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I am taking my first semester of physics this summer and am having trouble grasping what I imagine is supposed to be a pretty fundamental idea.

I understand that displacement is a vector and is dependent only on the final and initial points, not the path taken. What I cannot resolve in my head is how this works in the "real world." That is, if a car drives in a circle of 2pir, it did zero displacement. If it drives a straight distance equal to 2pir, it has displacement. How does this work? Doesn't the engine burn fuel, the odometer advance, etc no matter if the car is going in a circle or a straight line? How can the two be different, and what is the physical difference in terms of work done?

Sorry if this is a silly question.