"I'm not your traditional Bachelorette," says Clare Crawley

Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette will certainly be one for the record books.

Not only was it filmed during the pandemic, but Crawley left abruptly mid-season, reportedly after falling for one of her suitors.

"There are good surprises," Crawley, 39, who is staying mum on her current relationship status, tells PEOPLE. "And there is so much that happens that people don’t even know about and I just can't wait for everyone to watch and see."

Ultimately, "I'm a woman who really listens to my gut," says Crawley. "And it didn't lead me astray."

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clare crawley
Clare Crawley

Announced as the Bachelorette in March, Crawley was set to begin filming when COVID-19 hit, shuttering production and leaving her journey in limbo.

"There was a lot of stress, but I knew what was ahead," she says. "Producers were reassuring me: it’s not if you’re going to be the Bachelorette, it’s when."

By summer, with proper precautions, including temperature checks, testing and a quarantine for cast and crew, filming on Crawley's season commenced. "It was very surreal to be standing there in the midst of a pandemic and to know that all these men were here for me," she says. "I was overwhelmingly grateful."

Clare Crawley and her Bachelorette contestants
| Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

Shooting the show at La Quinta Resort in the California desert instead of at the Bachelor Mansion was "the best part," says Crawley. "I've been through this before. But you take out all the travel and traditional Bachelorette experiences and it was so much more unique. And at the end of the day, I'm not your traditional Bachelorette."

the bachelorette
Clare Crawley and her Bachelorette contestants
| Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

As far as all the rumors of the shake-up onscreen that led to Tayshia Adams as the new Bachelorette, Crawley acknowledges that her season may not be perfect.

"I know that people watching, people seeing this will judge or question a lot of things I do," she says. "But I had to follow my heart. And I'm definitely happy."