January 09, 2018 09:00 AM

 Arie Luyendyk Jr. vied for Emily Maynard‘s heart on season 8 of  The Bachelorette. Now, he’s on his own journey to find love on the latest season of  The Bachelor — and he’s blogging about it exclusively for PEOPLE! Follow Arie on Twitter at @ariejr.

​As surreal as it was to be announced as The Bachelor, watching it all back on TV is a whole other experience. It’s been five years since I last did this, and I totally forgot what it felt like. Is that really how my voice sounds? Did I really just say that excitement excites me? Being able to watch the first episode with you guys was so fun, and I loved reading the comments and tweets — I really appreciate all the support.

​As much as I loved the craziness of meeting all the women, I couldn’t wait to get started with the dates. This is why I was here: to really get to know the women. Waking up after that first night, I was equal parts hopeful and overwhelmed. I realized I was now suddenly dating so many beautiful, intelligent and creative women at the same time, but just because I was The Bachelor doesn’t mean that dating 21 people would be easy. Trust me, dating so many amazing people is very, very exciting, but it’s also humbling and kind of scary. Would one of them be my person? Will I fall in love? Will they fall in love? On The Bachelorette, I had a singular purpose: to figure out if Emily was right for me. Now, I had to split my focus between so many people, and try to leave my heart open to them all.

Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Paul Hebert/ABC

Like I said last week, now that I was in the driver seat (yes, that’s another driver pun), I’d be doing things differently. That started with the dates. Big fans of the show probably know that we usually kick things off with big group dates, but I really wanted to start my journey with a one-on-one.

From the moment I met Becca K., I knew she was really sincere about being on this journey. Just because I was now Bachelor doesn’t mean I didn’t have insecurities too, and that first night, she made me feel so comfortable. On a night where everyone’s nerves, especially mine, were out of control, she stood out as someone I could be myself around. To me, that’s so important in a relationship. It didn’t hurt that she is also stunningly beautiful.

WATCH: The Bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. Has a Unique Kissing Style

For our first date, I really wanted to spoil Becca K. She seemed so humble and gracious and kind and that made me want to treat her like she’s never been treated before. By bringing in designer Rachel Zoe, I was trying to create an experience that she’d never forget. Becca was breathtaking in all those dresses — each one was more gorgeous than the last. It really felt like we were in a movie. (The part of the movie that they didn’t show was me sitting downstairs by myself eating snacks while Becca changed.)

Becca K.
ABC/Craig Sjodin

That evening, I still remember the mesmerizing glitter of the dress Becca wore. I love that she was able to take home a piece of the date. I may have given her some dresses and some Louboutins, but I’ll always feel like what she gave me was so much more valuable. I remember being in her shoes on my first date with Emily. There’s so much you want to say, but you’re not sure how much you want to reveal. It’s such a different way of dating. It’s exciting and scary to open up so much so early, and I’m so glad she felt like she talk to me not just about her past relationship but also about her dad. I’m really close with my father, so it’s hard for me to imagine going through what she went through. She’s such a strong person. It takes a special woman to still have such a positive attitude about something so difficult, and I’m so grateful we learned so much about each other on a first date. It’s moments like those that remind me that this experience can lead to something real and lasting.

​Now, I know, I know bringing someone home to Scottsdale for a first date is a pretty big deal. Trust me, bringing someone to meet my parents isn’t normally something I’d do on a first date. Hi, I’m Arie, I drive for a living, oh and here is my dad! But, being on The Bachelor is about pushing limits and building relationship more quickly than you would normally. This journey isn’t just about the women getting out of their comfort zones, it was about me doing it as well. And, as important as it is for the women to open up to me, it’s important that I do the same.

​From our first interaction, I knew that Krystal was beautiful and had a calming, centering energy. I wanted to know so much more about her and also knew that she’d handle meeting my family with poise and grace. I loved our day together. Yeah, showing home movies is embarrassing, but it’s one thing for Krystal to see Arie: The Bachelor, and a whole other for her to see a 6-year-old without front teeth dancing to Michael Jackson in pajamas. It made me feel good to see how interested Krystal was in that part of my life.

Krystal and Arie
Paul Hebert via Getty

​One thing you didn’t see is that Krystal and I brought my dog, Bastian, back with us. It was his first time on a plane — I hope he doesn’t get too used to flying private. As he fell asleep on Krystal’s lap, she told me about her dogs, Chuckie and Wayne. Bastian is usually a pretty good judge of character, so that was a good sign.

