Writing as a Pathway Through Grief, Loss, Uncertainty and Change: A Weeklong Retreat

Tuesday, May 7 - Monday, May 13, 2024

Watsonville, California

Covid Policies:
Arrive Healthy, Stay Healthy

The Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 declared by the World Health Organization and the US Department of Health and Human Services expired May 11, 2023. The Writer’s Journey has modified its Covid policies in response to these changes.

As you’re aware, COVID-19 is a serious virus with potentially life-threatening consequences. It mutates rapidly, and new strains are evolving all the time. For this reason, neither we nor anyone else can guarantee a 100% COVID-19 free environment. The risk of contracting Covid or any other communicable or contagious disease is an inherent risk of social exposure and travel, even for those who have had Covid and/or have been fully vaccinated and boosted.

Vaccination Requirements: The Writer’s Journey encourages but no longer requires participants to be vaccinated and boosted for Covid-19 and other communicable diseases such as influenza (flu), as recommended by the CDC. (See here for CDC vaccine guidance.)

The Writer’s Journey will not offer refunds or expense reimbursement to those unable to take part in certain activities due to not meeting local, regional, or international requirements.

Masking: The Writer’s Journey is a mask-friendly environment. We respect people’s choice in the matter and ask that all travelers do the same.

Guidelines: We want to do everything possible to protect and care for our community of retreat participants, especially those with greater vulnerability to the virus. We ask that you follow these guidelines, not only to reduce your own risk of infection, but also to protect our retreat community as a whole.

If you test positive the first day of the retreat (or at any time thereafter), you will no longer be able to attend, and we will not be issuing refunds for any portion of the retreat that you miss as a result. So, following these policies will not only safeguard your health and the health of others, but also minimize your chances of losing your financial investment in the retreat.

We also recommend that you purchase travel insurance with a Covid rider to protect your financial investment—more on that below.

Here’s what we’re asking from you:

  • Take extra precautions in the week leading up to the retreat. Mask in public settings, avoid large gatherings, commit to using a N95 or KN95 mask the entire time you’re utilizing any form of shared transportation (shuttles, airports, security lines, flights, trains, buses) en-route to the retreat.
  • We ask you to disclose to us before the retreat starts whether you have exhibited any Covid or flu-like symptoms or been directly exposed to anyone with Covid in the prior week.
  • Bring half a dozen home Covid tests with you to Mount Madonna in case there's an outbreak at Mount Madonna while we're there.
  • Take and turn in a negative Covid test as soon as you arrive on campus. If you test positive, you will not be allowed to participate in the retreat. (It may be possible to quarantine at Mount Madonna and eat your meals separately, but this option depends on the availability of limited housing stock and cannot be guaranteed.)
  • Masks will be optional, but we ask everyone to bring a few N95 or KN95 masks should they become necessary.
  • All meals will be served buffet-style in a large indoor dining hall.  Outdoor seating will be available if you prefer.
  • Requirements for additional testing or other changes to this policy will be determined closer to the retreat or as needed on site.

Key to our success will be our partnership with our participants. We appreciate your cooperation.

Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is required for this retreat. Be sure to read the fine print on any policy you buy so you know whether (and to what degree) your insurance will cover a Covid-related cancellation. As of June 2023, Travel Insured treats Covid like any other illness. But please do your own due diligence.

You can purchase travel insurance whether or not you fly to the retreat. We’ll send information about this in your confirmation packet. If you want pre-existing conditions covered, most insurance companies require that you purchase insurance within two weeks of paying your initial deposit.

If you can’t join our retreat or have to leave early due to Covid-19 or other illnesses or injuries, trip cancellation insurance will be your only recourse to recoup your travel investment. The Writer’s Journey will not provide refunds should you need to cancel, regardless of the reason, beyond what is outlined in our graduated cancellation policy.

