From a ryokan in Hiroshima, Japan…

I might as well start with this one: Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy Song.” Click play below and listen along. A lot of these posts will feature music that either relates to the post or is something I’m listening to at the moment. I’ll be dedicating many posts to family and friends as well. This particular post goes to Dave in Cheorwon. Many past conversations inspired what I’m about to write here.

So, “Cowboy Song” and the great Thin Lizzy. Singer Phil Lynott begins the song with the lines “I am just a cowboy/lonesome on the trail.” I’m not a literal cowboy, but I might be a figurative one. Dave and I would get together back in Cheorwon and talk about teaching and being an EFL teacher abroad’s like today as compared to the past. “EFL cowboy” was a term he used a few times to refer to the kind of teacher who’d move around from country to country in Southeast Asia. Lately I’ve been wondering if that’s what I’m becoming–an EFL cowboy. The idea of living here and there, learning languages, getting to the know the people of a country–those things appeal to me. A semi-nomad life, maybe? Now, the state of EFL’s changed since the days of the 90s and 2000s because it’s gotten more professionalized and regulated, but it’s still possible to live the cowboy life. Maybe I’ll do that, maybe not.

That’s reason one why I’m starting with “Cowboy Song” and quoting those lyrics. Reason two is that I left Korea last week and chose to travel for a while before returning home to the USA. Many EPIK teachers backpack through Asia when they leave, but I had a different journey in mind and have chosen instead to go to Japan and then on to Europe to visit friends I’d originally met in Korea. Like the header says above, I’m in Hiroshima and a bit lonesome on the travel trail. Travel can do that, especially on a day like today: grey and drizzling. The feeling will pass though. It always does. I’ve met some interesting expats and travelers over and will probably see more when I venture out after lunch.

“The cowboy’s life is the life for me” is how the song ends. Maybe that’s my kind of life, maybe not. I’ll have to see how things go in the future. I’ve some travels and coursework ahead, so the soonest I could go back overseas would be in late 2016. I can only guess what I’ll want to do when that time comes.


  • See English Teacher X’s To Travel Hopelessly for a taste of what teaching EFL was like in Southeast Asia in the 90s and 2000s. The book’s been both an inspiration and a cautionary tale for me. One shouldn’t romanticize the expat teaching life too much.
  • Thin Lizzy’s song “Southbound,” from their Bad Reputation LP, also played in my head a lot during my final months in Korea.