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Careers Are Like a Treehouse: A Conversation with Pete Nelson, Treehouse Master


"What a kind article you wrote about The Laurel Tree and Treehouse Utopia! Thank you for sharing it with us and your audience. I feel grateful to have “followed my bliss”, as the great theologian, Joseph Campbell, implored us to do. As the doors open before you, step in! You will be happy you did. It appears that you have followed your bliss as well. I hope you have many more adventures like the one you had in Utopia. Something tells me that you will!

To the trees! And thank you!"

Pete Nelson

If you know me, you know I LOVE to travel. I love experiencing new things and last month, my hubby and I did something we'd never done before...spent the weekend in a treehouse in Utopia, Texas. Not going to lie, it was a dream of mine since a child when I loved to climb trees and had a fascination with the Swiss Family Robinson. This little excursion led to being so much more than a vacation away.

What I didn't know, there is a "guy" known for building treehouses. My brother-in-law, a HUGE fan of Pete Nelson shared that the place we were going to stay, Utopia Treehouse, was built by none other than the Treehouse Master himself. I, unfortunately, had no idea who he was, nor did I know a show existed. I was just interested in staying high up in a tree. When I shared the picture of us with him, he said, "Of COURSE you met him!" I do have crazy experiences people are never surprised when I share.

The place was beyond my expectations. Four individually crafted and uniquely designed masterpieces are beautifully spaced out on the property owned by Laurel Waters. Her career story is one that fascinated me. We share an experience few have had the opportunity to do, which is live in Europe. She is a chef, woman entrepreneur, and owner of not only the treehouses but The Laurel Tree restaurant which is only open on Saturdays where you have the table for the entire night for a prepared 5-course meal. A concept that is normal in Europe. To say she's a busy woman is an understatement and we had the wonderful opportunity to talk with her prior to our dining experience. Her passion for unique cuisine is what makes people drive the hours it takes to experience this wonderful restaurant.

As we sit down, we are the first to arrive at the restaurant. Laurel warmly greets us and asks about our stay and how we liked the treehouse. She also shares that Pete, the designer of the treehouse was in town and would be coming through the door at any minute to eat the restaurant's own treehouse, obviously. Sure enough, he comes through the door with the playful personality we've now witnessed on the show. He instantly comes over to our table and was at some point I thought going to sit down and join us. People ask us if he's as nice as he seems on the Animal Planet show, which we can 100% say yes!

But, being a career fascinated person and professional, I instantly wanted to know his story. I asked what his major was in college (not even knowing if he attended a university because I literally knew nothing about him). He said he studied Economics. I asked him if he had taken any CTE courses to which he replied he didn't know what that was. I explained Career and Technical Education courses which are more hands-on, especially with what he does. He said no one had ever asked him that question but if he had to do it all over again, that is exactly what he should have done. Economics has served him well but it's obvious his passion is with designing and creating. In addition, I believe another reason he's been so successful is that he's genuine. He has a commanding presence that is real. We talked for almost 30 minutes with him coming back after we finished dinner. He literally spent his evening walking from table to table, talking to the diners. He LOVED talking about the treehouses. When you can't stop talking about something, you know you've found your passion!

The reason I share this story is that I think he and Laurel are great examples of careers branching off in many different directions throughout life. Young adults study X in high school through endorsements but then decide on X in college. After college, they find X as a first job then throughout their life come across X as a branch of their career. That is what is so exciting about the progression of a path. And I do believe that each experience leads you to where you're meant to be.

Young adults, and even adults at times, who come to me to help them identify ideal careers for who they are, what they love, and ultimately can they do it through aptitude testing, often will say, "Just tell me what I should do!" Man, I'd be even more successful if I could deliver on that request but with over 600 careers, there is never just one right one. And here is the truth about that'd miss the forest for the trees. I know of very few people who pick one career and stay in it forever, especially in today's world. Young adults are called, "Lattice" kids because they are expected to have 13 different career pivots in their life. And that's a GOOD thing!

I believe everything Pete and Laurel have done in their lives has led them to this point. Laurel cooking in France as well as bringing back the culture and designs for each treehouse which makes it feel she created her masterpiece. The attention to detail in her design for not only the treehouses but her restaurant is a feast for the eyes. I could tell THAT was her passion! The hospitality she has created, embedding the philosophy within her entire staff as well, has made it an "experience" not just a stay.

And Pete probably never dreamed the dream he's living. But he paid attention to the passion that was within him. And to add to his cool factor, he gave all the credit to his team when compliments were showered on him. He's not forcing himself to be anything he's obviously not and people see his talents. He didn't get there at 18 or even 25. I truly believe the journey, if we open our eyes to the enlightenment, will place us where we are meant to be and our talents will flourish into a beautiful tree that is uniquely ours.


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