You're on the right track, but missing the mark a bit. Adobe defines paths as follows:
A path consists of segments and vertices. Segments are the lines or
curves that connect vertices. Vertices define where each segment of a
path starts and ends. Some Adobe applications use the terms anchor
point and path point to refer to a vertex.
Essentially, a path is a line that connects anchor points. Paths can be open (e.g. a straight line) or they can be closed, to make a shape. Closed paths do not need to be filled with color, I think this is where you are confusing stroke with fill.
A stroke, on the other hand, is simply a line that follows your path. Strokes can be set to the inside, middle, or outside of your path and may vary in thickness, color, style, etc.
To answer your question about paths in the real world: no, they don't exist in the same sense as they do in computer graphics.
The best example I could give you of a real-world representation of paths would be to imagine your path as a stencil. You can either trace around the edge of that stencil (stroke) or you can color the stencil in completely (fill).