In 1959, at 24, Cohen was awarded a Canada Council grant of roughly $2,000. He used the money to travel throughout Europe and, ultimately, settle on the Greek island of Hydra, where, in 1960, he bought a modest home without electricity or running water for $1,500.
In Hydra, Cohen wrote several collections of poetry and two novels, The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966). The latter was an explicitly sexual postmodern comedy that journalist Robert Fulford called "the most revolting book ever written in Canada."
In 1969, Cohen was awarded the Governor General's Award for poetry for his collection, Selected Poems 1956-1968. He declined the award, stating, "much in me strives for this honour, but the poems themselves forbid it absolutely." He reportedly went to the party anyway.
Cohen confounded his fans in 1986 by appearing on the hit TV series Miami Vice in a guest-starring role as François Zolan, head of Interpol.