updated 12/16/2013 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/16/2013 AT 7:50 PM ET
Third time was the charm for Tyson Apostol.
Five years after coming short of the grand prize on Survivor: Tocantins and four years after returning for Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, Apostol finally won the title of sole survivor and the grand prize of $1,000,000.
Previously known as a villain for his conniving ways, Apostol, 34, arrived for Survivor: Blood vs. Water alongside his girlfriend of over five years, Rachel Foulger. Apostol was a strong competitor from the start and despite suffering an injury early on in the season, he attacked the game with renewed vigor after Foulger, 33, was eliminated from the competition.
After 39 days on the beaches of the Philippines, Apostol received seven of the possible eight votes from the jury and was crowned the winner of the 27th season of the CBS reality show Sunday evening.
The morning after his big win, Apostol spoke with PEOPLE about what the viewers didn’t get to see this season, how he plans to spend his winnings and what the future has in store for he and Foulger.
You sound a little hoarse. Too much celebrating last night?
I’m actually sick, but that is okay because it just strings it out. I’m excited for when I’ll be healthy and ready to celebrate.
And how do you plan to celebrate and spend the money?
Can I retire and not work anymore? I’m not so sure that’s enough money to do that so I’m going to have to be smart about it if I want to slack off. I am just looking forward to just having more adventures with Rachel and being able to travel and take time off. I’ve always enjoyed my free time, so hopefully I will continue to.
Any plans to make things more serious between you and Rachel?
I’m content with how they are now but wouldn’t be opposed to things progressing. Rachel really, really wants things to progress so we will probably take her direction on that.
What was it like getting to share the experience of Survivor with her this time?
She got to experience all the behind-the-scenes things you don’t see on the show and would be around for conversations with past contestants and but she didn t fully understand them. This gave her the chance to do that. I’ve done Survivor three times in the last five years so it has been a big part of our relationship.
What made this time different for you? Why was this the season you were able to win?
I think part of it was just Rachel helping me focus and scrambling to get to the end. I am a pretty laid-back, lackadaisical guy and so to have that much focus for that long is a challenge for me. I just had to keep reminding myself to refocus and think about the game. There are things that everyone should learn for the next time they play: You have to keep everyone on your side, you’ve got to be amicable with everybody the best you can.
What strategy did the viewers not get to see on camera this season?
One strategic thing I wish people could have seen was after I played the idol and was feeling vulnerable, Gervase came up with the idea that I should say I had the idol from the Galang beach as well and then they would assume I had two idols to play. That is why when you saw people going after my alliance, a lot of times they weren’t targeting me because they assumed that I had the idol from Galang even though I didn’t.
How much did luck factor in to your win?
There were two times where luck really came in to play for me. The first was at the tribe swap. I ended up on the stronger tribe with Gervase and Aras and it gave me the opportunity to meet people that I could work with to get me further in the game. Then there was drawing the black rock instead of the white rock.
It is a lot of work and I think you have to take advantage of those lucky moments. Any winner who says that they won without luck would either be lying or just not recognizing it.