media these days, it is hard to distinguish reality from fantasy sometimes. Since the project have you had the chance to travel anywhere special?
I had done so much research about Asia for my project that I really felt the urge to go see for myself. So after my graduation I went to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos to make the trip I had already done in my fake reality. Because even though I got to “see” the highlights and landmarks already by searching through the representations of these countries, nothing will beat the experience of really going there.
It was amazing!
4.) In your past travel experiences, where was your favourite place to visit?
I have so many travel destinations that come to mind with this question, I don’t know which one to pick. For me it’s not about a favourite place, but rather about a special moment, a memory that will stick with you forever and connects you with that place. For instance this one time in Vietnam when I showed a local girl from a hill tribe the video I just made of her and saw the joy and her surprised face because she had never seen a video ever before.
5.) Where in the world would you like to visit that you haven’t been to before?
Somewhere I haven’t already been. I have so many places on my bucketlist I couldn’t possibly name just one! I always crave for new adventures but I’m not sure yet which country I will pick as my next mission to travel to.
To watch more videos of her project you can check out her Vimeo account here.
To learn more about Zilla van den Born and her graphic design work you can check out her professional website: