Travel addict and epic content creator Rozz has spent the year discovering the joy of driving in her Volkswagen
SINGAPORE — While the last two years knocked the collective stuffing out of our lives, Rozz found freedom and empowerment in a small plastic card with her photo on it. “I’m 42 this year and I decided that the pandemic would be the best time for me to get my car licence at last,” she says. “And I got it this year, on April 28, 2021.”
For Rozz (or Rosalyn Lee, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing), whose self-description as a “content creator” looks like a piece of masterly understatement when you scroll through her irresistible Instagram feed, an epiphany soon followed. “The minute I got my licence, I was like, ‘How the hell did I put my trust in strangers driving me around?’” she says.
Cue a three-month fling with a beat-up rental car that Rozz genuinely thought would fall apart at expressway speeds, before Volkswagen Group Singapore stepped in and saved the day with the offer of an eighth generation Golf 1.5 eTSI in Pomelo Yellow Metallic.
When we first meet, the Golf’s precision styling and fruity colour seem at odds with the casual neo-Goth attire that Rozz has on – a loose black tee featuring punk rockers The Ramones, leather motorcycle boots that look like she pinched them from Sid Vicious, and black drainpipes in between.But then it’s easy to see how the two would click. Her turbocharged personality and obvious brio gel with the VW’s irrepressible character, while her easygoing demeanour is a perfect match for how utterly user-friendly the world’s best-selling hatchback is.
“I don’t know if the Golf has influenced me on this or not, but I think hatchbacks are more my thing,” she says, contemplating the car. “It’s very sturdily built, it’s something compact but powerful, and that minimalist interior… It’s so nice that everything is just so clean.”
While Rozz can appreciate the Golf’s form, it’s clear that function is just as important. “I can do my Apple CarPlay and then hook up to my Google Maps,” she says. The performance, too, is something she’s probably enjoyed slightly too much. “With this, my ego is unmanageable,” she laughs, before launching into a slightly mortifying story involving the law that decency prevents me from recounting here.
You wouldn’t have expected less of a person who would probably reject the label but is so obviously a free spirit. Both flying through the MCE tunnel and flying to properly exotic places are right up Rozz’s alley. She quit a solid radio DJ career in 2017 and turned 2018 into an entire year of travel. Like serious travel. “Okay, so the whole of the year is all bucket list countries divided into regions,” she says. “The first segment was South America. I did Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia.”
This wasn’t a five-star experience, mind you, but backpacking. If anything, though, Rozz wanted more. “It’s like two months and you’re doing four countries? That’s not giving it enough time. I felt like it was very touch-and-go, but it’s okay, I sampled a little bit and I’ll come back.”
And then she headed north. As far north as it’s possible to go, in fact. “I actually found 90 degrees North (the latitude of the North Pole) by hiking, and stayed in this really amazing camp called the Barneo Ice Camp,” she says. “We were like the last expedition to ever stay there. It is literally on a patch of ice at 90 degrees North.”
That trip involved a helicopter drop-off to Santa’s neighbourhood, as well as a jaunt through Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. “That’s the cool part of Europe,” Rozz says. “I love it so much.”
Rozz followed that up by climbing aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway, starting in China and heading to Moscow through Mongolia, which she figures is doing it right. “It’s nicer, because in China, you get a really nice train and it gets a bit more rabak in Mongolia, then it’s Siberia and suddenly it’s super good on the way to Moscow!” she says.
The same journey non-stop would take seven days, but Rozz stretched it out over six weeks by hopping off and on. “You can stop at towns for a couple of days to explore, and that’s what I did,” she says.
That year of travel resulted from something of a crossroads moment. “I think it was the fear of, ‘Oh my god, I’m gonna be 40 soon and I’ve been a radio DJ most of my life. I’m afraid that this will be the only thing I can do,’” she tells us. “I didn’t want that, so the whole plan about leaving radio was just so that I could give myself a chance to reset, and the plan was to spend all my savings on travels until I had zero in my bank account, and then I would figure out what to do from there.”
It all worked out nicely for a time, in that after hitting the road solo, she not only did not get murdered along the way, but didn’t actually see her savings zero out. Rozz made vlogs of her journeys that drew enough followers for tourism boards from various countries to take note and start rolling out the red carpet. “Suddenly I’m a travel blogger professional!” she says. “And then Covid hit.”
Not one to waste a good crisis, Rozz hit driving school three times a week and you know the rest.
Having the Golf has been empowering, Rozz says. “I will give my friends lifts even though it’s out of the way. I live in Kallang and say like this person lives in Bishan, I’m like, ‘I’ll come pick you up,’ you know, because I like that feeling of being able to do something for someone,” she says.
Curious, I ask what’s in the boot and she says there isn’t a makeshift shoe closet in there. Instead you’re likely to find “camping stuff”, swimming gear and foldable picnic chairs, for outings where Rozz and friends would grab food from a hawker centre and sit at Changi Beach Park to watch the planes descend.
The pictures of midnight drives on Rozz’s Instagram feed suggest that she does use her Golf the way any car should be used: to take her wherever she likes, whenever she likes. “I don’t use Grab delivery any more,” she says. “It’s like 35 percent off when you pick it up yourself, so I just pick it up myself. I get to drive and eat more!”
While food is a recurring theme with Rozz and the Golf, she’s had quiet moments of just sitting inside it, cocooned in the comfy interior with the rest of the world shut out.
“After a long day, I’m just one of those people that will stay for an hour in the car,” she says. “I’ll just sit there even though I’m not living with anyone. I get it when people have a household full of people and they just want their own space, but I don’t know, I just kind of like sitting in the carpark just checking my email, watching something, catching up on social media and I will turn the aircon off and everything, so that what drives me out of the car is the heat. But otherwise I’ll stay in for as long as I can and then I’ll leave.”
Just wanting to stay and linger inside the VW is quite the turnaround for someone who used to actively discourage her friends from getting cars, extolling the virtues of taxis instead. The exhilaration of driving will do that to a person, and Rozz is probably no different, but it’s really only after stepping up to the Golf from her rental car that the driving bug hit hard. “I didn’t know any better and (that first car) did the work. But I only felt the difference after I got the Volkswagen,” she says, sheepishly.
Her time with the car is drawing to a close, however, as the Golf is scheduled to slip from her hands and enter the pool of management cars at Volkswagen Group Singapore. That’s left her groping for something to fill the void, although the car widely acknowledged as the king of hatchbacks is bound to be a tough act to follow.
When we discuss alternatives, however, Rozz has a flash of inspiration. The best car to replace her Golf 1.5 eTSI, she reckons, might just be a Golf GTI. It’s a mighty fine idea, except she has a hard-won, newly-minted driving licence to take care of.