Arie Luyendyk Jr. on Why Now Is the Perfect Time for Him to Be 'The Bachelor' (Exclusive)

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Bachelor Nation was shocked when Arie Luyendyk Jr. was announced as the franchise's next lead instead of Peter Kraus -- and so was Luyendyk himself. 

ET's Lauren Zima exclusively sat down with the 36-year-old race car driver at his official Bachelor photo shoot before kicking off the show's 22nd season, where he revealed his reaction to the big news. 

"I didn't even grab a suit. I really just jumped on a plane," he confesses. "It came as such a pleasant surprise. I mean, the timing of my life is just perfect, so I got the call, and I'm here and it's crazy." 

"I didn't really realize who they were considering until I was picked," he adds, referring to Kraus. "I've been out of it the last few years and hadn't really been following along." 

Despite the surprise, Luyendyk says he couldn't be more prepared to find love. "After The Bachelorette, I pretty much didn't do anything on TV," he shares. "I knew if I wanted to move forward with this, I needed it to be right for me. Right now, my career is going well and I'm [at the right age].... All my friends around me are married and having kids, so it just felt right." 

It's been nearly six years since fans saw Luyendyk's heartbreak on Emily Maynard's season of The Bachelorette in 2012, and the Arizona native is the first one to admit a few things have changed. 

"I've got some gray hair," he notes of his salt-and-pepper appearance, though insists that fans should know he's "not that old." "I've had gray hair since my mid-twenties." 

Luyendyk's appearance isn't the only thing that's different. He also confesses that he's "way more calm" than he used to be and is "the most settled I've ever been in my life." 

"I still have a passion for racing, I still love to race, [but] I'm home a lot more," he says. "I have this amazing business in real estate... Being in Arizona, that's where I want to be, and I never really wanted to pursue anything in the entertainment business." 

He also hopes that his time away from the spotlight helps the women get to know him more organically. "I've been off of TV for so long, I hope some of the girls on the show don't know me and get to know me in a more natural way, instead of seeing my season and having a preconceived notion," he says, explaining that his requirement for his future wife is that she's strong and independent, "classy" and has a nurturing side, but most importantly, is ready for marriage. 

"I would love [to get married and have children quickly]," he says of his future, were he to get engaged on the show. "I love to travel, and in an ideal world, I would scoop my fiancee up [and] we would go off to Holland or go travel and just sort of get out of the limelight for a little bit to get some normalcy. But a quick engagement is possible if it's with the right person, for sure." 

As for the one thing Luyendyk won't do on The Bachelor? "Be indecisive," he declares. "I think being decisive is very important. I know it's going to be hard, but I think that's probably the most important thing." 

The Bachelor returns Monday, Jan. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. 

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