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In 15 years of covering adventure travel for Travel + Leisure, I’ve found myself in some some fairly hair-raising situations, from bungee jumping off a platform in New Zealand to scuba diving in a cave filled with sharks off the coast of Burma. And while I've always loved the thrill of new experiences, I could never get over the horrible, gut-wrenching sensation that I would feel as my fear escalated toward panic.

What was this strange force that seemed to take over my mind? What was happening, I wondered, when I felt the grip of terror? As I began to research the questions, I learned that fear can manifest in many ways, but they all rely on the same underlying neurological system. Eventually, my exploration resulted in my new book, out this month: Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger.

Filled with real-life stories of people who have faced mortal danger and survived, Extreme Fear lays bare the neurobiological processes that underlie the sensation of intense
fear and offers advice on how we can all better handle fear in our daily lives. And it makes a great holiday gift!

While working on the book, I’ve kept busy for T+L, assiduously tracking the latest developments in the world of soft adventure travel. Here are some of my picks for the hottest emerging destinations and trends in 2010:

Destination: Macedonia. With a pristine coastline and a trove of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the homeland of Alexander the Great is shaping up to be the new Croatia. Tucan Travel has a 23-day tour of the Balkans that includes Macedonia and seven neighboring countries.

Trend: High Latitude Tourism. As global warming wreaks its havoc on the planet’s ice caps, it’s opening up travel opportunities in the arctic and antarctic. Explorers Corner is planning a series of sea kayaking trips that will cover the whole of the Northwest Passage over the course of two or three summers.

Destination: The Marshall Islands. Uncrowded waves are become ever harder to find, so surfing safaris have to travel ever further afield. This winter EpicQuest ventures to remote atolls of the Pacific for gnarly tubes with its 13-day, $5,545 “Marshall Islands” trip.

Trend: Staying closer to home. Adventure outfitters say that with the economy still causing heartburn, travelers are looking for trips that pack a lot of punch but don’t involve long stays or flying long distances. Off The Beaten Path is now putting together trips to Ted Turver’s sprawling Vermejo Park ranch in New Mexico, where they can live the cowboy life in a style befitting a media billionaire.

Jeff Wise is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure and the author of Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger.