You’ve heard it before from people fed up with politics: They've had enough and they’re going to leave the country.
Then, they don’t.
But local musician Sarah Long Hendershot — singer for The Jane Mutiny — and her husband of 11 years, fine arts photographer and software engineer Jones Hendershot, did. They sold their house in Irondequoit, packed their bags, and set their glims on Galicia, Spain.
Spain’s gain is Rochester’s loss. Long’s voice is riveting, as evidenced by The Jane Mutiny’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country” or anything from Neil Young’s catalogue.
In addition to fronting The Jane Mutiny, Long spearheaded the wildly popular musical event “If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song.” Long has been in touch with several musicians such as Watkins and the Rapiers guitarist Steve Piper and singer-songwriter Sarah Eide, who have shown some interest in keeping the project going. And The Jane Mutiny will continue to record remotely over cyberspace, until it’s safe to travel. Then the band plans on playing in Spain.
Sarah Long and her husband Jones Hendershot.
Jones and Hendershot were at a crossroads, especially when it came to Hendershot’s reliance on insulin to maintain healthy blood-sugar levels. His body’s ability to produce the stuff was destroyed by Type 1 diabetes when he was a teenager. Without vigilant monitoring and daily insulin injections, Type 1 diabetics risk blindness, kidney disease, and death.
There are roughly 1.3 million people living with the disease in the United States and, like Hendershot, most of them are in a perpetual fight with insurance companies to cover their care.
“As we’ve gotten older, we’ve developed some uneasy feelings regarding Jones’ dependence on insulin in a for-profit healthcare system,” Long says. “We’ve been forced into the position of trusting his life to people who may not have his best interests at heart.”
They watched as the cost of insulin vials gradually crept upward from $12 to $480 over the years, and it became increasingly apparent to them that the healthcare system on which they were dependent was motivated by money rather than wellness.
And they described the system as sucking both from them as they approached their later years.
“When we were dealing with Sarah’s parents’ estate a few years ago, we began to recognize that our system is set up to extract as much money as possible from people as they approach the end of their lives,” Hendershot says. “We started discussing what our older years would look like, and we came to the difficult conclusion that we would have little control over our quality of life if we stayed in the U.S.”
Long says it was a realization that is hard for many Americans to see without stepping outside their country and looking inward.
“It’s sometimes difficult to see this from within the U.S., but when you get out from under it, the difference in general life satisfaction is astonishing,” Long says.
A new destination loomed on the horizon for the couple: España. So now it comes down to this; the big adios; the couple left the States for good on Oct. 13. Hendershot can now purchase his insulin for $20 over the counter.
Long and Hendershot both planned on being in Spain earlier, but the pandemic put everything on pause. The borders were completely closed. The Spanish consulate in New York City, on which the couple is dependent for visas, cancelled all appointments for a while.
“The visa process is incredibly involved,” Long says. “You have to be attentive to details and be very serious about giving them exactly what they are looking for.”
They put their house in Irondequoit up for sale and it sold in a day. So they kicked around, couch-surfing and staying with friends until their visas were approved and the Spanish border reopened.
The exercise of selling their home and offloading their belongings has been a gigantic leap of faith for them.
“We’ve carefully curated our lives, but we don’t want to be prisoners to our things,” Hendershot says. “So we are letting it all go for an idea that we are hoping to manifest. We want to be bold and brave and reap the rewards of that courage.”
They shopped online for a house for well over a year, and then went over to northern Spain to look at properties.
“It’s a breathtakingly beautiful place,” Long says.
The area has a water-rich microclimate that stays between 45 and 75 degrees year round. They fell in love with and purchased a property that includes a completely restored 15th-century mill. The Rio Castro runs through the backyard, and a race comes off the river and flows under the house. There’s the constant, peaceful sound of running water.
“It is primal,” Long says of the region where they’ll be living. “It’s humming with life and history. Not history like we think of it here. We’re talking 40,000-year-old petroglyphs and cave paintings. Our house is in the shadow of a 14th-century Norman castle. You can see it out the window when you’re washing the dishes.”
Long and Hendershot have specific plans for how to use the space once they move in.
“We want to have retreats at the house, doing what we’re best at — music, writing, photography,” Long says. At first the couple thought the pandemic was going to quash that idea, but now she thinks it might actually be the future of tourism.
“Restrict it to six people, practice social distancing — the possibilities are endless,” she says. “We want to incorporate the incredible culture of that region, with its Celtic and Druid roots — they call it ‘Witches’ Land’ — cook paella or pulpo in the outdoor oven, and have local musicians come and play by the riverbank.
“We’ve made many friends in Spain already — mostly artists and musicians, just like here. They are warm and welcoming. It’s a lovely, accepting culture.”
“We are excited to learn and grow from Spanish culture, and maybe introduce them to some of our Rochester strengths,” Long says. “You can put octopus on a garbage plate, right?”