The comparison is to following a footpath from one point to another, but the meaning is construed as anything other than that comparison.
I don't know that I would refer to driving too fast as going off the beaten path. There have been stories recently about people using creative methods of finding a job, such as putting up a billboard to advertise themselves. Compared to the traditional process of sending a resume to a potential employer, a billboard is certainly off the beaten path.
Student or Learner