Gastonia and Switzerland don’t have much in common. But a viral TikTok video influenced a Florida woman to go visit what she thought was a small pastoral village surrounded by snowy mountains in North Carolina.
Olivia Garcia road tripped with her family to the Carolinas from Jupiter, Florida, to check out the snow during Winter Storm Izzy last week. While driving to Angel Oak Park in Charleston, S.C., the 26-year-old found a TikTok video labeled “Gastonia, NC.” Mesmerized by the mountains in the video, she convinced her family to make a detour.
“I’m from south Florida, so the closet thing we have to mountains down here are landfills, which is why I was so excited when I saw the TikTok,” Garcia told the Observer. “I had never heard of Gastonia before, but the name sounded like something out of a Disney movie.”
What Garcia did not know is that the TikTok was actually a video of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, not Gastonia, west of Charlotte.
“I realized when we were like 20 minutes out that something wasn’t right,” she said.
There were no mountains in sight, only “run-down gas stations” and no working bathrooms, Garcia said. The only nearby mountains was a hiking park, she said.
“I’m sure there’s a nicer part of town, but we didn’t stick around long enough to find out,” Garcia said.
Embarrassed, Garcia made a TikTok of her own acknowledging that she got “RickRolled” into believing that Gastonia was a village in Switzerland.
“Moral of the story, don’t believe anything you see on the Internet,” Garcia said.
The culprit behind the TikTok Garcia found was 22-year-old Zachary Keesee, who felt bad about the whole situation.
“I told her I was sorry on her video,” Keesee said. “She seemed to take some humor out of it, and said it was OK.”
Keesee’s TikTok of “Gastonia” has over 5.7 million views and is one of 19 “Not Carolina” videos he’s posted over the past several weeks. The mislabeled videos were inspired by a friend who went skiing in the Rockies and posted a picture of his trip on social media with the caption “I love skiing in Boone,” Keesee said.
The videos in Keesee’s TikToks are from different places he has traveled to over the years. In a video with over 318,000 views, he took a video of the Duomo di Milano Cathedral in Milan, Italy, and labeled it “Concord Mills Mall, North Carolina.” A separate video of Venice, Italy, has over 143,000 views, and it’s mislabeled “Raleigh, NC.”
The video used in the mislabeled Gastonia TikTok is from a trip to Switzerland Keesee took with his father in January 2020. Keesee said he loves to travel because his father, a software engineer, went places for work and brought him back souvenirs.
Although Keesee has over 500 videos posted on his profile, the “Not Carolina” TikToks have garnered the most views. People love telling others that they are wrong, and that’s why the videos have done so well, Keesee said.
Keesee, who lives in Durham, is constantly bombarded by people in his comment section telling him how inaccurate his videos are.
“People are telling me how I have never been to Gastonia, or not from there,” Keesee said. “I’m sorry if they don’t understand the humor I intended with the videos, but hey, you can’t trust everything you see on the Internet. Always research!”