On Retreat Protocol: Anyone showing signs of illness will be asked to take a Covid test. If they test negative but are sick, they will be expected to segregate themselves from the group while ill, eat their meals separately, and mask when in proximity to others. If a participant tests positive for Covid-19, they will be asked to leave Mount Madonna and the rest of the group will be notified.


We will stay current with changing circumstances and may amend these policies as required by authorities or in response to conditions that arise. We’ll keep this space updated with any changes that might affect you. Please check here as your retreat approaches.

Please contact Laura at lauradavis@lauradavis.net if you have questions.

We’ll look forward to our retreat together next May.

Dated: November 8, 2023

Mount Madonna FAQs

Where is Mount Madonna?

Mount Madonna Center is located at

445 Summit Road
Watsonville, California

approximately 2 hours driving time south of San Francisco, in the Santa Cruz Mountains of the Central California coast overlooking Monterey Bay from Santa Cruz to Monterey and Pacific Grove.

View from the Redwoods of Mount Madonna
Map of Mount Madonna

What is the Most Direct Route to Get There?

Access to Mount Madonna from San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose is more direct through Gilroy than through Santa Cruz or Watsonville. We will send driving directions in your confirmation packet.

What is the Closest Airport?

San Jose (SJC) is the closest airport, and it is an approximately one-hour drive from the center (43 miles), with light traffic. San Francisco (SFO) and Oakland (OAK) are each approximately 1.5 hours away (74 miles). Monterey Peninsula Airport is another option, but transportation from there is more complicated.


Does Uber/Lyft Bring Guests to Mount Madonna?

Guests have used these services on occasion, but generally these rideshare services are not consistent or reliable, as Mount Madonna Center is located in a rural area.

Door-to-Door Shuttle Services (from nearby airports)

Some guests have used the following shuttle services:

  • Silicon Valley Airporter: (650) 922-7341
  • Blue Water Sedans & Limo: (831) 477-0170
  • Early Bird Airporter: (831) 462-3933

Prices vary with distance and number of people traveling. Please call for prices and reservations.

Typical One-Way Rates, Per Person:

  • San Jose Airport $139-$169/person, for 1-3 riders
  • San Francisco or Oakland Airports, $189-$225/person for 1-3 riders
  • Monterey Peninsula Airport, $180/person for 1-3 riders
Senior business woman talking with phone while sitting on the back seat in the modern car. Concept of a business life on retirement
Om Park Fountain, Mount Madonna, Watsonville, Caifornia

What is the Mount Madonna Property Like?

Mount Madonna is a beautiful, rustic retreat experience run by a residential community of volunteers dedicated to service and spiritual/personal development.

The property is 380 acres, and the main campus area is artfully developed. There are many hiking trails varying from easy to quite challenging, and it is simple to get away from the developed area to beautiful redwood groves, meadows, wonderful views, and quiet.

Is There Wifi and Cell Phone Reception?

There is wifi in most guest rooms (not cabins), meeting spaces, and in the community building and cafe. Cell phone reception can be spotty, though texting works well. Verizon works best, AT&T is decent, and Sprint and T-Mobile are limited. Since you will be on retreat, we encourage you to make your week at Mount Madonna as digitally free as possible.

Friends at the Cafe at Mount Madonna, Watsonville, California

Does Mount Madonna Have Any Rules I Should be Aware Of?

Quiet hours are 9:00pm to 8:00am. Mount Madonna does not allow alcohol, marijuana, illegal drugs, or pets. Smoking is allowed only in the designated smoking area. Please do not bring food to the Center or use scented products or essential oils as many people are allergic and/or sensitive.

Are the Facilities Handicapped Accessible?

Yes, all major facilities are handicapped accessible, and nearly all outlying ones as well. Please be sure to let us know if you will need a handicapped accessible room, so we can place you accordingly. We have rooms with and without bath, and accessible public restrooms.


Are Service Animals Allowed?

Mount Madonna Center permits service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. Service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered.

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