I remember having read something tremendously impactful a while ago; the crux of which was, there are two main forces that are driving the universe: Love and Fear. You either act out of love or out of fear. I had never before been faced with such an outstanding simplification of something as complex as the universe. And I started looking at my life through these two lenses suddenly recounting all the incidents where I acted out of fear, either hurt someone out of the fear of getting hurt myself or did not act on my wish out of the fear of judgment.

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me, and the more clarity I got for the actions of people around me too. I had been brought up by a considerably open-minded set of parents, in a relatively conservative Muslim society. For that matter, I feel I had mostly been a rather scared and timid person with respect to my interactions with the society, but tried on and off to overcome this fear, with or without success.

Over the years however, I observed my fears diminish. Not in all sorts of actions, but generally while making decisions and living day to day life, I started acting less out of fear. I wonder what changed?

I travelled to Hungary this year for some volunteer work. I was due to fly out of Italy to my home in Pakistan, the week after my project came to a close. I made a rough travel plan for the week, and a land route sounded highly exciting to me. So I decided I'll take the first stop in Ljubljana in Slovenia, and then I will consequently make my way to Italy.

I took an early morning 6'o clock bus from Budapest to Ljubljana, with a cool purple four-wheeled suitcase as my companion. When I boarded, the driver said something about making a pit stop in Zagreb, Croatia. I didn't pay much attention to it then, due to not having slept the previous night, this, that and really what not, in my defense.

But after taking a short nap and looking outside at the beautiful Hungarian Lake Balaton, it struck me suddenly that I shouldn't be entering Croatia. Because if I exited the Schengen region once, it could be troublesome to reenter the region in Slovenia, since I held a single entry visa only, one of the minor third world problems. And really, I thought, the whole issue could be blown out of proportions these days particularly since there was a huge Syrian refugee and immigrant crisis going on in Europe, and my dark long hair and Indian/Arab looks didn't help much.

So I tried to communicate my situation to the driver, without speaking any common language with him. He suggested I take a bus back to Budapest from the next stop, while still in Hungary. I was adamant to not go back to Budapest, because hey, I just started my trip from Budapest, and I didn't want the trip to just end already, with me having paid the bus ticket also. In any case my accommodation and commute were booked for most destinations ahead, and so was my flight from Milan to Lahore. We soon reached a decision that they would drop me at a fuel station in the last town before the Hungary-Croatia border, and from there I will figure my way into Slovenia. Right, very simple!

I got off the bus in this town called Letenia, and dragged my companion into the shop at the fuel station. I looked around, may be someone spoke English? hmm... no one. Not a problem! I tried to explain my situation to the shop keepers. They were three, and they paid full attention.

Having told them of my predicament, I was told this particular town does not host a bus station at all. Again, no problem at all! Looked like the only option left now was to hitchhike; something that I had heard a lot about especially in Europe, but I never really had the nerve to try. Here I was mentally preparing myself for the big adventure looming on my head, when the shop owner, Frank, a guy in his late 40s, asked me to show him my passport, he checked and made sure I was genuinely the case that I was representing; little did I know I was in conversation with someone who had served the border control for years before retiring now.

He offered me a ride to the next town, which was about 30 km from Letenya. Just like a child who doesn’t have the notion of fear or the possibility of danger, and who is only excited about exploring her new world, I cheerfully and gratefully accepted and offered to pay for the fuel, which he declined. He somehow, through the little English he knew and the little Hungarian I knew, managed to explain to me that we were going to cross border to Slovenia, in to a little town called Lendava where his English speaking friend will be able to help me figure out how to get to Ljubljana.

Frank had a wife and I couldn’t figure out what he told me about the children, but it sounded full of love. The scenery on the way was beautiful, but what surprised me most was how the landscape instantly changed as we entered Slovenia. The hills grew rounder and greener, I was loving what I saw;a moment of bliss for my eyes.  In about 20 minutes, we reached Frank’s friend’s house on top of a hill, who was redoing paint on one of the outer walls.

We got off the car, and Frank explained to his friend in Hungarian about what happened and while explaining pulled my cheek slightly in a very uncle-ish way, but for the very first time since morning an unsafe feeling crossed my mind. I was just about to start thinking of worst case scenarios like I routinely do in Pakistan when the friend came and shook hands with me, a bit surprised.

He told me how he thought that Frank was joking about a girl from Pakistan in this town. Relieved with his English, we talked for a bit and he offered me something to drink. His was a beautiful house he had built himself, on top of a hill, with three lakes also made by him on the steps of the hill, the lowest of three was more of a swimming pool. Amusingly, Frank’s friend was also called Frank, nicknamed Frankie. A few minutes later Frankie’s wife arrived home, also equally surprised to actually find me there as opposed to a prank she thought Frankie was pulling at her.

Frankie then called his nephew and told him to find out about the bus to Ljubljana. And after hanging up told me how good-looking his nephew is, and that I should not miss this chance once we meet him, besides advising me on how I should be careful of the kind of adventures that I was doing today. We descended the hill to the nephew’s place to find him, yes, good-looking, but equally shocked to actually see a Pakistani girl at their doorstep, as opposed to a very creative prank he assumed his uncle had made. Creative, because it involved a country as remote to them as Pakistan, but then it is in the news so much that he thought his uncle must have picked it up there.

The nephew was even more hospitable, and since I had good 4-5 hours before the next bus to Ljubljana, we hung out and picked and ate fruits from the trees, climbed up and down the hills to get even lovelier views. All of Frankie’s siblings lived on the same hill, so I went and met and had the warmest conversations with all the relatives, most of whom spoke English.

I tried to absorb as much of my surroundings as possible, the beauty of nature, the warmth and kindness of these strangers who had instantaneously included me in their lives. I almost felt my heart and my soul expand in the beauty around me.

View from Frankie’s balcony in Slovenia, where one can see Hungary on the left, and Croatia straight ahead

While my original plan was to spend the day in Ljubljana, the capital and the touristic city, I considered myself more than fortunate to experience the insides of Slovenia, an unplanned detour that became a blessing for my soul in disguise.

On my bus from Lendava to Ljubljana, I couldn’t help but think about my fears in life. And that if I had always been full of fears as I said earlier, and if love and fear are the two driving forces for all our actions, then where did the fear suddenly go, and what was it replaced by? I realized one doesn’t fear something they love. And you cannot love something, as long as you keep fearing it. And once you start to love something, the initial fear of it consequently goes away. In fact, why do we get afraid in the first place? Isn’t fear only found in the absence of love? Are love and fear not mutually exclusive? I couldn’t help but wonder with all the events fresh in my mind, that there are not two, but one driving force for all our actions, and that is love, the absence of which causes fear. If you love something you are not afraid of it. Its like light and darkness, where darkness is really nothing but the absence of light. You can get rid of the darkness by bringing in light into a room. It doesn’t mean the light and the darkness in a room defines its silhouette; butits only the light, the presence and absence of which does. Just as a religious book says:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear… and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (John, 4:18)

It's almost as if your heart is getting full of love, there seems to be no room left for fear. And may be that’s why we say someone is madly in love, because there is no fear in their actions. As you start to love, the fear starts to fade away. You are afraid to dive off a high cliff, but you don’t eventually dive because of the fear in you, you dive because the love for life and yourself overcomes you, and the fear resultantly diminishes.

When we truly love and then act on something, fear does not remain a factor. In essence, if we do not bring religion into the topic, I feel that the universe is driven by a single force; that is love. On the contrary, many a people say God is love, but that idea can be touched and simplified in a later conversation.