​When we arrived at dinner, we both took a second to admire the architectural marvel that is The Bradbury Building, where they shot one of the most famous scenes from Bladerunner. As we sat under an immense marble ceiling, I couldn’t wait to learn more about Krystal. I knew that Krystal was impressive, but during dinner, I learned how she became the beautiful, strong woman who sat before me. I was touched by her vulnerability and how, despite her difficult upbringing, she was able to build an enviable life with a positive outlook. I knew that there were many layers to this woman and that there was still so much more to discover. As we walked to the LA Theater and saw our names on the marquee (which was so cool), I couldn’t help but wish that with all she had given me that day her name was at the top of the marquee instead of mine. Also, can we talk about Connor Duermit for a minute? THAT GUY CAN SING. Every time I listen to his song, it brings me back to that amazing first date with Krystal.

​After my one-on-ones, I was ready for my first big group date: The Demolition Derby. Going on a date with 15 women is intense, especially when they’re ramming cars into one another. As an IndyCar driver, I have spent my entire career trying not to crash my car, so it was awesome to finally get to bang one up.

Watching the women decorate their cars with everything from fangs to polka dots to roses was a total trip. The cars that said “Thanks Emily” and “Back That A– Up” made me laugh out loud. I know the date was technically a competition, but it was never about who was the best driver. For me, a date like this is about seeing the women have a good time and learning about their personalities.

I know Annaliese’s bumper-car fear may be weird to a lot of people, but I know that we all have weird, triggering fears from childhood. Sometimes I take for granted that some people have fears with cars. It bummed me out, because I just wanted all the women to have a fun, exciting day, so I did my best to comfort her. When we started the derby, I put my car between hers and the other girls, but very quickly I saw her ramming her car into others full-force. It was amazing to see her overcome her fear.

Watching this episode, I finally got to see my good friend Robby Gordon’s commentary with Chris. All their banter was so funny. But, Chris, I did hear your jab about me not winning any races. Why don’t you put down your golf clubs someday and meet me on a track?!

Paul Hebert/ABC

​That night, I was excited to spend quality time with everyone off of the track and out of the mud. Like the first night we met, Chelsea pulled me first at the afterparty. Reading a lot of your tweets, I know that Chelsea got flack for pulling me twice, but from my perspective I didn’t really see any of the drama unfolding. All I saw was a beautiful woman eager to spend time with me – and I liked that. Learning about her son, Sammy, was so humbling. She left behind so much to meet me, and her aggressiveness just further proves how seriously she’s taking getting to know me.

​I had so many great conversations that night. My chemistry with Bekah M. was off the charts. I was apparently able to make up for the “excitement makes me excited” line. I can’t say I’ve ever dated anyone like Bekah. She’s so smart, charming, and charismatic, and as far as our kiss … well, I feel like the kiss says it all.

I was absolutely floored by Seinne. That such a worldly, cool, gorgeous, Ivy League-educated woman would spend this time with me put the whole experience into perspective. I found myself wondering if she was totally out of my league. I didn’t want our conversation to end. That’s why I knew she was right choice for the rose.

​Going into the cocktail party, I found myself worried about how little I knew about so many of the women. How could I possibly know who to send home? Watching it all back, that’s why I totally understand Bibiana’s frustrations. Being on the other side, I know that you desperately want to see if you have a connection with the person you’re dating. You’ve sacrificed so much to be here, and you just want your fair shot at love. I also understand Krystal wanting to get more time. As much as it may have rubbed the girls the wrong way, we had just had an amazing date. and it’s difficult to not be able to spend time with one another. I really wish I had known how much Bibiana was struggling that week, though. She’s so vibrant and interesting and I wish I would’ve known she needed a little extra support.

WATCH: Bibiana and Krystal Fight on The Bachelor

​The rest of that night was a fantastic blur. Some things you didn’t see were Marikh teaching me how to smize (smile with your eyes), Jacqueline feeding me different aphrodisiacs, and Lauren B. reading me a really beautiful letter she wrote. Even though my time with the women is sometimes so short, we can still have fun and make meaningful connections.

​The second rose ceremony was harder than the first. Once again, I really had to go with my instincts and ask myself, Can I see myself potentially marrying this person? Do I think what we currently have could eventually turn into love? It was shocking when Jenny tried to leave without saying goodbye. I have to be honest, after watching everything and seeing things I hadn’t seen that night, I know I made right choice. She’s a really great woman who has a lot to offer, but when she said she was upset about saying goodbye to her new friends and not me, I knew my instincts were correct. I feel so grateful to be The Bachelor, but my fear is some of the women are here for the friends or the experience and not because of me. In moments like that, I feared that this whole thing may not work and that I put my life on pause for nothing.

​And those fears don’t go away. I came here for one reason: to find my future wife. I kept asking myself: Is she here? How do I know? I always knew this whole thing would be difficult, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be. And it kicks into high gear fast. As I start falling for some women, other women start falling apart. I hoped that the flare-ups this week were just a blip, but this was just the beginning. Next week, a surprising guest from Bachelorette history makes an epic return, and there will be an unexpected goodbye. Just a couple weeks in and there’s already way more romance, drama, and tears than I had ever expected. You won’t want to miss it.

See you next week!

Best, Arie

The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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