April 2018

GMC Let Me See the Island in a Whole New Way: And made me feel deeply ashamed of my own car

Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: Talisman PHOTO for GMC

Think about every story in a magazine or online you’ve ever read about some far-off destination or exotic resort. Odds are good that the first draft of that story was written during a press trip, a unique little working vacation at the intersection of the PR and journalism industries.

As a former travel editor, I was lucky to go on several press trips, from a gorgeous stay at San Juan’s Caribe Hilton to a week’s cruise aboard now-defunct Fathom cruise line’s inaugural trip. You go, you get treated like royalty, and you come out the other end with a few hundred words of glowing praise. But there was one place I’d never been invited to visit: Hilton Head Island.

Mostly because I live in Bluffton, but also because it’s a method of promoting tourism that the island has only recently embraced. (Funny story, comparing notes with another journo at Caribe Hilton, I learned she had flown there right from the Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival).

So, you can only imagine my surprise when I got an email from GMC (yes, that GMC. The one from the Transformers movies) inviting me to enjoy a few days on sunny Hilton Head Island (yes, that Hilton Head Island. The one outside your window, probably). Not only were they going to put me up at the Sonesta Resort, they were going to loan me a brand-new GMC Terrain, fully loaded with the top package of electronic bells and whistles.

They’ve made a ton of changes to the 2018 model, from super-fast unlimited 4G LTE Wi-Fi to completely redesigned styling—and the thing purrs like a kitten. My usual whip is a late-model Sebring without so much as Bluetooth, so having add-ons like blind spot warnings and lane departure detection left me feeling like I’d been loaned a car from the distant future.

I was curious why GMC picked Hilton Head Island, an island famed for its stunning lack of mountains, to roll out its new line of rugged all-terrain SUVs. It turns out you don’t need elevation to get the most of this car.

“Be it biking, boating or kayaking, the active lifestyle of Hilton Head Island fits in perfectly with the GMC customer and the things they do with their vehicles,” said Mikhael Farah, Buick-GMC East Coast Communications. “South Carolina is also a target market for us at GMC, so it was a natural fit for us to bring the all-new 2018 GMC Terrain down to Hilton Head Island and showcase all it has to offer.”

And it makes sense. Part of the trip had us fitting a Bass Pro Shop worth of outdoor gear into the back before heading out on a kayaking expedition with Outside Hilton Head—which was perhaps the most intriguing part of the trip: playing tourist with a group of journalists. This wasn’t just about showing off the new Terrain, after all; it was about introducing Hilton Head Island to an influential group of writers and editors. Some had been here before; some were enjoying it for the first time.

Carolina Style editor-in-chief Bridgette Wright was one journo who was here for the first time. Her job allows her to venture out on a few press trips a year, generally around the Southeast, and she was smitten, saying, “Yes, this was my first trip to Hilton Head Island. I heard so much about it, so it was good to finally make the trip. It actually had me considering a move in the future.”

Susan Barnes of travlingirl.com has written for outlets from duPont Registry to Delta Sky, and was here for her first visit in several years. “I enjoy the area. It’s quiet and relaxed, and just has a nice vibe,” she said. “I’m always so impressed by the tree canopy. I love it!”

But seeing the island through their eyes, watching them tour my hometown the same way I’d walked the historic forts of San Juan on a press trip, reminded me what a special place we call home.

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