The Bachelor premieres Jan. 1, 2018, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC

By Aili Nahas and Michele Corriston
December 28, 2017 09:00 AM

It’s been six years since Bachelor fans saw Arie Luyendyk Jr. — and he knows he looks a little different.

Of viewers’ jokes that he’s the “old” Bachelor, the 36-year-old tells PEOPLE exclusively, “I think it’s my premature grey, because Nick [Viall] was older!”

Arie Luyendyk Jr.
| Credit: Craig Cameron Olsen

“I’m in a different place in my life than when I was 30: a little bit older and wiser — and grayer, but it’s good,” he adds in this week’s issue, on stands Friday.

The former race-car driver is a certifiable silver fox, but some in Bachelor Nation suspected another handsome, gray-haired suitor would lead season 22: personal trainer Peter Kraus, who came second on Rachel Lindsay‘s season of The Bachelorette after admitting he wouldn’t be ready to propose.

“People expected it to be Peter, so there was a negative reaction, but you’re always going to have that,” Luyendyk Jr. says now. “Not everybody is going to be a fan. What was important was that the women were on board.”

  • For more on Arie’s journey, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

And all that matters now is finding his happy ending — and returning to work as a realtor in Scottsdale, Arizona, this time with a fiancée by his side.

“I came to get engaged. I want to be married. I want to have kids,” he says. “I want to go back to the life I had six months ago but share that life with someone. I’m not going to go on Dancing with the Stars.”

The Bachelor premieres Jan. 1, 2018, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.